RIGA/VILNIUS/WARSAW – In recent months, we have joined discussions led by former United States Senator Sam Nunn, former British Minister of Defense Lord Desmond Browne, and others to find a way to reduce nuclear weapons in Europe. Although we fully endorse the aim of working towards a world free of nuclear arms, we firmly believe that NATO must remain a nuclear alliance so long as these weapons continue to exist around the world.
At NATO’s summit in Chicago this month, determining the appropriate mix of conventional, nuclear, and missile-defense capabilities to ensure a reliable level of nuclear deterrence will undoubtedly be an important item on the agenda. But, even before those discussions take place, it is abundantly clear that there are a number of powerful reasons for maintaining NATO’s current mix of capabilities, including the presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe.
For starters, there remains an overwhelming disparity between the US and Russia on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, with roughly 200 for the former and an estimated 2,000 for the latter. Every effort must be made to reduce these numbers, but only by reciprocal measures.
Indeed, there are serious doubts that unilateral withdrawals by NATO would encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to review his country’s deepening reliance on nuclear deterrence. Given that our countries are very close to Russia’s deployed nuclear arsenal, an increasing nuclear disparity between NATO and Russia resulting from NATO reductions would be of paramount concern to our fellow citizens.