Report: Changing Nuclear Weapons Policy in the Trump Era: Implications for Europe

President Trump’s emerging nuclear policy presents ‘extraordinary challenges to strategic stability, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation within Europe’, and undermines European security. President Trump’s US Nuclear Posture Review is expected in the next two months.

Sir Adam Thomson, ELN Director (and recent UK Ambassador to NATO) said, ‘The international nuclear weather is changing fast and for the worse – a fraying arms control framework, potentially extensive weapons upgrades, destabilising new technologies.  Worsening Russia-US relations are a major factor.  European allies in NATO need to consider how they can help control the confrontation and avoid nuclear arms races that could take us back to the worst days of the Cold War.’

Paul Ingram, BASIC Director said, ‘it is likely that the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review will contain shocks that could deeply shake the international system. Nuclear confrontation with Russia is not inevitable, it is a choice, and it is not within the power of the US President to determine that choice if NATO allies were to unite to resist it.’

The report argues that, President Trump has ‘indicated an ambivalence to resolving and restoring faith’ in arms control and ‘has cast doubt on the future of New START; failed to coordinate a NATO response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty; and has decertified the JCPoA.’ If existing treaties collapse and successor treaties are not negotiated, ‘Europe would be trapped in the middle of a new nuclear arms race.’ The author notes that ‘lack[ing] carefully calibrated nuclear signalling,’ US modernisation ‘could be interpreted by Russia as an attempt to assert strategic dominance and re-establish nuclear warfighting capabilities.’ Of particular concern are US upgrades to the B61 Gravity Bombs hosted by NATO Allies and the future deployment of new nuclear cruise missiles.

These issues are of critical importance for European allies, who have unique leverage through NATO. The report suggests they:

–  Open a comprehensive dialogue on European arms control with a view to re-establishing stability;

–  Challenge US modernisation plans that negatively impact European security, and clarify that they would not host new nuclear weapons; and

–  Improve trust between NATO and Russia

Read the report here

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