Re-Thinking NATO's Nuclear Policy

A Position Paper by The Middle Powers Initiative

June 2000

About The Middle Powers Initiative

The Middle Powers Initiative (MPI) is a carefully focused campaign established by a network of international citizen organizations to encourage and educate the leaders of the nuclear weapon states to break free from their Cold War mindset, commit themselves to immediate practical steps which reduce nuclear dangers - including a no-first-use policy and de-alerting of all nuclear forces - and commence negotiations required for the elimination of nuclear weapons. MPI is helping to mobilize influential "middle-power" nations to achieve this goal by building the political will to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world. The education programmes of MPI include seminars, publications and consultations with governments and citizen organizations. Chaired by Senator Douglas Roche, O.C., former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador, an International Steering Committee leads the campaign. The MPI Operations Centre is located in the Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.


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International Peace Bureau (Nobel Peace Prize, 1910)

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Nobel Peace Prize, 1985)

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Parliamentarians for Global Action

State of the World Forum

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

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Re-Thinking NATO'S Nuclear Policy

A Position Paper by The Middle Powers Initiative

1.1 On 24 April 1999, NATO issued a Communique following its 50th anniversary Summit in Washington, DC at which it published its newly approved Strategic Concept. 1 Paragraph 32 of the Communique stated: “In light of overall strategic developments and the reduced salience of nuclear weapons, the Alliance will consider options for confidence and security-building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament. The Council in Permanent Session will propose a process to Ministers in December for considering such options. The responsible NATO bodies will accomplish this. We support deepening consultations with Russia in these and other areas in the Permanent Joint Council…” At a news conference immediately afterwards, Canada’s Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy confirmed that this undertaking included a review of NATO’s nuclear weapons policy, which his government had requested in a report published on 19 April 1999.

1.2 Following a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels on 15-16 December 1999, another Communique was released. Referring to the paragraph 32 pledge above, it instructed the Council in Permanent Session to task the Senior Political Committee, reinforced by political and defence experts as appropriate, to review Alliance policy options. It also directed the Council in Permanent Session to submit a report to Ministers for their consideration in December 2000.

1.3 The 2000 Review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended on 20 May with the first consensus for 25 years, and a final document containing decisions which have major implications for NATO nuclear policy. At a meeting in Florence on 24 May 2000, NATO Foreign Ministers reported in paragraph 54 of their Communique: “Allies confirm their commitments made at the NPT Review Conference and will contribute to carrying forward the conclusions reached there.”

1.4 Having assessed the outcome of the NPT Review, the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI) offers this position paper for consideration by NATO member state governments of the way ahead for the ongoing review of NATO’s nuclear policy. This is covered under the following sections:

1. NATO’s current nuclear policy

2. Adverse implications for NATO

3. The need to reassure Russia

4. Moving towards a non-nuclear NATO security strategy


2.1 NATO’s new Strategic Concept consists of 65 paragraphs. The first mention of its nuclear weapon policy is in paragraph 42: “The presence of United States conventional and nuclear forces in Europe remains vital to the security of Europe, which is inseparably linked to that of North America.”

2.2 The policy is amplified in paragraph 46, which states as the last principle of Alliance strategy (emphases added):

46. To protect peace and to prevent war or any kind of coercion, the Alliance will maintain for the foreseeable future an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces based in Europe and kept up to date where necessary, although at a minimum sufficient level. Taking into account the diversity of risks with which the Alliance could be faced, it must maintain the forces necessary to ensure credible deterrence and to provide a wide range of conventional response options. But the Alliance’s conventional forces cannot ensure credible deterrence. Nuclear weapons make a unique contribution in rendering the risks of aggression against the Alliance incalculable and unacceptable. Thus, they remain essential to preserve peace.

2.3 In a final section of “Guidelines for the Alliance’s Force Posture”, paragraphs 62-64 define NATO’s “Characteristics of Nuclear Forces” (emphases added):

62. The fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political: to preserve peace and prevent coercion and any kind of war. They will continue to fulfil an essential role by ensuring uncertainty in the mind of any aggressor about the nature of the Allies’ response to military aggression. They demonstrate that aggression of any kind is not a rational option. The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies.

A credible Alliance nuclear posture and the demonstration of Alliance solidarity and common commitment to war prevention continue to require widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements. Nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance. The Alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear Forces in Europe. These forces need to have the necessary characteristics and appropriate flexibility and survivability, to be perceived as a credible and effective element of the Allies’ strategy in preventing war. They will be maintained at the minimum level sufficient to preserve peace and stability.

The Allies concerned consider that, with the radical changes in the security situation, including reduced conventional force levels in Europe and increased reaction times, NATO’s ability to defuse a crisis through diplomatic and other means or, should it be necessary, to mount a successful conventional defence has significantly improved. The circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated by them are therefore extremely remote. Since 1991, therefore, the Allies have taken a series of steps which reflect the post-Cold War security environment. These include a dramatic reduction of the types and numbers of NATO’s sub-strategic forces including the elimination of all nuclear artillery and ground-launched short-range nuclear missiles; a significant relaxation of the readiness criteria for nuclear- roled forces; and the termination of standing peacetime nuclear contingency plans. NATO’s nuclear forces no longer target any country. Nonetheless, NATO will maintain, at the minimum level consistent with the prevailing security environment, adequate sub-strategic forces based in Europe which will provide an essential link with strategic nuclear forces, reinforcing the transatlantic link. These will consist of dual capable aircraft and a small number of United Kingdom Trident warheads. Sub-strategic nuclear weapons will, however, not be deployed in normal circumstances on surface vessels and attack submarines.

2.4 First Use Option. No mention is made of NATO’s continuing insistence on retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first. During the Cold War, NATO argued that nuclear weapons might be needed to counter an overwhelming conventional attack. Now Russia has used this excuse formally to mirror NATO’s first-use posture in its new security concept announced in January 2000. In addition, NATO is suspected to be under pressure to accept a new option, adopted nationally by the US, UK and France, to threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear “rogue” regimes in reprisal for attacks using chemical or biological weapons against their “vital interests” anywhere in the world.

2.5 NATO’s Military Committee has prepared a new version of its classified cornerstone military strategy document, designated MC400/2, which was approved by NATO Foreign Ministers in Florence on 24 May 2000. Incorporating changes from the new Strategic Concept, MC400/2 is believed not to rule out using nuclear weapons against possessors of chemical and biological weapons. 2

2.6 Of the five recognised Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), only China maintains a no-first-use policy. In November 1998, the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Germany proposed that NATO should abandon its first-use policy; but they were rebuffed.


3.1 The adverse implications for NATO of its current nuclear policy will be discussed under the following headings:

Incompatibility with the 2000 NPT Review Conference final document

Threatening NATO’s security

Flouting the 1996 World Court Advisory Opinion

Ignoring public opinion

Incompatibility with the 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document

3.2 At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the final document 3
included the following last paragraph in the section on Article VI (emphases added):

15. The Conference agrees on the following practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and paragraphs 3 and 4(c) of the 1995 Decision on "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament":

1. The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

2. A moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that Treaty.

3. The necessity of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with the statement of the Special Coordinator in 1995 and the mandate contained therein, taking into consideration both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years.

4. The necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate establishment of
such a body.

5. The principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures.

6. An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States parties are committed under Article VI.

7. The early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons, in accordance with its provisions.

The completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Steps by all the nuclear weapon states leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, and based on the principle of undiminished security for all:

- Further efforts by the nuclear weapon states to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally.

- Increased transparency by the nuclear weapon states with regard to their nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements pursuant to Article VI and as a voluntary confidence-building measure to support further progress on nuclear disarmament.

- The further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process.

- Concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.

- A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimise the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.

- The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear weapon states in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.

10. Arrangements by all nuclear weapon States to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes, to ensure that such material remains permanently outside of military programmes.

11. Reaffirmation that the ultimate objective of the efforts of states in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

12. Regular reports, within the framework of the NPT strengthened review process, by all States parties on the implementation of Article VI and paragraph 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament", and recalling the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice of 8 July 1996.

13. The further development of the verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear weapon free world.

3.3 Sub-Paragraph 6. In sub-paragraph 6, the US, UK and France agreed to implement an “unequivocal undertaking…to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States are committed under Article VI”. This is incompatible with NATO nuclear policy, because such an undertaking cannot be reconciled with the following statements in NATO’s new Strategic Concept: “The presence of United States…nuclear forces in Europe remains vital to the security of Europe…” (paragraph 42), and “the Alliance will maintain for the foreseeable future an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces based in Europe… Nuclear weapons make a unique contribution in rendering the risks of aggression against the Alliance incalculable and unacceptable. Thus, they remain essential to preserve peace.” (paragraph 46) This is reinforced in paragraph 62: “The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance…”.

3.4 Moreover, the final document of the NPT Review Conference affirms unambiguously the independence of the nuclear disarmament obligations of the NWS under Article VI from general and complete disarmament, which is stated as an ultimate objective in sub-paragraph 11. This reflects the interpretation by the International Court of Justice in the final unanimous sub-paragraph of its 1996 Advisory Opinion, which states: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” NATO’s current nuclear policy ignores this obligation. Significantly, the US even refused to allow this sub-paragraph from the Court Opinion to be quoted in the NPT Review Conference final document (see paragraphs 3.19-3.22).

3.5 Nuclear Deterrence Challenged. The guardians of nuclear deterrence are in the NATO NWS. In November 1999, each of them confirmed in their explanations of vote on the New Agenda Coalition’s UN resolution that they could not support it because it was incompatible with nuclear deterrence. This revealed nuclear deterrence as the final justification for retaining their arsenals, and thus for NATO’s nuclear policy. Yet 14 out of 16 non-nuclear member states abstained, despite strong pressure from the P3 to vote against, only six months after NATO’s new Strategic Concept had been published. This signalled persisting dissension on nuclear policy, which NATO Foreign Ministers responded to in their communique in December 1999.

3.6 With acceptance by the US, UK and France of the NPT Review final document, their undertaking to get rid of their nuclear arsenals is a direct challenge to their addiction to nuclear deterrence. They cannot in good faith sustain support for both: therefore NATO’s nuclear policy must now be changed to acknowledge the P3’s acceptance of the NPT Review Conference’s programme for implementing Article VI (see paragraph 3.2).

3.7 Nuclear deterrence was the engine behind the nuclear arms race, the incredible result of which was a global total of nearly 70,000 warheads at its peak in 1986. Over ten years after the Berlin Wall came down, addiction to nuclear deterrence ensures that about 30,000 remain – some 5,000 still at minutes’ notice to fire.

3.8 Yet, of the 182 countries signatory to the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states, all but about 20 reject nuclear deterrence. Instead, they have relied on modest conventional defences backed up by recourse to a mix of diplomatic, legal and economic forms of deterrence. These include nuclear weapon free zones and UN bodies like the World Court, and supporting initiatives to strengthen international law, such as the establishment of an International Criminal Court.

3.9 MPI believes that nuclear deterrence doctrine is based on the threat to act immorally and illegally by annihilating millions of innocent non-combatants. Moreover, it is ineffective in addressing nuclear dangers, especially those posed by rogue actors, accidental or unauthorized launches, computer error, terrorist attack, criminal syndicates, and from other unpredictable and irrational scenarios, and is therefore not a valid means for any democratic state to sustain for its national security. There are safer alternative security strategies which are also less unacceptable morally and legally. NATO, therefore, should take this opportunity to reconsider its reliance on nuclear deterrence as part of a fundamental re-think of its nuclear policy. 4

3.10 Nuclear Sharing. Further incompatibility between NATO’s nuclear policy and the NPT lies in possible breaches by NATO of Articles I and II relating to nuclear sharing arrangements. Although the NPT Review Conference final document made no specific reference to this controversial issue, more than 100 nations have consistently expressed concern that six European non-nuclear states (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey) have dual-capable aircraft with crews trained to fly nuclear missions using some 150 US B61 free-fall nuclear bombs. Through NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, every non-nuclear NATO member state except Iceland – including the former Warsaw Pact members Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – participate in nuclear decision-making. The weapons cannot be armed without an order from the US, but in time of war, release of the weapons to the cooperating states could be authorized.5

3.11 NATO’s Strategic Concept affirms a continuing commitment to nuclear sharing. Paragraph 63 states: “Nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance. The Alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe.”

3.12 The US holds that NATO nuclear sharing arrangements do not violate the NPT; but at the 1995 NPT conference many non-NATO states did not accept the US position. Nuclear sharing provides a wider range of options for NATO nuclear use, and serves as a provocation to other NWS. At worst, this enhances the danger of nuclear war; and at the least it reinforces the political value of nuclear weapons, thereby promoting proliferation. If the same logic were to be used by nuclear-capable states not party to the NPT to expand their nuclear reach, NATO would be the first to protest about the grave security consequences.

3.13 Negative Security Assurances in Doubt. Refusal by NATO to rule out first use of nuclear weapons in reprisal for chemical or biological weapon attacks by “rogue” regimes places in doubt the negative security assurances given by the NATO NWS to non-nuclear signatory states in 1995 in order to secure the indefinite extension of the NPT. Such a policy again reinforces the value and prestige given to nuclear weapons, which further undermines efforts to persuade potential threshold states not to acquire nuclear weapons.

3.14 The Non-Aligned Movement came to the 2000 NPT Review with a renewed demand for “a legally-binding negative security assurances regime which will ensure the security of non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.” Although an ad hoc committee on this subject was established at the Conference on Disarmament in 1998, discussions have not even started. Some countries are concerned because of US Presidential Decision Directive 60, signed in November 1997, which is reported to contain loopholes in its negative security assurances. For example, if a state uses chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction against the US, it may forfeit its protection from US nuclear attack. The US has given conflicting signals concerning the possible use of nuclear weapons against a state even if it is a member of the NPT (as Iraq and Libya are). 6

3.15 The NPT Review final document included, in the section on Article VII, the following language submitted by five NATO states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway):

2. The Conference reaffirms that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The Conference agrees that legally binding security assurances by the five nuclear-weapon States to the non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Conference calls on the Preparatory Committee to make recommendations to the 2005 Review Conference on this issue.

3. The Conference notes the reaffirmation by the nuclear-weapon States of their commitment to the United Nations Security Council resolution 984 (1995) on security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Such leadership by these five NATO members is seriously undermined by NATO’s insistence on retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first – which anyway is illegal (see paragraph 3.20).

Threatening NATO’s Security

3.16 Quite apart from being incompatible with the NPT Review final document, the claim by NATO that its nuclear weapons are “essential” for its security constitutes the main driving force behind the breakdown of the non-proliferation regime, as demonstrated by India and Pakistan in 1998. This also provokes the greatest threat: the spread of nuclear weapons to paranoid regimes and terrorists – who are least likely to be deterred. It risks a revived nuclear arms race, and even a renewed Cold War with the risk of nuclear war.

3.17 In military terms, current security threats are mostly from internal conflicts (eg the former Yugoslavia), where nuclear weapons are irrelevant. Nuclear weapons are useless to tackle the major security threats: economic collapse, environmental disasters, lack of water, poverty, and associated famine and disease. In fact, nuclear weapons exacerbate many of these problems through diversion of funds and other resources, and generating radioactive contamination.

3.18 The only way to overcome these security threats is by cooperative international action. This is inhibited by the secrecy, suspicion and hostility associated with the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. 7

Flouting the 1996 World Court Advisory Opinion

3.19 In its historic Advisory Opinion delivered on 8 July 1996, 8 the International Court of Justice determined unanimously that any threat or use of nuclear weapons should comply with international humanitarian law, of which the Nuremberg Principles form a part. It also decided that, because of their uniquely destructive characteristics, the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal. This has serious implications for all those in NATO involved in planning and deploying nuclear forces. In particular, military professionals need to be seen to be acting within the law: this is the crucial difference between them and hired killers or terrorists.

3.20 Because of the requirement for proportionality, the first use of nuclear weapons against an attack with chemical, biological or conventional weapons would be illegal. Even if the very survival of the state is threatened, use of nuclear weapons – like any weapon – must also not kill civilians indiscriminately, permanently endanger the environment, or seriously affect neutral states. For example, the British Trident submarine currently on patrol has 16 missiles ready to be used, each missile loaded with three 100-kiloton thermonuclear warheads, each having the explosive power of 8 Hiroshima bombs. Even if fitted with only a single warhead, 8 Hiroshimas in one missile mean it could never be used lawfully.9

3.21 Four years on, NATO has still taken no position on the World Court Advisory Opinion. However, in November 1998 the US Ambassador to the UN drew in NATO when he stated: “Along with our allies we reviewed [nuclear deterrence doctrine] recently and concluded that it should remain the basis of our defense. Let me be clear: you will not make nuclear disarmament occur faster by suggesting that a fundamental basis of our national security for more than fifty years is illegitimate.” 10 Taken with the US insistence that the final sub-paragraph of the Opinion should not be quoted in the NPT Review final document (see paragraph 3.4), NATO cannot complain if it is accused of showing contempt for the Court and disregard for international law.

3.22 By contrast, the Court’s Advisory Opinion is being used by non-violent direct activists in several NATO states to present the new drive for nuclear disarmament as upholding the self-evident legal case against the threat, let alone use, of NATO nuclear weapons. They are invoking the Nuremberg Principles in defence of attempts to prevent a greater crime, by engaging in symbolic acts of “dismantlement” of nuclear systems assigned to NATO. These actions are not designed to actually destroy nuclear weapon systems, but to bring the issue to public attention and transform supportive public opinion into legal and political pressure to expedite actual disarmament of those systems. In some court cases, they have been acquitted.

Ignoring Public Opinion

3.23 Surveys conducted in 1997-98 in NATO member states showed that an overwhelming majority of public opinion in the US and UK (both 87%), and at least three non-nuclear NATO states – Belgium (72%), Canada (93%) and Norway (92%) – want their governments to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention. This was echoed in a German poll, where 87% wanted the NWS to get rid of their nuclear arsenals as quickly as possible; while 62% of those polled in the Netherlands disagreed that nuclear weapons are needed for security, and that a nuclear weapon-free world is unthinkable. Clearly, a mandate exists for NATO to adopt a non-nuclear security strategy. 11


4.1 After the Berlin Wall came down, both the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were disbanded. Moreover, instead of a buffer zone being created between NATO and Russia of former Warsaw Pact members, NATO absorbed the territory and armed forces of the former German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – and others are pressing to join.

4.2 Meanwhile, economic and political disruption – quite apart from a major intra-state war in Chechnya – have sapped the strength and morale of what is left of Russia’s conventional military might. As if this was not enough, NATO’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia demonstrated not only the technological prowess of the US conventional military machine, but also NATO’s new willingness to undertake offensive operations outside its borders. Also, NATO’s Strategic Concept omits the political assurances given to Russia in 1997 that NATO would not deploy nuclear weapons in the Alliance’s new member states during peacetime.

4.3 In light of all these factors plus NATO’s huge conventional preponderance over Russia, there is an overriding need to provide Russia with:

This especially means removing nuclear weapons from any potential conflict, thereby making them irrelevant to resolving the security problem instead of a primary cause.

4.4 Even if NATO unilaterally gave up its nuclear weapons, Russia would be deterred from attacking a member state by NATO’s proven ability to respond to any conventional attack or nuclear threat with massive conventional firepower using precision-guided weapons, including a wide range of specialised warheads for disrupting electronics and communications and destroying underground bunkers.

4.5 Because of its prowess in conventional weaponry, the US has least need of nuclear weapons. Thus it is in the direct security interest of the US to encourage a major shift to a non-provocative, non-nuclear security strategy for NATO. This would also send a powerful signal to Israel, India, Pakistan and states intent on acquiring nuclear weapons to reconsider.


5.1 The Need for a Substantive, Comprehensive and Timely NATO Nuclear Review. There has been no explicit announcement by NATO that it is reviewing its nuclear policy. Following the relatively successful outcome of the NPT Review Conference, it is now essential that NATO is seen to accept that a substantive, comprehensive review is urgently required. Those who think that NATO must not risk such a move should ponder how much longer it can maintain its solidarity and cohesion with its current untenable nuclear strategy.

5.2 The following statement in paragraph 55 of the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Florence Communique on 24 May 2000 updated the situation regarding their previous instruction detailed in paragraph 1.2 of this paper (emphases added): “We look forward to receiving a substantive report for Ministerial consideration in December 2000. We have instructed the Council in Permanent Session to task the Senior Political Committee (Reinforced) to oversee and integrate the work on the process by establishing, as the next step, the framework for this report. NATO’s decision to set in train this process further demonstrates Allied commitment to promoting arms control and disarmament and to strengthening the international non-proliferation regime.”

5.3 On 8 June 2000 in Brussels, NATO Defence Ministers issued a Communique on a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group. Paragraph 8 included the following statement (emphasis added): “We welcome the positive outcome of the recent Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and affirm our commitments made at the Conference.” MPI therefore strongly recommends that, as soon as possible, NATO Foreign Ministers direct that a substantive, comprehensive and timely review of NATO’s nuclear policy now be conducted.

5.4 The details of a non-nuclear security strategy for NATO will need to be worked out over several years. However, the following changes merit immediate and detailed consideration:

5.5 Harmonise NATO’s Strategic Concept with the NPT Review. Changes are needed to paragraphs 42, 46 and 62-64 to demonstrate that NATO is implementing the NPT Review final document. Bearing in mind that Alliance members unanimously agreed to the decisions listed in the document, the sooner NATO is seen to be addressing this the better.

5.6 De-Alert US and Russian Nuclear Forces. The overriding need for NATO toreassure Russia that it has no intention of exploiting Russia’s military inferiority dictates that the US should immediately de-alert its nuclear forces, and invite Russia to do likewise under mutual verification. This would implement most of the agreed steps from the NPT Review final document associated with promoting stability and security for all, taking further unilateral nuclear disarmament initiatives, increasing transparency and verification, reducing the operational status of systems, and diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies.

5.7 Reconsider Nuclear Deterrence Doctrine. The key to achieving these major shifts is to reconsider the merits of nuclear deterrence doctrine. This may be timely, with the current US determination to move away from Mutual Assured Destruction towards relying on offensive and defensive missiles. However, the well-known shortcomings of ballistic missile defence suggest that threat elimination through arms control and strengthening the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and missile control regime offer a safer and more cost-effective route to security.

5.8 If nuclear deterrence fails, what is at stake is the devastation and poisoning of not just the belligerents, but potentially of most forms of life on Earth. That is why MPI urges NATO to exploit its conventional military strength by replacing nuclear deterrence with deterrence by conventional weapons, which (except those using Depleted Uranium) do not have side-effects like radioactive fallout, can be discriminate and proportionate, and therefore carry less risk of escalation. This means that using conventional weapons for deterrence is realistic, and thus more credible.

5.9 Withdraw NATO’s Nuclear Arsenal. Currently, NATO deploys about 150 US B61 free-fall bombs in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK. In addition, paragraph 64 of the Strategic Concept states that, for the first time, “a small number of United Kingdom Trident warheads” are part of NATO’s sub-strategic posture in Europe. The B61s should be repatriated to the US into verifiable storage; the US and UK nuclear arsenals should no longer be assigned to NATO; the UK should discard its attempt to create a sub-strategic role for its Trident force; and NATO’s nuclear war plan should be withdrawn.

5.10 Negotiate a Tactical Nuclear Weapon Treaty. The withdrawal of NATO’s tactical arsenal would constitute NATO’s side of a major confidence-building process, and would be a powerful way to encourage Russia to negotiate a Tactical Nuclear Weapon Treaty, through which a plan could be pursued for their elimination. An immediate start on this could be made by formalising, and making irreversible (through transparency and mutual verification), the 1991-92 reciprocal unilateral withdrawals by the NWS of all tactical nuclear weapons from ships and aircraft.

5.11 The next stage would be to establish a tactical/sub-strategic nuclear weapon register, in order to remedy the unacceptable absence of official figures, especially in Russia and the UK. This could be achieved either as part of the START III negotiations, or through the reactivated NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council established under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Given the renewed reliance on tactical nuclear weapons in Russia, and to a lesser extent in the US, other states must take the initiative in devising and promoting ways to kick-start disarmament of tactical nuclear weapons. As the European NATO members have most to gain, they should lead in this. 12

5.12 Establish a Central/Eastern Europe Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Linked to the foregoing should be the simultaneous initiation of negotiations to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in Central/Eastern Europe. Currently proposed by Belarus, this would be another important confidence-building measure both for Russia and the other former members of the Warsaw Pact which are not in NATO, and which have long feared that they would be a nuclear battlefield. It would hopefully extend from Sweden and Finland through the Baltic states, Poland, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, the Balkan states, the Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece to Turkey.

5.13 Although there is understandably little political will for this at present, especially among new or hopeful NATO members, the evolution of a de facto nuclear weapon free zone within European NATO would be achieved if more NATO member states emulated the Norwegian, Danish and Spanish precedents of refusing deployment of nuclear weapons on their territory in peacetime.13


6.1 Even before the 2000 NPT Review Conference, NATO was in trouble over its nuclear policy. Now, unless it is seen to move rapidly to make its posture coherent with the NPT Review final document, it will stand condemned as the primary impediment to genuine nuclear disarmament.

6.2 NATO currently has no answer to the argument that because it places so much political value in its nuclear forces, it is providing a justification for proliferators. Instead it hints that it does not rule out threatening first use of nuclear weapons to deal with even non-nuclear “rogue” regimes – thereby exacerbating the problem.

6.3 If it is to survive, the moment has arrived for NATO to confront its unacceptable nuclear policy. Its addiction to the dogma of nuclear deterrence is fatally undermining its professed purpose, which is “to secure a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe.” NATO claims to uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law: yet its three nuclear members tried to intimidate the rest into opposing a practical programme of nuclear disarmament steps, most of which have now been agreed by consensus in the NPT Review final document.

6.4 Nuclear deterrence is about threatening the most indiscriminate violence possible, unrestrained by morality or the law. It is therefore a policy of gross irresponsibility, and the antithesis of democracy. In challenging nuclear deterrence, the NPT Review final document, which recalls and builds upon the 1996 World Court Advisory Opinion, provides a new, internationally authorised position which the nuclear weapon states and their allies can no longer ignore.

6.5 Over ten years after the end of the Cold War, the overwhelming majority of states have realised that nuclear disarmament is a security-building process, where nuclear weapons are a liability and a security problem. In the short term, conventional deterrence can be used as a more credible, safer alternative strategy. This will enable nuclear forces to be verifiably stood down, and Russia to be reassured enough for negotiations to begin on an enforceable global treaty which will provide a plan to go to zero nuclear weapons.

6.6 NATO’s credibility as a responsible, law-abiding force for good depends on how it responds to the challenge of the NPT Review final document.


1 The Alliance’s Strategic Concept Approved by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. on 23rd and 24th April 1999 [NAC-S(99)65]. See website

2 Questions of Command and Control: NATO, Nuclear Sharing and the NPT [PENN Research Report 2000.1, March 2000], p32. See website

3 2000 Review of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Final Document [NPT/CONF.2000/28 (Vol 1, Part I and II), 22 May 2000]. See website

4 The Naked Nuclear Emperor: Debunking Nuclear Deterrence – A Primer for Safer Security Strategies, Robert Green [Disarmament & Security Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2000].

5 PENN Report, Chapters 1& 2.

6 Ibid, pp36-37.

7 Fast Track to Zero Nuclear Weapons: The Middle Powers Initiative, Robert D. Green [Middle Powers Initiative, 1999], p79.

8 “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons” Advisory Opinion of July 8, UN Document A/51/218 (1996), reprinted in 35 I.L.M. 809 &1343 (1996). Also available at website

9 Green [2000], pp64-65.

10 Green [1999], p69.

11 With minor variations, those polled were asked whether they wanted their government to negotiate an enforceable global treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons like the one for chemical weapons. US opinion poll commissioned for the Abolition 2000 Network by the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (Lake Sosin Snell & Associates, April 1997); UK survey on nuclear weapons commissioned for the Abolition 2000 Network by the National Steering Committee for Nuclear Free Local Authorities (Gallup, September 1997); Belgian opinion poll commissioned by For Mother Earth (Market Response, 21 September 1998); Canadian opinion poll commissioned by the Canadian Peace Alliance (Angus Reid Group, February 1998); Norwegian opinion poll commissioned by Nei Til Atomvapen (4 facta A/S, July 1998); German opinion poll commissioned by national affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, June 1998; Netherlands opinion poll commissioned by Working Group Eurobomb/PENN Netherlands and Nederlandse Vereniging voor Medische Polemologie NVMP, October 1998 [Green (1999), p44].

12 Tactical Nuclear Weapons Preliminary Research Findings [UNIDIR, April 2000]. See website

13 Ibid, p27.