Saturday, 19 May 2012

DDPR3: Fomer Sec Gen Robertson Still a Nuclear Hawk

A short paper on nuclear aspects of the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR) that former NATO Secretary General George Robertson has co-authored for the Atlantic Council of the US is an egregious example of hawkish, Cold War thinking on nukes.

The paper is a badly written hodge-podge of arguments for the indefinite retention of US nuclear weapons in Europe, and ad hominem attacks on politicians such as Germany's Guido Westerwelle who have dared to question the status quo. Unfortunately, it does represent a significant strand of opinion on the hawkish end of the US debate, and would likely represent US policy if Mitt Romney were to get elected, so needs to be read.

The paper recommends that NATO should indefinitely retain some nuclear weapons in Europe, and negotiate allowance for this with the Russians. It is unable to explain why the Russians should be prepared to balance their remaining 2,000 or so tactical nuclear weapons against the 200 or so that the US maintains n Europe; while ignoring the many hundreds more the retain the US.

The paper says NATO should simply stop talking about nuclear weapons after Chicago, and blames Westerwelle for a debate which it says has split the Alliance. this is to to ignore the factors on nuclear policy that have split the Alliance since the end of the Cold War. Current nuclear arrangements in NATO freeze the Alliance into a two-tier membership. New members in Eastern Europe are not permitted to have nuclear weapons deployed on their soil, nor to engage in nuclear sharing programmes. This results from promises made to Russia by the Alliance, and by the US alone, during the expansion debates in the 1990s. This is resented in eastern Europe, and divides the Alliance.

Secondly, there is no appetite in western European publics for the basing of US nuclear weapons on their soil, or for the expenditure that nuclear sharing states undertake to maintain their nuclear sharing programmes. Indeed, it seems likely these programmes will simply wither away over the coming coming decade or so as these states, particularly Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, fail to add nuclear capability to new aircraft they purchase to replace ageing fleets.

Thirdly, Robertson argues that the solidarity of the Alliance continues to require widespread European participation in Alliance nuclear strategy and basing of weapons, whereas active participation has been dropping away for years. Even the UK, a staunch ally, has had all the more than 100 US nuclear weapons that used to be based at airbases there removed. Most NATO allies do no more than turn up for briefings of the Nuclear Planning Group.

Finally, the paper argues that NATO must concentrate on beefing up conventional defences and defence spending, while ignoring the fact that nuclear basing and nuclear sharing consume significant resources that European nations can ill afford, and are indeed one of the true distractions from the ability to pursue the conventional spending he wishes to see. Turkey still allows US basing of nukes, but dropped its participation in nuclear sharing some years ago for these (and other other) reasons.

Robertson is a member of the European Leadership Network, and theoretically supports multilateral nuclear disarmament. Yet here he argues for a multilateral agreement with Russia to permanently maintain nuclear arms. It's more than a little illogical. he does so in the company of Franklin Miller, a former US nuclear official so dedicated to maintaining the UK bomb he got a got a knighthood from Tony Blair, and who finished his government career helping George W Bush oppose arms control. The other author is Kori Schake, a former NATO and George W Bush administration official. The company Robertson keeps these days explains his promotion of policies far outside the European mainstream.

So file the paper away and hope Mitt Romney doesn't win in November!

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