Options for Change
NATO, Russia, Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Disarmament
The scope of the review undertaken by the Alliance has been and still is somewhat controversial. While some Alliance members prefer a more limited approach, others would like to see this process become a full scale review of the Alliances nuclear policy and posture. However, any review of substance will eventually lead towards renewed efforts to discuss the Alliances (nuclear) strategy and posture. Even more, there is a need for such a discussion as the Alliances 1998/99 strategy review on the one hand felt victim to the Kosovo war and thus did not produce much of the necessary debate. On the other hand, it produced a debate whether the role of NATOs nuclear arsenal should be widened to cope with all WMD threats.
NATOs members are facing an important choice. On the one hand they can help to make progress possible towards future steps of nuclear disarmament and thus help to safe-guard and strengthen the existing non-proliferation regimes. On the other hand they can fail to do so and thus strengthen trends to give nuclear weapons a wider role for the future and eventually give priority to fighting the results of proliferation by military means over preventing proliferation to occur.
This paper concentrates on some options for NATO and its member states to strengthen the Alliances contribution to the future of nuclear arms control and to safe-guard the non-proliferation regimes. In addition, in some aspects it looks beyond the nuclear issue.
NATO is neither a nuclear power nor a state party to existing arms-control agreements or involved in any negotiations that might lead to future arms-control treaties. The Alliances room to manoeuvre is thus limited on the one hand and dependent on nuclear member states actions on the other hand. However, three of the declared nuclear weapon states are members of NATO, two are involved in formulating the Alliances nuclear policy and thus there is no other multilateral institution which could hypothetically influence the future of nuclear arms-control to the same degree as NATO could. NATO is also unique in binding together several nuclear and several non-nuclear weapon states within one alliance. This gives NATOs deliberations on the future of nuclear arms-control a very specific role.
In its current review the Alliance should concentrate on a limited number of changes that, however, could make a real difference. This paper makes five specific suggestions:
In addition, NATO should clearly declare its support for the 2000 NPT-Review Conferences program of strengthening nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It should explore options for co-operation with Russia in strengthening existing non-proliferation regimes and thus reduce the demand for both wide area theatre ballistic missile defences as well as national missile defences.
There is one specific option some of NATOs non-nuclear weapon states might consider as a contribution of their own to support the above mentioned proposals.
Those countries that have the technical capability to employ US sub-strategic nuclear weapons under NATOs nuclear sharing arrangements should consider to individually or collectively declare their preparedness to give up this capability. This would support a US-Russian agreement on tactical nuclear weapons and would strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Such a step would have a wide range of advantages in a number of different contexts. Among them are
This author believes that Russia must have a serious interest in tactical nuclear reductions. Russia is not able to maintain her non-strategic nuclear arsenal. It is deteriorating quickly; there are no resources at hand to either keep it operational or modernise it. There is no reason to believe that the situation will improve any time soon. However, the Russian military and MINATOM do not yet see any good reason to publicly admit Russias weakness in respect to the countrys non-strategic nuclear posture and thus prefer to signal disinterest.
Some of these concerns can be met and incentives can be developed to ease the reluctance on the Russian end. Offering the elimination of the US European based nuclear weapons eliminates them from the Russian strategic equation. The same is true for SLCMs which are still considered an additional tool in NATOs nuclear posture in times of crisis and war. Both steps would reflect a long-standing Russian interest. A freedom to mix strategic and non-strategic systems when accounting for warheads against a future START-III/CART upper limit increases Moscows capability to economically and technically cope with a higher total number of warheads allowed and when thinking about the overall nuclear balance. It also allows for a quicker retirement of Russian nuclear systems that otherwise need costly maintenance or even upgrades. It provides Russia with an option to compensate with non-strategic systems for strategic systems which she can no longer maintain. Finally, an offer to assist Russia with the dismantling of her tactical nuclear weapons could meet Moscows concerns about the countries financial constraints and priorities5.
This leaves Russia beyond the nuclear theatre - with two major questions when it comes to the countries overall perception of strategic stability: The conventional balance and new concerns resulting from missile defences.
Superior Western conventional forces and NATO enlargement have caused Russian concerns about the overall strategic stability in the European region. Russia began to mirror NATOs cold war doctrine of flexible response, which compensated numerical conventional inferiority by reliance on tactical nuclear weapons and a first use doctrine. In order to change the Russian perception, the basics of the CFE-process must be reassessed.
CFE is in a crisis. No single signatory has ratified CFE-2 since it was signed almost a year ago. The guiding principle for CFE-2 became "flexibility" for reinforcements as opposed to stability (i.e. avoiding sudden force concentrations capable to attack) in CFE-1. In addition, CFE-2 does not truly reflect the changes to the European political geography that came about with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. The Russian South is Moscows greatest concern since the limitations of CFE flank agreements forced Russia to agree to a flexibility oriented approach while national interest would have dictated a stability oriented approach.
NATO could make a substantial contribution to the future of European security by rethinking the basics of CFE. The Alliance has been deeply involved in framing the existing agreements. It is in a very advantageous position and should be able to rethink both the numeric limitations imposed and the geographic outline underlying the treaty. A commitment to consult with Russia for the ideas for changes necessary could prove helpful and represent a confidence building measure..
The other non-conventional issue of concern to Russia is NMD. Here again, the Alliance has no direct, but an indirect say. NATO is not a party to the ABM treaty. However, it has become very clear that Russia fears that strategic stability (i.e. deterrence based on the capability for mutual destruction and the combination of rough parity and mutual vulnerability) is coming under severe pressure from the combination of developing US missile defence capabilities and increasing first-strike capabilities resulting from the modernisation of the US Trident fleet.
While NATO does not have a say over the national US decision on whether and when to deploy missile defences, the Alliance could
NATOs arms control and non-proliferation review will not be finalised until a new American administration comes in. Indeed, the next US President will have already been elected when NATO discusses the interim report. A new presidency might mean changes to the US policy in NATO. Many arms-control minded analysts and scholars express deep concerns over the possibility of an incoming Republican administration and the consequences that might result for the future of nuclear arms control, non-proliferation politics and the future of multilateral arms control negotiations.
The author of this paper shares these concerns as far as the future of multilateral arms control is concerned. Multilateral arms-control is likely to suffer from a Republican administration. However, he does not fully share the concerns in respect to the general future of nuclear disarmament.
If so, those interested in the future of arms control and non-proliferation would need a strategy on how to deal with the new situation. Three initial steps can be named that might prove helpful:
Otfried Nassauer is Director of the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security (BITS)
Beyond the arguments developed in the referenced sources, the suggested treaty would ease the inclusion of arrangements for verified warhead dismantling as well as preparing for the future inclusion of smaller nuclear powers into this bilateral treaty: Verification of dismantling would be eased since this approach allows for a non-intrusive verification system modelled after the "warhead-container in pit container out" logic and thus reduce the need to develop various verification options allowing to distinguish between all different types of warheads. The future inclusion of lesser nuclear weapon states would be important, since the British nuclear posture, consisting of sub-strategic and strategic Trident systems only could be coped with much easier.3 It is not clear whether Russia seriously does have such a concern. However, given the withdrawal of thousands of weapons removed at high speed from CEE as well as the CIS republics from 1990 onward, there realistically might be such a concern resulting from discrepancies or gaps in the records of those days. One indication for the problems Russia had in that period became visible when Russia continued to store nuclear weapons in Eastern Germany even after reunification. 4 The Advisory Opinion of the International Court Of Justice is reprinted in: IALANA (ed.) "Atomwaffen vor dem Internationalen Gerichtshof", Lit-Verlag, Münster, 1997, pp.69-111. The quote can be found on p.104 5 The financial constraints have to be taken seriously. The Russian Federations proposed 2001 total budget ($ 40 bn) is smaller than the inner-German transfer from the old laender into the new laender (more than $ 45bn), less than one fifth of the German budget and less than one seventh of the US defence budget. For nine years Russia had to live from its substance, while not investing in the countries infrastructure. For the years to come, infrastructure investments, such as into gas and oil pipelines, lines of communications etc will require every single ruble available.