U.S. Nukes in Europe Are Useless…They’re also a distraction from pressing needs
By Kingston Reif
As the members of the world’s most powerful military alliance convene in Wales this week for the NATO Summit, much of the focus will be on taking steps to increase the capability, readiness, and responsiveness of NATO forces in the wake of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In particular, the United States will seek to reassure its Baltic and Central European allies that NATO will come to their defense if attacked.
In addition to augmenting NATO’s conventional military footprint, some well-respected observers are also calling on NATO to reaffirm the importance of the approximately 180 U.S. “tactical” (or short-range) B61 nuclear gravity bombs that are still deployed in five NATO countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.
But not only are these outdated weapons irrelevant to the Ukraine crisis, they divert resources from more pressing and credible responses. Moreover, while removal of forward based nuclear weapons is unlikely in the immediate term due to the present tensions with Moscow, the perpetuation of the NATO nuclear status quo may be untenable. To the extent nuclear weapons are a topic of discussion at the summit, the emphasis should be on moving towards a strategy that better reflects the current threat, political, and financial environments.
One of the more glaring head-scratchers about U.S. nuclear policy is the continued forward deployment of B61 bombs in Europe despite the fact that the military mission for which these weapons was originally intended – stopping a Soviet invasion of Western Europe because of inferior U.S./NATO conventional forces – no longer exists.
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