Saturday, April 03, 2010

Belgian Protest Puts Spotlight On US Tactical Nukes In Europe

Amid all the hullabaloo over the signing by Russia and the United States of a new strategic nuclear arms treaty, scant attention has been paid to Europe's other weapon problem: tactical nuclear weapons, a Cold War-era relic.  On April 3, anti-nuke protesters in countries where U.S. nukes are based staged protests.  The biggest demo rocked Belgium, where police detained hundreds of protesters who tried to break into a military base where missiles are believed to be stored.

A spokesman for the protestors said 300 people demonstrated near Kleine Brogel base not far from the Dutch border while more than 800 protesters tried to storm the police-protected military area.

Police put the total number of demonstrators at around 700.

April 3 was a European Day of Action to ban nuclear weapons. 

Actions were planned for European nuclear weapon bases in Germany, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Belgium.

According to Belgium's Action for Peace:

One month prior to the NPT Review Conference, peace movements in all the European countries with nuclear weapons on their territory (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey and the UK) give a common message: it is time for nuclear disarmament. The continuing deployment of nuclear weapons does not give security, but on the contrary gives an impulse to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

If we ever want to get rid of nuclear weapons, European governments have to take initiatives now. It's now or never!

You can check out activist video here.

As the Informant has reported, a few plucky NATO allies -- Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway -- are acting a little uppity, getting the nerve up to ask the US to take its tactical nuclear weapons -- believed to number some 200 -- out of Europe.

But the US military, sporting its best poker face, won't even fess up to having any of these weapons on European soil.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Taylor Clark, a public affairs officer with the U.S. European Command, said he could “neither confirm nor deny” the presence of any U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.

As the Boston Globe reports, U.S. mandarins are scratching their heads over what to do with their nukes and how they figure in any war game scenario. 

Some officials in Germany and other US allies in Europe are advocating a withdrawal, citing President Obama’s call last year for a nuclear-free world. But the United States is putting off an early decision, preferring to consult within NATO, starting at a meeting of foreign ministers in April that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to attend, according to several Obama administration officials.

Everything hinges on the study, known as the Nuclear Posture Review.  This much-anticipated document is to lay out U.S. 'thinking' on what role nukes will play in US war policy.

That policy is due out just days before a key NATO meeting in Estonia where Russophobe former Warsaw Pact nations could pressure Washington to keep the tactical nuclear option to tame the Russian bear. 

Over at Arms Control Association, Daryl G. Kimball says nukes have no place in today's world period.

In the 21st century, battlefield nuclear bombs serve no meaningful military role for the defense of Europe or Russia, and the possible loss or theft of these weapons poses an unacceptable risk of nuclear terrorism. The devastating power and inescapable collateral effects of such weapons make them inappropriate tools against non-nuclear targets. Rather than treating tactical nuclear weapons as just another part of NATO’s arsenal, the alliance should finally agree to eliminate forward-deployed U.S. nuclear bombs. This could also induce Russia to agree to further consolidate and verifiably dismantle its larger tactical nuclear stockpile.

Obama has made nuclear disarmament a plank of his pie-in-the-sky platform in his much-referred Prague speech last April.  Of course, the U.S. arrogates for itself the right to maintain such weapons, just in smaller numbers. 

And now it seems the newly agreed START Treaty (still yet to be ratified by either Russian or American lawmakers) may be a bit more hype than substance. 

Over on the Federation of American Scientists blog, Hans M. Kristensen writes the treaty introduces a new way to count nukes.

The White House fact sheet states that the new limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads is 74% lower than the 6,000 warhead limit of the 1991 START Treaty, and 30% lower than the 2,200 deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.

That is correct, but the limit allowed by the treaty is not the actual number of warheads that can be deployed. The reason for this paradox is a new counting rule that attributes one weapon to each bomber rather than the actual number of weapons assigned to them. This “fake” counting rule frees up a large pool of warhead spaces under the treaty limit that enable each country to deploy many more warheads than would otherwise be the case. And because there are no sub-limits for how warheads can be distributed on each of the three legs in the Triad, the “saved warheads” from the “fake” bomber count can be used to deploy more warheads on fast ballistic missiles than otherwise.

Ellen Tauscher, the U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, was asked at a press briefing to explain the rationale behind the “fake” bomber warhead counting rule, but dodged the issue: “Well, I think what we want to do right now is talk about why this is an important treaty….”

Seems like Obama has a ways to go to fulfill this mission. 

No comments: