Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons


Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

The Disparity Distraction

U.S. Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

The Strategic Concept also introduced a formal link between NATO and Russia’s nonstrategic

nuclear postures: “Any further steps” in reducing non-strategic nuclear weapons

in Europe “must take into account the disparity with the greater Russian stockpiles of

short-range nuclear weapons.” 93 Although Secretary Clinton’s Tallinn speech also recommended

seeking reductions in Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons, the use of “disparity”

in the new Strategic Concept as a condition for “any further steps” appears to go

one step further. A formal link between NATO’s nuclear posture in Europe and Russian

non-strategic nuclear forces was normal during the Cold War, but policymakers have

avoided doing so for two decades in an attempt to break the “us versus them” mentality.

NATO has insisted that the U.S. weapons in Europe were not directed against Russia, and

the United States has repeatedly reduced its deployment in Europe regardless of the size

of the Russian arsenal.

In 2005-2006, the Bush administration unilaterally cut the European stockpile by

more than 50 percent compared with the Clinton administration’s deployment, from 440

bombs to approximately 200. This reduction included the complete (but quiet) withdrawal

from the United Kingdom 94 – the first time since the 1950s that the United States

did not have nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom – and the removal of all nuclear

weapons from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. 95 Nothing was said about these reductions

and NATO did not demand Russian reciprocity or express concern over disparity.

One month after the Strategic Concept was approved by NATO the issue of disparity

also found its way into the U.S. Senate’s advice and consent resolution for the New START

treaty. The resolution called on the administration to seek to initiate within one year negotiations

with Russia “on an agreement to address the disparity” between Russian and U.S.

non-strategic nuclear weapons. 96

The rise of non-strategic nuclear weapons disparity to the top of the nuclear agenda was

acknowledged by James Miller in his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee

when he explained that the Strategic Concept is “consistent with Senate language in the

New START resolution of ratification that any further steps must take into account the

93 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Active Engagement, Modern Defense, Strategic Concept for the Defense and Security of the

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, adopted by the Heads of States and Government in Lisbon, November

19, 2010, p. 8,

94 The withdrawal from the United Kingdom was first report here: Hans M. Kristensen, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Withdrawn

From the United Kingdom,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, June 26, 2008,

95 Hans M. Kristensen, “United States Removes Nuclear Weapons From German Base, Documents Indicate,” FAS Strategic

Security Blog, July 9, 2007,

96 U.S. Senate, Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification of the New START Treaty, December 22, 2010,

Federation of American Scientists 40

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