Talking Points: Theatre Nuclear Weapons as Proximate Threat to European Security

The following talking points are provided to assist discussion of theatre* nuclear weapons (TNW) and the challenges they pose to European security writ large, not simply to NATO.

NATO Incapable of Change on Nuclear Sharing

  • NATO hosts some 180-200 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs in five Allied states in Europe: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey
  • Despite several recent attempts by B61 host governments (in particular, Germany) to get NATO to discuss changes to its nuclear posture and policy, lack of consensus has prevented any meaningful change from occurring
  • Worse, NATO will remain deadlocked on this issue for the foreseeable future

Problem is Larger Than NATO

  • The 200-odd U.S. and 1,000+ Russian TNW in and around Europe represent several distinct challenges to European security.
  • They represent a humanitarian threat;
  • There is an environmental threat from proliferation;
  • There is an environmental threat from use; and
  • The continued presence of B61s in Europe also prevents progress in U.S. – Russia, NATO – Russia and EU – Russia discussions of regional security, as Russia insists NATO return them to U.S. territory before it will agree to discuss the status of its own TNW arsenal.

European Non-Proliferation Credibility Also at Stake

  • The credibility of the EU’s non-proliferation policy in the Middle East and South Asia is dramatically undermined by demonstrable European hypocrisy
  • Many EU states continue to shelter under the U.S. nuclear umbrella through NATO’s nuclear sharing of tactical nuclear weapons
  • Meanwhile, they lecture states in more unstable, insecure regions on the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the illusion of security through theacquisition of nuclear weapons
  • This does not lend credibility to, inter alia, the EU’s support for the NPT.

Suggested Action: The Security & Defence and Foreign Committees Should Approach NATO

  • The Security & Defence and Foreign Committees should communicate in writing to the North Atlantic Council its increasing unease over the continued presence in Europe of hundreds of TNW, and request a dialogue on ways forward.

* It is a grave mistake to call weapons such as the U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bomb ‘tactical’, as any deliberate nuclear explosion must have strategic consequences. ‘Theatre’, meanwhile, simply denotes their basing posture and connotes their intended use, from within a military theatre of operations.


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