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Authors: Snook, Walter
Advisors: Feiveson, Harold
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: One can argue that all nuclear weapons are inherently strategic weapons because of the pure destructive power they represent and have the potential of unleashing. However, non-strategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons are distinguished from strategic weapons by the mission of the weapons, the range of their delivery system, and their explosive power. American and Russian Strategic Arsenals are governed by the START series of treaties; the most recent one, New START, was signed in Prague in 2010. Tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles are not regulated by these or any other international treaties; reductions in TNW stockpiles have come solely from the unilateral actions of various American and Russian leaders. The vast majority of U.S. weapons forward deployed to Europe during the Cold War were TNWs and the only weapons that remain there today, B61-3 and -4 bombs, are classified as TNWs. Nuclear weapons first found their way onto the European Continent in the early 1950s. The U.S. forward deployed bombers and bombs to Britain and followed those with a mass of additional tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) deployed to various NATO allies on the European continent proper. NATO allies hosted many of these weapons under so-called “dual-key” arrangements that allow for the host nation’s military to deliver the U.S. nuclear warheads in times of war, if authorized by the U.S. President. Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rationale for deploying thousands of nuclear warheads to the European continent has evaporated. Over the past two decades, the U.S. has withdrawn and destroyed the vast majority of its TNW stockpile. Estimates today place the remaining number of U.S. TNWs, all B61 bombs, in Europe at between 160 and 200 warheads. Another approximately 500 are thought to be kept in storage at bases in the United States. Many of the bombs are still designated by NATO and the U.S. for delivery by allied air forces. NATO’s current strategic concept maintains the Alliance’s commitment to retain a nuclear deterrent capability. The dilemma the Alliance faces is whether or not U.S. TNWs on European soil are necessary to maintain that deterrent. Many NATO members – including Norway, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands – believe that deterrence can be achieved through conventional means as well as via the extended deterrence of the U.S. and British strategic arsenals. Many of the newer Eastern European member nations vehemently disagree with this sentiment. Those nations live in the shadow of the Russian military machine and see the U.S. TNWs in Europe as a concrete signal that the U.S. is committed to defending its NATO allies from aggression, even if that commitment entails the possibility of nuclear war. Given that cooperation with Russia is unlikely – as is any sort of reciprocal TNW reduction agreement – NATO’s best option going forward is a graduated withdrawal of the U.S. weapons. The U.S. should consolidate most of its TNWs in Italy or another country agreeable to hosting them and then eventually withdraw them to the continental U.S. Both of these steps must be accompanied by concrete actions that reassure all of NATO – particularly Eastern Europe and Turkey – that the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal remains committed to the defense of NATO under Article V of the North Atlantic treaty. Steps could include modified conventional force and ballistic missile defense posturing in addition to formal reaffirmations of the U.S. commitment.
Extent: 115 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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