Wednesday, September 3, 2008

NATO Nuclear Weapons: Power Without Purpose

US Nuclear weapons in Europe

NATO Nuclear Weapons: Power Without Purpose
By David Krieger
Europe is heavily armed with nuclear weapons. Both Britain and France possess their own nuclear forces and the United States has a long history of keeping nuclear weapons on European soil. Britain’s nuclear force is estimated at under 200 weapons, with approximately 150 deployed on four Vanguard submarines and the remainder kept in reserve. France is thought to have approximately 350 nuclear weapons in its Force de frappe (strike force). The US keeps some 200-350 nuclear weapons in six countries: Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy, Turkey and the UK. Recent unconfirmed reports indicate that the US has pulled its nuclear weapons out of the UK. If this is correct, approximately 240 US nuclear weapons remain in five European countries.
On the NATO website, it states, “NATO has radically reduced its reliance on nuclear forces. Their role is now more fundamentally political, and they are no longer directed towards a specific threat.” This is a rather enigmatic statement, leaving one to ponder how nuclear weapons are used in a “fundamentally political” role. The NATO website adds, “NATO's reduced reliance on nuclear forces has been manifested in a dramatic reduction in the number of weapons systems and storage facilities. NATO has also ended the practice of maintaining standing peacetime nuclear contingency plans and as a result, NATO's nuclear forces no longer target any country.”
Given the fact that NATO does not target any other country with nuclear weapons, one wonders what role they still serve. Again, the NATO website provides an answer, which is “to maintain only the minimum number of nuclear weapons necessary to support its strategy of preserving peace and preventing war.” But this still leaves one wondering with whom one is “preserving peace and preventing war.” Although nothing is stated, it would seem that the answer is likely to be Russia. This might explain why NATO has expanded up to the Russian western border, despite earlier US promises to Russia not to do so, and also why the US continues to pursue the placement of missile defense installations in new NATO states Poland and the Czech Republic, despite continuing Russian protests.
NATO reasoning for maintaining nuclear weapons seems very flimsy. If there is anything that is clear about nuclear weapons, it is that they cannot protect their possessors. All of the nuclear weapons in Europe cannot protect any European city from a nuclear attack by an extremist organization. Reliance upon these weapons provides an incentive for nuclear proliferation, increasing the possibilities that these weapons will fall into the hands of such an organization and will be used.
If European nations want to provide true security to the citizens of their countries, they should end NATO’s reliance upon nuclear weapons by taking the following steps:
• Call for the removal of all US nuclear weapons from Europe.
• Call for the US to remove its missile defense installations from the Russian border
• Negotiate the removal of all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and the western regions of Russia.
• Create a global treaty to bring all weapons-grade fissile material under strict and effective international control.
• Call for the NATO nuclear weapons states (US, UK and France) to fulfill their obligations under the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament.
• Take a leading role in initiating negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, setting forth a roadmap for the phased,
verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.
• Join Russia and China in negotiating a ban on space weaponization.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe
New report provides unprecedented details (February 2005)

The United States continued to deploy roughly 480 nuclear bombs in Europe, more than double the number normally estimated by the media and non-governmental analysts. The deployment was detailed in the report "U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe" published by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The weapons are all B61 gravity bombs and are deployed at eight bases in six NATO countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom .
The 480 nuclear bombs in Europe are the last of a huge arsenal of forward-deployed weapons that NATO and the Warsaw Pact used to deploy in Europe during the Cold War. The Soviet Union deployed nuclear weapons in Eastern European countries, but all of these weapons have been withdrawn to Russia. On the NATO side, the stockpile peaked at some 7,300 nuclear warheads in 1973 and gradually declined over the subsequent years (see table). In 1991, the U.S. government decided -- and NATO agreed -- to withdraw almost all of the remaining weapons, but left 480 air-delivered bombs in place.
Today, the United States is the only nuclear power that continues to deploy nuclear weapons outside its own territory. The approximately 480 nuclear bombs in Europe are intended for use in accordance with NATO nuclear strike plans, the report asserts, against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Iran and Syria.
The report shows for the first time how many U.S. nuclear bombs are earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear NATO countries. In times of war, under certain circumstances, up to 180 of the 480 nuclear bombs would be handed over to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey for delivery by their national air forces. No other nuclear power or military alliance has nuclear weapons earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear countries.
Although the United States retains full control in peacetime, this quasi-nuclear status of non-nuclear NATO countries violates the objective of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The U.S. and NATO argue that there is no violation because the U.S. retains control of the weapons. But the allied nuclear role is far from dormant in peacetime, with host country pilots practicing nuclear strikes and their aircraft being maintained ready to delivery the nuclear weapons if necessary. Besides, the strictly legal argument misses the bigger point: equipping non-nuclear NATO countries with the means to deliver nuclear weapons if necessary contradicts the non-proliferation standards that the U.S. and Europe are trying to impress upon other countries such as Iran and North Korea.
The report reveals that although the U.S. in 1994 and 1996 withdrew Munitions Support Squadrons (MUNSS) from five national bases in Germany, Italy and Turkey, the weapons at the bases were not returned to the United States but instead moved to the main U.S. operating bases in those three countries. Moreover, the weapons continued to be earmarked for delivery by host nation aircraft. MUNSS number designations were changed in 2004 and logistics concentrated at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany for the remaining four nuclear weapons custodian units deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

The report also provides new insight into the logistics of the nuclear weapons deployment in Europe, including the capacity and characteristics of the Weapons Storage and Security System (WS3) used to store the weapons underground inside Protective Aircraft Shelters at the individual bases. It also highlights the fleet of Weapons Maintenance Trucks (WMTs) dispersed to the bases to provide on-site maintenance of the nuclear bombs. Because this maintenance program occasionally disassembles weapons inside the Protective Aircraft Shelter, the report reveals, the U.S. Air Force discovered in 1997 that the procedure created a risk of inadvertent nuclear explosion if a disassembled weapon was struck by lightning.
Another finding of the report is that the the United States have quietly modernized the B61 nuclear bombs in Europe over the last five years to upgrade the bombs' use-control and improve the stability of the weapons' during employment.
The report also documents that the U.S. military in 1994 made arrangements for nuclear targeting and use of nuclear weapons in Europe outside European Command's (EUCOM) area of responsibility. For EUCOM, this means CENTCOM (Central Command) which incorporates Iran and Syria (see 1994 documents in the right-hand bar). It is unclear whether NATO parliaments are aware of arrangements to target and potentially strike Middle Eastern countries with nuclear weapons based in Europe. The arrangements may be the result of a general broadening of U.S. nuclear policy after the Cold War to also target proliferating nations with nuclear weapons.
The report concludes that the United States and NATO have been incapable of articulating a credible mission for the nuclear weapons, that the deployment needlessly continues a nuclear deterrence relationship with Russia in Europe, and that equipping non-nuclear NATO countries with the capabilities to delivery nuclear weapons undercuts U.S. and NATO nonproliferation objectives in the 21st century. The report asserts that NATO's recent announcement that the readiness level of nuclear-capable aircraft has been reduced to "months" suggests that the nuclear electronic and mechanical interfaces on the strike aircraft may have been removed from the aircraft, in which case there is no operational need to keep the nuclear weapons in Europe.
The principle of nuclear burden-sharing began to unravel in 2001 when nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Greece. The inactivation of the Munitions Support Squadron at Araxos Air Base was ordered in April 2001 after the withdrawal of the weapons was authorized by Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-74 in November 2000. Greece's departure from NATO's nuclear club contradicts the Alliance's Strategic Concept from 1999 which emphasizes widespread deployment of nuclear weapons in European member countries. If Greece can withdraw with no severe consequences for NATO deterrence or unity, so can the other European host countries that currently perform the NATO nuclear strike mission.
The report recommends that all the weapons should be withdrawn to the United States, and that the U.S. and NATO should use the political leverage from such a move to engage Russia to drastically reduce the large number of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons, as well as revitalize efforts to create a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. Initiatives like these, the report concludes, would -- unlike continuing to maintain U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe -- provide real security benefits to NATO.
The full report is available from the right-hand bar along with a number of documents released under FOIA. Also made available are satellite photos of many of the European bases where U.S. nuclear weapons are stored.
Statistics: During 2006, the U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe report was the third-most downloaded report on the Natural Resources Defense Council web site.

Protesters Demonstrate Against Alleged US Nukes in Germany

Aug 31 2008
About 2,000 pacifists demonstrated without violence Saturday outside a German Air Force base where they insist 20 US nuclear weapons are stored.
The protesters demanded that the weapons be removed from Buechel air base in western and be scrapped. Hundreds of police kept a careful eye on the rally after some demonstrators had threatened to climb the fence and enter the fighter-bomber base.

"I never would have thought that Germany would again threaten the world by stationing US nuclear weapons here," said Horst-Eberhard Richter, a member of Germany's pacifist movement.

Neither German nor US officials have ever confirmed that the sole remaining US nuclear warheads on German soil are maintained at Buechel by a US Air Force team. Experts, however, say that this is plausible since US nuclear-weapon safety inspectors do make calls at the site.

Activists protest US nukes on German soil
Aug 31 2008

About 2,000 anti-war activists have demonstrated outside a German air force base, protesting US nuclear weapons being stored there.

At least 20 American atomic warheads are reportedly deployed underground at the Buechel air base.

Protesters demanded the weapons be removed from the base. The riot police arrested more than two-dozen demonstrators after they tried to climb the fence around the base.

As many as 350 American warheads are believed to remain in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

In 1971, at the peak of the Cold War, the highest estimated number of US warheads based in Europe topped 7,000.

But although American and German authorities have never confirmed that the US warheads on German soil are maintained at Buechel, experts state US nuclear weapon safety inspectors make regular calls at the site.

A broad spectrum of labor, student, religious and women organizations attended the anti-US nuclear arms rally demanding the removal and scrapping of the estimated 20 US nuclear warheads.

"I never would have thought that Germany would again threaten the world by stationing US nuclear weapons here," said Horst-Eberhard Richter, a member of Germany's pacifist movement.