In an Op-Ed in the October 5th edition of Defense News, Keith Payne writes “that global nuclear disarmament is infeasible in the world as we now know it.” According to Payne, the main reason this goal is unattainable is the fact that “more than 30 U.S. allies in Asia and Europe seek protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella to deter emerging weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) threats in their region.”
Which got me to thinking: Who are these anonymous “more than 30 U.S. allies in Asia and Europe”? It turns out that not even nuclear umbrella-philes seem to know:
“Our ‘extended deterrence’ umbrella, initially formalized with NATO in the 1950s, has subsequently expanded to cover 30-plus nations.”
–Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management: Phase II: Review of the DoD Nuclear Mission, chaired by James Schlesinger (December 2008)
“More recently, George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn echoed that sentiment in The Wall Street Journal, but all have come up against the reality that as long as others have nuclear weapons, we must maintain some level of these weapons ourselves to deter potential adversaries and to reassure over two dozen allies and partners who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security, making it unnecessary for them to develop their own.”
—Robert Gates (October 28, 2008)
“That’s simply unacceptable for a nation whose nuclear protective umbrella covers some 40 nations.”
–Defense News Editorial (August 17, 2009)
“…the United States must be prepared to defend both itself and over a dozen other countries from nuclear attack.”
–Andrew Krepinevich (October 2, 2009)
To recap, the U.S. extends deterrence to more than 30 U.S. allies in Asia and Europe. Except when it extends deterrence to 30-plus nations. Or maybe it’s over two dozen allies and partners? Some 40 nations? What’s this I hear about over a dozen other countries?
Clearly I wouldn’t want to accuse the above of being flippant in highlighting the importance of the assurance (or is it reassurance?) function of U.S. nuclear weapons, but, well, you get the point.