of Command and Control:
Chapter One: The Debate Over Nuclear Sharing Since 1995
A credible Alliance
nuclear posture and the demonstration of Alliance solidarity and common commitment to war
prevention continue to require widespread
participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles,
in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements. (Emphasis added)
NATO Strategic Concept,
Paragraph 63, April 1999.
The international debate over NATO nuclear policy in general, and NATO nuclear sharing arrangements in particular, has built steadily since 1995. The non-proliferation implications of these arrangements have come to disturb more and more states party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under NATO policy, the US presently deploys up to 180 nuclear weapons in Europe. These weapons are intended for delivery by US aircraft, and by aircraft belonging to NATO members which are non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) during peacetime.
At the same time, NATO members regard the NPT as the cornerstone of the
non-proliferation regime. NATO states
worked hard to achieve their goal of indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. They
continue to emphasize the importance of Treaty interpretations that do not allow
loop-holes through which proliferation might take place amongst other states.
All NATO members are committed to exposing possible Treaty violations
to international criticism and sanction. There is also growing support in NATO for
decisive counter-action, including the possibility of offensive military
counter-proliferation operations. NATO members clearly perceive a Treaty prohibiting
nuclear proliferation to be in their national interests.
Criticism of NATO nuclear policy in general, and nuclear sharing in particular, has been growing since the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the NPT. In papers and a research note, members of the Project on European Nuclear Non-Proliferation (PENN) have provided evidence that questions the compatibility of NATO nuclear sharing with the commitments NATOs member states entered into under Articles I and II of the NPT. Evidence was made available in increasing detail as more declassified and other historical documentation emerged. This evidence was used in 1995, and at the three Preparatory Committees (PrepComs) for the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT (RevCon), to question the NATO policy.
1.1 Nuclear Sharing Debates from 1995 to 1999:
International Concern Over Nuclear Proliferation in NATO
At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, several State parties
raised serious concerns as to whether NATO nuclear sharing arrangements comply with
Articles I and II of the Treaty. During the debate that ensued, NATO members proposed that
the report of the Conference endorse NATO nuclear sharing arrangements. NATO members
offered language stating that, existing security arrangements are implemented in
full compliance with Articles I and II of the treaty, and that the provisions
of Articles I and II are fully compatible with the commitment undertaken by State parties
in existing security arrangements.
Mexico recorded its reservations on the subject of nuclear sharing,
asking for clarification from NATO nations about allegations in reports by Greenpeace and
BASIC/CESD about NATO nuclear sharing. Both Belgium and Germany responded that they had
not breached the NPT and that the allegations were groundless.
Nonetheless, the Non-Aligned Movement later
took up the Mexican concerns in language which was included in the draft report from Main
Committee I. The draft stated that:
5. The Conference acknowledges the declarations by the
nuclear-weapon States that they have fulfilled their obligations under Article I, [with
exceptions noted by the international community. The Conference underscores the need for
nuclear-weapon States to remain in full compliance with the letter and spirit of Article
Many other non-NATO countries took a different perspective from NATO
nations, proposing that the Conference note that among State parties there are
various interpretations of the implementation of certain aspects of Articles I and II
which need clarification. Another proposal was for language expressing
grave concern about NATO nuclear sharing and the Conference being
convinced that such acts run counter to the spirit and letter of the Treaty. Seven
out of eight draft proposals for language highlighted the fact that there is no joint
interpretation of Articles I and II. These proposals either called for clarification and
additional information or more generally reminded all State parties to ensure that they
live up to their commitments under Articles I and II.
The Conference was unable to agree a text and the report of Main Committee was never accepted by the Conference as whole. Indeed, the Conference was never able to agree a review document, in part because of disagreements between NNWS and nuclear-weapon states (NWS) on Article I and Article II questions.
1.2 The 1997 PrepCom: NATO
Expansion Prompts Concerns Over Nuclear Strategy
The 1995 debate on nuclear sharing was short and no agreement was
reached. NATO members hoped the question would simply not be raised again. However, the
compatibility of NATO nuclear sharing with Articles I and II of the NPT caused serious
debate at the 1997 PrepCom. PENN members presented diplomats with a memorandum containing
a series of questions on NATO nuclear sharing, which was the basis for the debate that
took place at the PrepCom.
Furthermore, NATO expansion prompted general concern about the NPT and
NATO nuclear policies and strategy. Belarus, China and Russia objected to NATO
enlargement. Belarus proposed a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central and Eastern Europe. China
and Russia suggested that states with nuclear weapons deployed outside their borders
should withdraw all these weapons to their own territory.
South Africa was even more explicit. South African representatives
expressed concern about the non-proliferation implications of the plans for the
expansion of NATO
. The planned expansion of NATO would entail an increase in the
number of non-nuclear-weapon States which participate in nuclear training, planning
decision-making and which have an element of nuclear deterrence in their defence
In 1997, the prospect of the admittance of the Czech Republic, Hungary
and Poland to NATO and a resulting increase in the number of countries eligible to
participate in NATO nuclear sharing and nuclear policy planning worried some NNWS. This
concern made the question of NPT compliance more relevant, despite assurances that NATO
does not intend to deploy nuclear weapons in the territory of new member states.
NATOs strategy, last revised at the Washington Summit in April
1999, requires the widespread participation of NNWS members in nuclear sharing during
peacetime, crisis and war. It still requires several NNWS members to be prepared to take
control of US nuclear warheads in time of war.
In addition to repeatedly stating that it does not intend to station
nuclear weapons on new members territory, NATO clarified in the NATO-Russia Founding
Act that it will not construct new nuclear storage facilities in these countries. In the
Founding Act, NATO members reiterated the three
nos in which they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy
nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. This
agreement, however, is not legally binding. The US Administration points out that:
NATO retains its right to modify its nuclear posture or policy should circumstances
The Czechs, Hungarians and Poles have now joined the NATO Nuclear
Planning Group and its subordinate bodies and participate in nuclear consultation during
exercises and crisis.
The 1997 PrepCom ended without any agreement on proposals on substantive issues that could be passed on to the 1998 PrepCom or the 2000 RevCon.
The 1998 PrepCom: First Proposals Tabled to End Nuclear Sharing
The debate in 1997 was carried over and deepened at the 1998 PrepCom
meeting. The PENN publication, NATO Nuclear Sharing
and the NPT Questions to be Answered, presented historical evidence concerning
nuclear sharing to diplomats for the first time. This
report used declassified US documents to show why NATO needed to be questioned over
possible breaches of Articles I and II of the NPT, and why further clarification was
necessary as to whether NATO nuclear sharing should be considered legal or illegal under
the NPT. Several countries used this information to question the practice of nuclear
sharing and make proposals to reconcile NATO nuclear sharing with NPT Articles I and II.
For example, the 113-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) proposed that the PrepCom agree to
States Parties agree that the strict observance of the terms of Article I remains central
to achieving the shared objectives of preventing under any circumstances further
proliferation of nuclear weapons and preserving the Treatys vital contribution to
peace and security.
The working paper called on NWS parties to the NPT to reaffirm
their commitments to the fullest implementation of Articles I and II, and
to refrain from nuclear sharing with
nuclear-weapons States, non nuclear-weapon States, and States not party to the Treaty for
military purposes under any kind of security
arrangements. (Emphasis added)
Criticism also came from Egypt. While certain interpretations of
would have the Treaty apply only in times of peace, Egypt called for
the 2000 Review Conference to clearly state that there should be no exceptions allowed to
Articles I and II, and that the NPT is legally binding under all circumstances. The
contrast with NATO positions was sharp. As these illustrations demonstrate, there is a
clear need to reconcile NPT obligations with NATO nuclear sharing.
As in 1997, the 1998 PrepCom ended without agreement on Article I and II issues, or indeed any substantive questions.
4 The 1999 PrepCom: NATO Nuclear Sharing Under the Microscope
From the opening day of the 1999 PrepCom, representatives of NATO
nations felt themselves under pressure. Challenging the basis of NATO nuclear sharing, the
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) for the second year in a row submitted a Working Paper, which
contained proposals for review document language on Article I and II identical to the
Algeria, backing the NAM position, strongly criticized [T]he very
recent adoption of the [NATO] Strategic Concept which reaffirms the essential importance
of nuclear weapons in security and the preservation of peace, contradicting by word and
deed the hopes cherished by many countries.
Mongolia warned that the Alliances new Strategic Concept could provoke other nuclear
weapon states to adopt similar policies while NNWS might question the utility of the
The New Agenda Coalition (NAC) for the first time joined the criticism
of NATO and nuclear sharing. In their statement to the general debate, they criticized
lack of progress to disarmament and the fact that .. the continued possession of
nuclear weapons has been re-rationalised. Nuclear doctrines have been reaffirmed. The
NAC further emphasized that any loophole in Treaty interpretation that might allow for
nuclear sharing must be closed, stating that it must be stressed that all the
articles of the NPT are binding on all States Parties and at all times and in all
In 1999, rhetorical criticism of NATO policy was translated for the
first time into action. Egypt formally
proposed that the Preparatory Committee of the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review
Conference adopt an interpretation of the Treaty that would outlaw current NATO practices
and possible future European Union nuclear weapons cooperation. Referring to Articles I
and II of the NPT, which prohibit the transfer of nuclear weapons from nuclear weapon
states to non-nuclear-weapon states, Egypt emphasized that:
Neither Article I nor Article II suffer any exceptions.
Notwithstanding the clear and unambiguous nature of Articles I & II of the NPT, NATOs so-called Nuclear Sharing arrangements and its concepts regarding nuclear deterrence, as reflected in its latest declaration on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, raise significant doubts over the extent of compliance of some NATO members with the provisions of both of these Articles and the extent of conformity and compatibility of commitments undertaken by participants in such arrangements with the provisions of the NPT.
Furthermore, Egypt is concerned about proposals for a Europeanized nuclear force based on the policy of concerted deterrence. These questions need to be addressed by these nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon States.
delegation of Egypt proposes that the PrepCom recommend that the 2000 Review Conference
state in clear and unambiguous terms that Articles I and II of the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons allow for no exceptions
and that the NPT is binding on States Parties in times of peace and in times of war alike.
involvement in the negotiations that created the NPT in the 1960s gives particular weight to its concerns today.
South Africa also made a statement criticizing NATO policies and the revised Strategic
Concept adopted at the 1999 NATO Summit in Washington. This recalled their earlier
concerns placed on record at the previous two PrepComs about the non-proliferation
implications of an expanded NATO  in the light of the outcome of the Washington Summit
which has, for the time being, left the policy of nuclear sharing unchanged.
The Chair carried these concerns into the two draft working papers he
presented to PrepCom participants. The first stated that
Reaffirmation by non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty, of their commitments to
the fullest implementation of Article II and to refrain from nuclear sharing with
nuclear-weapon States, non-nuclear-weapon States, and States not party to the Treaty for
military purposes under any kind of security arrangements.
The Chairs second draft statement included a paragraph which
Affirmation that all the articles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons are binding on all States Parties and at all times and in all circumstances.
The 1999 PrepCom ended in acrimony, barely avoiding complete failure.
In part, this was because NATO members could not bring themselves to accept any criticism
of their policies and practices. In the end, participants were only able to agree the
minimum of procedural points necessary to allow the 2000 Review Conference to take
However, concern in the NPT process over nuclear sharing spilled over in 1999 into the United Nations. The New Agenda resolution, which passed the First Committee and then General Assembly, includes as one of its points the phrase, Stressing that each article of the NPT is binding on the respective States Parties at all times and in all circumstances, a clear reference to the debate over nuclear sharing.
The debate over nuclear sharing in the NPT forum, together with
proliferation concerns over NATO expansion, has forced alliance members and the US in
particular into a defensive position. US government members have been obliged to answer
criticism that they are promoting proliferation through NATO policy.
Some NNWS have argued that by tying new member states into nuclear
planning and deterrence, NATO is engaging in a form of nuclear proliferation. US
Secretary of Defense William Cohen responded to these criticisms by saying that
there are no Non-Proliferation Treaty problems associated with NATO
expansion. He went on to note that since the new members
are all signatories to the NPT, attempts by these states to receive, manufacture or
otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, would break their commitment to the NPT, whether
they were in NATO or not.
In response to the same question, US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright said that the participation by NATO NNWS in the activities of the Nuclear
no way contravenes Article I of the NPT. This question of NPT Article I and its impact on
NATO nuclear forces was debated at length during the negotiation of the NPT. All concerned
accepted that the final language of Article I would not preclude the type of nuclear
planning, basing, and consultative arrangements that have taken place in NATO since NPT
entry-into-force in 1970.
However, at the time of signing the NPT, non-NATO signatories were not made aware of the US interpretation (shared by NATO allies) preserving the Alliances nuclear sharing arrangements and stating that the NPT would not be controlling in time of war; neither were they made aware of what exactly constitutes nuclear sharing. For example, diplomatic sources have revealed that Sweden signed the NPT in 1968 with the assumption that other European powers would also relinquish their programs for acquiring nuclear weapons. However, the US interpretation that in wartime NATO allies could become nuclear-weapon powers contravened Swedens (and probably other nations) basic reason for signing.