NATO nukes forever! Or?

By Gunnar Westberg, TFF Board member

In 1984 we, a group from IPPNW Sweden, met with the Norwegian general Tönne Huitfeldt, at that time Chief of the military Staff of NATO. He was a man with great confidence in himself and in the military system. “General Huitfeldt”, we asked, “when you work with your scenarios in the NATO Headquarters, with the destruction of the world through a nuclear world war looming as the outcome, are you not scared?”. “Oh no, never”, he said. “the Russians are as rational as we are. They will never let it go too far. I am never scared”.

Well, we were. And are.

We also asked, what would happen to NATO if the Soviet Union fell and the Warsaw pact was terminated? Nato would remain, he assured us. NATO is an organisation of great resilience, and will search and find its purpose, even if the original purpose was completely gone.

We did not understand. We did not believe. But General Huitfeldt was right. NATO is forever!

The Warsaw pact was disbanded. President George H.W. Bush promised President Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastwards and not recruit members from the former Warsaw pact. Well, we know how that developed.

The original purpose of NATO was “to keep Russia out, USA in and Germany down”. That formula was never written down, but often repeated. Today there is no talk of keeping Germany down. But Germany’s attempts to improve the relationship and increase trade with Russia seems to irritate some countries. Germany also refuses to take part in some of Nato,’s adventures. Maybe it is good to have Germany inside NATO!

To “keep USA in” is very important for the new NATO members, the “new Europe” as it was called when President George W. Bush praised their willingness to take part in the attack on Iraq. When the U.S. now turns more attention on the Pacific, it is reassuring for these countries that NATO is still important for the USA.

To “keep Russia out” remains NATO’s most obvious goal The new NATO member states point this out whenever possible. NATO does its best in keeping Russia irritated with the provocative Ballistic Missile Defense system. At a recent meeting in with NATO officials they, to our great surprise, confirmed that the Ballistic Missile Defense is directed against Russia, not so much against Iran. Of course” This has always been obvious. Ask the Defense minister of Poland! Why else would the missile defense be situated so close to the Russian border?

However, there is no need to keep Russia out. Russia is militarily weak, compared to NATO and the USA, and will remain so for decades to come. And Russia is needed in Europe.

NATO is today not a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It stretches worldwide. NATO has partners in Asia and Africa, and NATO is prepared to lead military operations everywhere, possibly excluding South America. The cooperation agreement between the Secretary Generals of the UN and of Nato of Sept 2008, initially secret, places NATO and the UN on the same level. NATO is needed to carry out operations that are seen as necessary by the UN SC., but NATO is prepared to operate also without or against UNSC decisions.

The NATO nuclear doctrine has shown similar endurance, although there is no conceivable role for nukes in NATO’s policy today. There is obviously no need for nuclear weapons to deter Russia. Four famous US statesmen have said that the nuclear deterrent is no longer useful and the longer the nuclear weapon states keep their nukes, the greater the risk for proliferation. A large number of European former politicians and generals agree. Many political leaders in the NATO countries say the same: Remove the NATO nuclear weapons and end the nuclear doctrine.

But NATO works generally by consensus. Some of the states that have transferred from the Warsaw pact to NATO feel that the nukes are needed to stop Russia. And, surprising in its lack of logic, France objects strongly. France, which wants no part in the nuclear planning of NATO, suddenly steps forward and says Non! If NATO ends it nuclear doctrine and Britain ends Trident, France will be the only war criminal in Europe in the nuclear threat class. Is that the underlying fear?

So, given the lack of consensus, NATO procrastinates. NATO will keep its nuclear weapons, until – well until what? As long as there are nuclear weapons in the world. Thus, NATO will be the last to abolish them!

But NATO might repent. The NATO members who oppose nuclear weapons, notably Norway and Germany but also Belgium and Netherlands, will try again.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Subscribe to
TFF PressInfo
and Newsletter