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US Nuke Upgrade to Trigger New Arms Race with Russia?


May 29, 2012
F. Brinley Bruton / MSNBC World News & European Leadership Network

Plans to upgrade the estimated 180 American tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe are expensive, dangerous and likely to trigger a dangerous reaction from Russia, according to a new report. "Modernization … will be a form of expensive nuclear escalation by default which can be expected to draw a hostile reaction from Moscow," said the study by the European Leadership Network (ELN) think tank.

http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/11/11658159-us-nuke-upgrade-to-trigger-new-arms-race-with-russia?

US Nuke Upgrade to Trigger New Arms Race with Russia?
F. Brinley Bruton / MSNBC World News

LONDON (May 11, 2012) -- Plans to upgrade the estimated 180 American tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe are expensive, dangerous and likely to trigger a dangerous reaction from Russia, according to a new report.

"Modernization … will be a form of expensive nuclear escalation by default which can be expected to draw a hostile reaction from Moscow," said the study by the European Leadership Network (ELN) think tank, which was released on Thursday.

NATO is preparing to replace aging aircraft and antiquated free-fall nuclear bombs with precision-guided warheads carried by modern US aircraft, according to the report by Edmond Seay, a former arms control adviser to NATO's US mission.

The weapons to be replaced were "originally deployed to help NATO counter massive Soviet conventional force superiority in central Europe" and are now "widely seen to have no real military purpose or value," according to a summary of the report. [See summary below.]

The American government will be replacing these "relics of the Cold War" with precision guidance systems at a cost of $4 billion, in spite of swinging defense spending cuts, the report said. European countries will also have to pay large amounts to replace the defense system, the summary adds:

European countries, whose pilots are trained to deliver the B-61s to target, are also facing expensive decisions to replace the relevant aircraft, which are now coming to the end of their effective service lives. Each replacement aircraft -- (the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) -- is slated to cost from $90 million to just over $110 million.

The nuclear force modernisation plans, if carried through, will therefore produce a "formidable increase in nuclear capabilities for NATO in Europe", rendering these weapons more credibly usable in war-fighting scenarios with Russia.

The newly formed think tank includes a number of high-profile figures on its executive board, including former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and former foreign or defense ministers from NATO member countries such as France, Spain, Norway, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom, among others. (To read the full report on ELN's site click here)

Russia has shown that it is acutely aware of NATO's plans. The country's military chief of staff said in early May that Russia could launch preemptive strikes against future NATO missile defense facilities in Europe if sufficiently threatened.

The warning indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold out US plans for an anti-missile shield as a big barrier to better relations and, specifically, to Kremlin approval of deeper nuclear arms cuts.

Washington says the shield is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia. Moscow maintains that it could give the West the capability to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, upsetting the strategic equilibrium between the former Cold War foes.

Reuters contributed to this report.



Escalation by Default:
The Future of NATO Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Edmond Seay / European Leadership Network

(May 10, 2012) -- At a time when NATO claims it is committed to creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons, a new European Leadership Network (ELN) report shows the Alliance is planning to use scarce resources to upgrade tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and doing so in ways likely to worsen the relationship with Russia.

This report, authored by Ted Seay, a Senior Associate Fellow of the ELN, and until Autumn 2011 the Arms Control Advisor to the United States Mission at NATO, describes how NATO is planning to replace "dumb" free-fall nuclear bombs and ageing delivery aircraft, with precision guided weapons and stealth enabled bombers.

Despite rhetoric to the effect that NATO is seeking a strategic partnership with Russia, this will increase NATO’s ability to reach targets in Russia with tactical nuclear weapons at a time when NATO and Russia are already locked in a tense stand-off over missile defence.
Key Facts from the report include:

• NATO currently possesses approximately 180 B61 free fall tactical nuclear bombs in Europe. The aircraft to deliver these bombs are European, deployed in five countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Turkey). The bombs have no guidance systems and the aircrafts tasked with delivering them are ageing and in need of replacement.

The tactical nuclear weapons in question are relics of the Cold war, originally deployed to help NATO counter massive Soviet conventional force superiority in central Europe. They are now widely seen to have no real military purpose or value.

• The US government, despite impending defence spending cuts, is planning to upgrade the bombs with precision guidance systems at a cost of $4 billion.

• European countries, whose pilots are trained to deliver the B-61s to target, are also facing expensive decisions to replace the relevant aircraft, which are now coming to the end of their effective service lives. Each replacement aircraft -- (the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) -- is slated to cost from $90 million to just over $110 million.

• The new aircraft will come with advanced stealth technology, allowing them to potentially reach targets without detection.

• The nuclear force modernisation plans, if carried through, will therefore produce a "formidable increase in nuclear capabilities for NATO in Europe", rendering these weapons more credibly usable in war-fighting scenarios with Russia. Modernisation, in other words, will be a form of expensive nuclear escalation by default which can be expected to draw a hostile reaction from Moscow.

• While some in Eastern Europe argue that these tactical nuclear forces are needed to re-assure NATO allies of the US commitment to European security, the report stresses that alternative paths to achieve this goal are possible. If the goal of east European allies is also to have the many Russian tactical nuclear warheads removed from European territories of Russia, then again NATO policy is unlikely to help.

Edward Seay is ELN Senior Associate Fellow and former Arms Control Adviser, US Mission to NATO

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.



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