Zagorskii Andrei
Nuclear Weapons in Europe: around the Status Quo
Publication Type:

ISSN 2542-0240 (Print)

DOI: 10.23932/2542-0240-2018-11-6-128-143

By the end of the las decade, a new “nuclear” status quo was asserted in Europe as a result of deep reductions of non-strategic weapons of Russia and the US, the elimination of Russian and American intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, and the reduction of the arsenals by Great Britain and France. The commitment of NATO states not to station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members and the mutual commitments of Russia and the members of the alliance to exercise restraint in stationing of conventional forces are important elements of this status quo. Twice during the past decade, different options of amending this status quo were on the NATO’s agenda. In 2010–2012, proposals were put forward to unilaterally completely or partially withdraw the remaining American nuclear bombs from Europe. In 2014–2016, in the context of NATO’s returning to the policy of deterring Russia, debates concentrated on the expedience of returning to a fully-fledged nuclear deterrence that would imply an increase in the stockpile of non-strategic weapons and a different geography of their deployment in Europe, including the option of deploying them in the East-Central European countries. However, both rounds of the debates resulted in a draw. The nuclear status quo established in Europe after the end of the Cold war was preserved. Against the background of the Ukraine crisis, the option of a full or partial withdrawal of American non-strategic weapons is off the agenda for a foreseeable future. The option of mutual negotiated further reductions of Russian and American non-strategic weapons is currently not considered either. At the same time, the proponents of strengthening nuclear deterrence in Europe failed to convince their opponents within the alliance of the expedience of returning to the Cold war time strategy. It is premature to conclude, however, that the testing of the nuclear status quo is over. Ongoing debates are further affected by the critical status of the 1987 INF Treaty and the continued erosion of the conventional arms control regime in Europe.

Keywords: non-strategic nuclear weapons | Europe | the US | Russia | NATO | diplomacy | security | defense | foreign policy |

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