This latest edition on tactical nuclear weapons in Europe includes news and recent articles related to the B-61 Life Extension Program in the United States and an update on developments in the Netherlands.

TacNukes News summarizes recent developments and resources covering tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe. This newsletter is compiled and distributed by BASIC. As part of a broader joint project on reducing the role of TNW in Europe, BASIC is cooperating with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This current program builds upon a project recently concluded, formerly involving the Arms Control Association and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH).

The views expressed in the resources and references below do not necessarily reflect those of the project funder or partners.

The current project page is available here on BASIC’s website.


Click on the sub-heading to jump to a particular section below.

Partner-related Publications

  • The Role of NATO in the French White Paper and Implications for Nuclear Arms Control
  • TNW, The Quiet Menace: How the Threats to Europe, the Middle East and South Asia are Linked
  • Why Diversity Matters to the Nuclear Debate
  • Theater Nuclear Weapons a Direct Threat to European Security

Recent Developments

  • United States

    1.) Congressional focus on the B61 Life Extension Program
    2.) NNSA performs radar drop test for the B61
    3.) U.S. NGO obtains JASONS scientists’ review of B61 option

  • Russia
    Deputy defense minister questions legality of U.S. TNW based in Non-Nuclear Weapons States
  • Europe

    1.) Dutch Parliament approves motion against nuclear-capable version of the Joint Strike Fighter
    2.) Dutch government releases policy paper on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament
    3.) B61 bomb upgrade spurs controversy in The Netherlands

Other News and Resources

Partner-Related Publications

  • The Role of NATO in the French White Paper and Implications for Nuclear Arms Control

    Jean-Marie Collin examines the relationship that France has with NATO through its policy of nuclear deterrence in a European context, with a focus on France’s most recent “White Paper”. France has historically placed a high priority on the role of nuclear weapons in security policy and maintains that its current nuclear posture meets only “strict sufficiency” requirements. The author argues that during a time when tactical nuclear weapons are diminishing in acceptance by the international community, especially amidst a strained economic environment, change could be around the corner.
    Nuclear Policy Paper No. 15, October 2013

  • TNW, The Quiet Menace: How the Threats to Europe, the Middle East and South Asia are Linked

    BASIC Senior Policy Consultant Ted Seay briefly reviews the IISS Strategic Survey 2013’s coverage of the nuclear arms race between China, India and Pakistan, the role of TNW and similarities with the Cold War arms race in Europe. He points out, however, that NATO TNWs still remaining in Europe pose a credibility problem for Europe when it advocates for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation globally.
    BASIC Blog, November 21, 2013

  • Why Diversity Matters to the Nuclear Debate
    Ahead of EU Parliament committee meetings in October, Rebecca Cousins, BASIC’s Program Director in Washington, raised the importance of bringing diversity to the nuclear debate, including EU perspectives. She argues that the presence of B61s in Europe could risk undermining the EU’s wider non-proliferation efforts; and how “taking a more active role in addressing these issues may be precisely the opportunity the EU needs to reaffirm the relevance of the transatlantic relationship”.
    OpenSecurity, OpenDemocracy, October 14, 2013

  • Theater Nuclear Weapons a Direct Threat to European Security
    Ted Seay, a Senior Policy Consultant with BASIC, says that over the past two years, it has become increasingly evident that NATO is deadlocked on the issue of maintaining U.S. TNW in Europe. He goes on to argue that these weapons in the European theater represent a humanitarian threat; an environmental threat from proliferation and potential detonation; and pose a threat to the ability of the international system to manage crises.
    BASIC Blog, September 23, 2013



1.) Congressional focus on the B61 Life Extension Program
Congressional appropriations committees have been showing a lack of willingness to protect full funding for the B61 bomb upgrade in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which include bombs based in Europe under NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements. Current plans for the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP) include moving the current B61-3, -4, -7, and -10 bomb versions into one new “MOD” called the B61-12, which could be assigned to strategic or tactical aircraft. Plans for the B61-12 also include a new guided tail-kit, which could make the bomb more accurate and has led to questions over whether the new LEP could go against the Obama Administration’s commitment to refrain from giving nuclear weapons new capabilities. The budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) B61-12 LEP program for the warheads has more than doubled, which had earlier this year led to skepticism about the NNSA’s management of budget planning and motivated appropriators to approve funds at rates below original requests. In August, the Senate side cut back the Pentagon’s tail-kit program funding slated for FY2014 by about 90 percent (GSN, Aug. 12).

Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs with the Defense Department, led a panel of Pentagon and NNSA officials at a House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing on the B61 LEP, on October 29, during which the panelists all defended the currently-planned, “full-scope” LEP. Creedon testified that the program will be a key component to the Obama Administration’s commitment to modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, saying that not only would it allow for the consolidation of the 4 “MODs” but would also “allow for the eventual retirement of two other strategic air-delivered weapons, the B61-11 and the B83 nuclear gravity bombs.”

Creedon also devoted part of her statement to contending that the B61 LEP would be in keeping with NATO’s Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR) which she reiterated “confirmed that nuclear weapons are a “core component” of NATO’s defense.” Creedon referred to President Barack Obama’s June 2013 speech in Berlin and “…his intent to work closely with Allies to seek bold reductions with Russia” but concluded her testimony by saying that “even if the NATO Alliance struck an agreement with Russia to mutually reduce tactical nuclear weapons, we would still need to complete the B61-12 LEP on the current timeline.” (Creedon statement [pdf])

Others testifying at the hearing included Dr. Donald L. Cook, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration; Dr. Paul Hommert, Director, Sandia National Laboratories; and General C. Robert Kehler, USAF Commander, U.S. Strategic Command.

For text of all prepared statements, and audio and video of the hearing, see “Nuclear Weapons Modernization Programs: Military, Technical and Political Requirements for the B61 Life Extension Program and Future Stockpile Strategy” House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, October 29, 2013

Further Reading

  • NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement and related procurement: Newer bombs, better planes and loads more money

    Nigel Chamberlain, NATO Watch, November 15, 2013


2.) U.S. NGO obtains JASONS scientists’ review of B61 option
The Union of Concerned Scientists obtained a report by the JASONS group of independent scientific experts, which reviewed one of the B61 Life Extension Program options. Stephen Young describes the report, explaining that while the JASONS review was positive overall on factors such as safety and security, his most critical ‘takeaway’ from the review was: “Should schedule problems develop (as they invariably do), the NNSA must focus on what needs to be done, not on what might be desirable.” In light of rising concerns over cost and schedule, he then goes on to discuss how the review was restricted in its scope, and possibly left out simpler options that might have been less expensive.

-See, JASON on the B61 Life Extension Program, Stephen Young, All Things Nuclear Blog, September 26, 2013:

-JASONS Report: JASON B61 Life Extension Program Nuclear Scope Review
Made available by the Union of Concerned Scientists, original review document dated August 9, 2012


3.) NNSA completes radar drop test
The NNSA reported that it had completed a successful test of the radar for the B61-12 LEP in a mock bomb drop. The test was conducted at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on August 14 and 15, by engineers from Sandia National Laboratories.




“Is the money spent on life-extension of nuclear warheads well spent? All our governments work hard to reduce public debt. Will this mean deep cuts in military budgets as well? Is deterrence still working in an extremely complex world or are we rather fueling the desire of some to join the nuclear club by taking the back door?”
-German Disarmament Commissioner Ambassador Rolf Nikel’s remarks [pdf] at the first
Deep Cuts Commission meeting, October 28, in Hamburg, Germany



Deputy Defense Minister questions TNW basing legality
Echoing previously-stated Russian positions on the issue, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov questioned how NATO can continue to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of states that are Non-Nuclear Weapons States of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). During a press conference on August 14, he called for the United States to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from other NATO countries and return them to the United States.
-See “Russia Beyond the Headlines”
Interfax, August 14, 2013

Further Reading



1.) Dutch Parliament approves motion against nuclear-capable version of the Joint Strike Fighter
On November 19, the Dutch Parliament approved a motion that would prevent the replacement for the F-16 fighter plane from having a nuclear task [IKV Pax Christi, Nov. 19]. The Netherlands is slated to take on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF/F-35) as its replacement to the dual capable F-16 between 2019-2023, with the F-16s phased out by 2023. (In September, The Netherlands announced that it would purchase fewer than half the number of JSF planes originally planned as part of its initial agreement, although left open the option to purchase more later. [Aviation Week/Sept. 18])

-See, “Netherlands now on an unstoppable path towards denuclearization”
IKV Pax Christi, No Nukes, November 19, 2013–denuclearization

-Netherlands to buy fewer JSFs
Anthony Osborne, Aviation Week, September 18, 2013

2.) Dutch government releases policy paper on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans along with the Minister of Defence sent a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives on October 24, elaborating on the government’s policy on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The document briefly mentions support for trying to reach agreement with Russia toward further TNW reductions. The letter, however, does not go beyond NATO’s current position nor specifically refer to U.S. bombs based in the country, and instead directs Dutch efforts toward improving the conditions that would help bolster successful negotiations between Russia and the United States. In the letter, Minister Timmermans also mentions that he explicitly stated his support for finding mutual agreement with Russia on TNW arms control measures during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in September. Prior, during his service as a Member of Parliament, he had expressed support for more direct reductions of U.S. TNW based in The Netherlands.

-For a text of the document, see “Dutch Policy on Nuclear Weapons”
English translation posted by Susi Snyder, IKV Pax Christi International, Blog, November 1, 2013

-Original: “Beleidsbrief nucleaire ontwapening en non-proliferatie” (Dutch)
Posted to the Dutch government website on October 24, 2013


3.) B61 bomb upgrade spurs controversy in The Netherlands
A Dutch news program, KRO Brandpunt Reporter, covered the tension between Parliament and the government’s advice several years ago to NATO on the B61-12 upgrade, September 12, 2013 (in Dutch)
-Also see Hans Kristensen’s analysis “B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Triggers Debate in the Netherlands”,
FAS Strategic Security Blog, September 13, 2013

Further Reading:

  • A New twist in the Nuclear Sharing Omerta – On cancellation of prosecution of two former Prime Ministers for mentioning the presence of nuclear bombs stationed in The Netherlands – (see TacNukes News No. 6).
    Wilbert van der Zeijden of IKV Pax Christi, NATO Watch, October 9, 2013



The NATO Nuclear Planning Group assembled as part of the Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels on October 22.  Ian Davis of NATO Watch points out that no journalists attending the meeting’s press conference asked questions on the nuclear-sharing subject. He offers some of his own questions in this brief: “Croatia Joins NATO Nuclear-Sharing Club”, Ian Davis, NATO Watch, November 18, 2013

NATO has announced that it will hold its next summit in the United Kingdom, on September 4-5, 2014
NATO News, November 15, 2013

New book: Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Euro-Atlantic Security: The future of NATO

Paolo Foradori, ed., Routledge, 2013.
Compendium by leading scholars and analysts of TNW with country-specific competences. For more information about this book, visit the Routledge website:



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We also would appreciate any submissions of analysis or news items of interest. Please email your suggestions to [email protected]. Thank you.

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