The United States may deploy nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said November 19. As the spokesman for the Alliance explained, this could happen if Berlin refuses to keep American bombs on its territory. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the words of the secretary general as a rejection of the “fundamental for European security” obligations enshrined in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. What is behind this signal was analyzed by independent military observer Alexander Ermakov.
History of the issue
On November 19, speaking at a NATO event in Germany, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg casually answered a question by making an unheard-of statement. NATO’s common nuclear weapons could be deployed in Eastern Europe. Let us recall what kind of common NATO nuclear arsenal we are talking about. This mission is “NATO nuclear sharing”, in Russian official diplomatic terminology “NATO joint nuclear missions”, whose roots go back to the 1950s, when the United States began to deploy tactical nuclear weapons (including aerial bombs) in Europe.
At that time, the attitude of politicians and military strategists to nuclear weapons was completely different. The concept of their nonproliferation in its current form was not accepted. The United States planned and began to implement a program to create a common NATO nuclear force. By transferring its weapons to its allies and forming special joint units. The plans included a group of surface ships with mixed crews armed with Polaris missiles. The idea of deploying numerous railway missile systems in Europe was considered. Ready to involve the allies even in their grandiose project of a huge rocket base under the Greenland glacier.
None of this was implemented. The Americans transferred medium-range missiles to a number of allies (in particular, Great Britain, Italy and Turkey) and deployed storage bombs in a number of countries. They also began training national crews for their use. The first such agreement was concluded in 1958 with Great Britain. Formal control over the charges was retained by the American military. They also played the role of instructors.
In 1968 NPT was signed
The USSR was much less actively engaged in nuclear armament of the allies . However, in the early 1960s. began to express considerations about the transfer of charges to the allies (they had carriers, and will continue to be). However, after the shock of the Cuban missile crisis, the attitude towards nuclear weapons became more serious. The United States and the USSR took the path of relative support for the idea of nonproliferation. They abandoned the idea of creating a full-fledged “NATO common nuclear force”. Deployed medium-range missiles were soon removed from service.
In 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed. However, the United States did not completely abandon the practice of storing nuclear weapons in those countries where they had already been deployed at the time of its signing, and from training local personnel. First of all, this concerned aerial bombs, but during the Cold War, charges were also stored for tactical short-range ballistic missiles of the Allies (for example, for the German Pershing IA). At that moment it fit into the logic of the bloc confrontation and was not particularly criticized by the USSR, which was doing the same, albeit to a much lesser extent. Tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Eastern Europe were primarily intended to equip Soviet groups (they were deployed in Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and Poland).
With the end of the Cold War, the USSR promptly withdrew its nuclear weapons from the countries of the collapsing Warsaw Pact. The last nuclear warheads were launched into the national territory in August 1991. Washington was in no hurry to follow Moscow’s example.
Puting junior partners in their place
Many Western European politicians are for the immediate withdrawal of American bombs. The United States to a certain extent take into account public opinion. The withdrawal from Great Britain took place under its pressure. However, they prefer to “work” first of all with the political elite. It consist of people loyal to the United States and associated with them. . There is the desire to economize on one’s own defense, having sold part of the sovereignty. Or unwillingness to independently make decisions and be responsible for them. Or a real fear of being left without protection.
This concerns Germany perhaps even more so than some others. For Germany, the issue of the bomb carrier is more acute. The country does not have the F-35, and it will have to spend specially for this task.
The NATO Secretary General, who is pursuing American policy, deliberately did not conceal or play up. “If you dare to demand the withdrawal of our bombs, then we will take them out to Poland on the basis of a bilateral agreement. And we will not even ask you on the fields of the Alliance.”
This does not make much sense
From a practical point of view, this does not make much sense. Installations in Poland will only be better observed by Russian intelligence. It is also easier to hit them due to their close location. “Approach time” in the case of air bases is not as important as in the case of the deployment of ballistic missiles – it should be counted from the detection of an aircraft flying towards the target, and not from the moment of takeoff.
Such rhetoric should be greeted in the diplomatic arena as unacceptable as possible, and recalled for as long as possible. This is complete arrogance, disregard for the same Founding Act. It runs counter even to the old American “excuses” why NATO nuclear sharing is legal and does not violate the NPT.