The internal NATO debate on the future of the remaining U.S. forward deployed non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) inevitably turns to the question of reassurance and the political links these weapons have to a U.S. pledge to use all its powers to preserve European security against attack. Extended deterrence is a construct developed in the 1950s, when there were many nuclear weapons in Europe, an ongoing arms race with Russia, and a common perception among Allies and the United States on threats. Since the end of the Cold War, the number of NSNW has reduced dramatically from the original thousands to an estimated 200 warheads to be delivered by dedicated aircraft of the United States and five Allies in Europe.
This chapter will examine key issues associated with reassurance—or more correctly “assurance”—for the Alliance, focusing on the critical related challenge of assuring Russia. The argument here will be that the security environment is far different now than before 1991 or the decade thereafter. Many officials and experts within NATO therefore favor adopting a wide range of credible assurance options, implemented together with a schedule for NSNW reductions by a time certain, if not eliminating this entire category from active deployment on European territory.
What complicates this task, however, is that it is almost inextricably paired with another quite different search for assurance: how to find a new positive role for Russia in European security. This is the major shift in Europe since 1991: Russia is no longer an adversary but not yet a partner in European security arrangements.
Author(s): Milton Leitenberg