Saturday, 19 May 2012

DDPR1: NATO's Defence and Deterrence Posture Review

(The first in a series of posts about issues around the NATO defence and and deterrence posture review)

Paul Ingram of BASIC and Oliver Meier of the Arms Control Association have published an assessment of the NATO defence and deterrence posture review, with a look at what is likely to be announced in Chicago. It's a worthwhile read and fits very much with NATO Monitor's impression of what has gone on behind the scenes.

As they conclude, and as has been obvious for well over a decade, NATO is deeply divided on nuclear policy issues. It has been unable to even to set a declaratory nuclear use policy because of that division.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative has published an analysis of the DDPR with very similar conclusions. Their paper also adds a look at Russian attitudes to the nuclear issues in the DDPR.

While the paper's analysis is useful, their conclusions about what NATO should do are deeply problematic. they recommend consolidation of US nuclear weapons in Italy and Turkey, which would do nothing to reduce Russian opposition to their presence in Europe but would be seen as threatening by some countries to the south and east, hardly a desirable end.

However, NTIs most damaging conclusion is one which, on the face of it, would directly breach the NPT in a visible way. They say that:

  • NATO Control.
  •  NATO could choose to establish an independent, jointly operated unit of DCA tasked with delivering non-strategic nuclear weapons in addition to any U.S. DCA in Europe. All member states would contribute financially in addition to providing personnel. However, this posture will still require the alliance to answer difficult questions about where these capabilities will be based, with Italy again one possibility.

This appears to be a call to revive a form of the Multilateral Nuclear Force (MNF) idea that was proposed for NATO during the 1960s, and which NATO terminated on recognition that it would be banned under the NPT when that came into force. At best, it would be to enhance and give visibility to the current nuclear sharing arrangements, which are themselves of at best dubious legality under the NPT and really only survive because no country mounts a sustained objection to them.

Their final option, of consolidation of the US arsenal on the soil of the United States, would be much more sensible. it would not, in the short term, alter NATO policy or doctrine at all, but might (as NTI says) give an impetus to the next round of nuclear talks with Russia. Its security impact would be zero, since the nukes in Europe are not ready to use in any case, and very few people can envisage any circumstances in which a European country would give approval for a nuclear strike mission to be carried out from their soil. Some eastern European states may complain, but what option do they have? Would they leave NATO? of course not. they would go along.

One thing has puzzled the Monitor since President Obama took office, and that is something which links the analysis in both these papers. Traditionally, the US has led on NATO nuclear policy and doctrine. What was US practise has swiftly become Alliance practise too. The US has always given Allies a clear steer on what they expect in this area. Following the 2009 Prague speech on the need for a nuclear weapon free world, and the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review which reduced the role of nuclear forces in US defence doctrine, it was to be expected that President Obama would instruct his NATO Ambassador to take a similar lead.

Instead, it has become clear over the past two years that the US has abdicated its traditional leadership role and simply said to Europe - tell us what you want! So the deep divisions within NATO Europe have been unbridgeable because there was no leadership to make the bridging possible. If President Obama wants NATO to contribute to the goal he set in Prague, he needs to do something about it.

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