Friday, 12 June 2009

US Legislators Introduce Bill to Keep US Nukes in Europe

Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), two conservative lawmakers, have introduced the NATO First Act in the House of Representatives. They hope to be able to attach the Act to the National Defense Authorization Act as it makes it way through the House.

This Act is a conservative attempt to constrain the options of the Obama administration as it rebuilds its relationship with Russia, or as the two cosponsors put it "This legislation will continue American´s strong commitment to European defense while taking steps to strengthen our NATO allies and partner nations".

The legislation would force the President to spend $500 million on building ballistic missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, something the administration is very reluctant to go ahead with and which Russia strongly opposes.

Notably, the draft legislation would prohibit any action taken to reduce United States nuclear forces based in Europe (thought to be reduced already to around 250 free fall B61 bombs), unless required by law and the President makes a series of certifications. The cosponsors also want to spend $50 million for upgrading the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear forces in Europe. They say that:

As the United States moves forward with a Russia reset policy, it is vital that we maintain our commitment to extended deterrence. The nuclear alliance of NATO is an important component for ensuring the security of our European allies. Thus, United States forward-deployed nuclear forces shall remain based in Europe in support of the nuclear policy and posture of NATO.

It is thought that the removal of US nuclear weapons from Europe may well form part of the Nuclear Posture Review and the NATO Strategic Concept Review. The US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder is known to favour this course, as are several key administration figures.

Other provisions of the legislation would prevent the administration reducing US forces in Europe, and prevent the reduction of US strategic nuclear forces under a new START agreement unless the Russians cut their tactical nuclear forces. (More detail here)

This thoroughly retrograde piece of legislation is unlikely to pass a House in which pro-Obama Democrats have a large majority, but it is indicative of the continuing support for unilateralist, Bush-era policies amongst conservatives.

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