ABOLITION 2000 EUROPE
Part of a global network to abolish
nuclear weapons early in the new century
BRIEFING 2: NATO NUCLEAR SHARING
Belgium, the Netherlands,
Germany and Italy
belong to both NATO and the EU. They
are non-nuclear states; and yet they share nuclear weapons with a nuclear
state, the US. These weapons are B-61 free-fall nuclear
bombs designed to be dropped from aircraft.
They are US-owned but European pilots are trained to deliver
them. In time of war the US
would hand over control of the B-61s to the European pilots. The countries concerned are also members of
the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and therefore
take part in deciding how these weapons might be targeted.
Article I of the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) says: “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to
transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear ... directly, or indirectly; and
not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State
to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons ....”?. Article II uses almost identical wording to
say that non-nuclear states must not receive them. The US and the EU nuclear-sharing
countries have all signed the NPT.
therefore seems to violate Articles I and II of the NPT. However, the US and NATO have argued that
the Treaty does not explicitly forbid the deployment of nuclear warheads in
countries that are non-nuclear weapon states.
This argument is unconvincing.
It is as if we claimed that the law does not specifically forbid
killing someone with a meat axe.
In addition NATO
contends that the NPT is not binding in times of war. This raises the question of what is meant
by war. NATO now retains the option to
use nuclear weapons against opponents armed with biological or chemical
weapons and NATO-sharing states could be involved.
The B-61s are
militarily useless because they are obsolete.
NATO officials admit that their sole purpose is political. They are there to shore up the Alliance's policy of shared risks, roles and
responsibilities and to maintain a US
nuclear presence in Europe. According to NATO’s Strategic Concept “Nuclear forces based in Europe and
committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between
the European and the North American members of the Alliance“.
However, there is
a heavy price to pay for these tokens.
Nuclear sharing reinforces the political value of nuclear weapons and
therefore promotes proliferation.
Other states with nuclear ambitions could use exactly the same
arguments and NATO would be the first to protest.
B-61s are tactical nuclear weapons.
They block an arms control agreement with Russia which would which cover
tactical nuclear weapons. Such an
agreement would make Europe safer and pave
the way towards the creation of a European Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. It would be an important
confidence-building measure, and would indicate the willingness of the Alliance members to
comply with their obligation to achieve the global abolition of nuclear
Before the next NPT Review Conference in 2005,
the EU could well address the following:
Is Nuclear Sharing legal under the NPT?
non-nuclear countries need the capability to use nuclear weapons?
Should it be firmly declared that the NPT are
binding in all circumstances - including war?
the Netherlands, Germany and Italy
be encouraged to relinquish their nuclear-sharing status as a precondition
for an agreement with Russia
on tactical nuclear weapons?
For more detailed information:
British American Security Information Council: "Time
for a Nuclear Weapons -Free Zone in Europe?",
Nigel Chamberlain, 27 February 2003,
Project on European Nuclear Non-Proliferation: "Questions of Command and Control:
NATO, Nuclear Sharing and the NPT", Martin Butcher, Otfried Nassauer, Tanya
Padberg and Dan Plesch, March 2000,
Democratic Action, Nuclear Sharing in
NATO: Is it Legal?, Otfried Nassauer, May 2001, http://www.ieer.org/sdafiles/vol_9/9-3/nato.html
information contact George Farebrother, Abolition 2000 UK, 67 Summerheath Rd, Hailsham,
844 269, firstname.lastname@example.org