Think Tanks
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RUSI partners with international think-tanks to explore the future of NATO non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe

In advance of the NATO summit in Chicago RUSI has collaborated with the partner institutions in the United States to explore potential solutions to NATO's emerging nuclear dilemmas.

Continuing RUSI's in-depth study of non-strategic nuclear weapons, RUSI collaborated this month with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institute to explore potential solutions to NATO's emerging nuclear dilemmas. As a result, RUSI's Research Director has contributed to a paper entitled Looking Beyond the Chicago Summit: Nuclear Weapons in Europe and the Future of NATO, which identifies key issues within NATO nuclear policy which will have to be addressed at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago and beyond. Towards the end of May NATO leaders meeting in Chicago will conclude their Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR), which was intended to be a vehicle for resolving key questions about the future role of nuclear weapons in NATO policy. However, NATO is unlikely to resolve the question of what to do about its forward deployed nuclear weapons before the summit.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, there is a diverse spectrum of views among the Alliance's twenty-eight member states, with some advocating complete disarmament and other, more vulnerable states seeking to retain these weapons indefinitely for reassurance purposes. Currently, five European countries - Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Turkey - base US B61 bombs on their territory and some have dual-capable aircraft that can deliver these weapons. But it is possible that some NATO allies may choose to abandon their nuclear role as they make decisions regarding successor aircraft for their own air forces. While NATO can extend the status quo for now, it cannot put off resolving its defence and deterrence dilemmas without undermining Alliance confidence and cohesion. The Alliance would be wise to establish at the Chicago Summit a process to continue work on two key issues:

1. What alternative forms of nuclear sharing and basing might be available that could simultaneously ensure wide participation in the nuclear mission, reassure those states that are seen as most vulnerable to external threat, and make a significant contribution to global disarmament efforts?

2. What means, if any, can be deployed to bolster non-nuclear reassurance of those NATO allies that feel most exposed to external threats? Who will provide these means and when?

Looking Beyond the Chicago Summit: Nuclear Weapons in Europe and the Future of NATO explores a range of options available to the Alliance in addressing these questions, complementing RUSI's research into the future of NATO non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. RUSI's Research Director, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, is a contributor to this paper. By examining potential scenarios for maintaining a NATO dual-capable aircraft posture in Europe, and by investigating creative intra-Alliance measures to reinforce security assurances, this publication maps a variety of nuclear policy options available to the alliance and identifies potential routes forward.


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