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NATO, Russia and Tactical Nuclear Arms

At the 2010 Lisbon summit, NATO committed itself to the goal of creating conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. NATO should honor this commitment and seize the opportunity of the upcoming Chicago summit to look at its nuclear policy — and engage with Russia. Tactical nuclear weapons are not covered by any existing arms control regimes. Thus, over two decades after the Cold War ended, thousands of tactical nuclear weapons remain in Europe.

We have still not managed to establish any credible system of accounting for these weapons. We do not know the exact size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals, nor are we certain of their storage locations.

It is true that, as a matter of policy, the alliance has been reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons and that the United States and Russia have cut their inventories of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. But the main dilemma lingers on: the uncontrolled continued existence of these weapons undermines the credibility of our commitment to a nuclear-weapons-free world.

In Chicago, NATO will conclude its Deterrence and Defense Posture Review. A readjustment of the mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities will, by necessity, reflect scarcer resources. But the new policy must also facilitate a serious and constructive nuclear weapons dialogue with Russia.

The ratification of the New Start treaty of 2010 raised expectations that arms control would be extended to cover tactical nuclear weapons. Two years ago, Poland and Norway launched a debate on possible NATO efforts toward this end.

It is high time to hold a meaningful dialogue between NATO and Russia on nuclear issues in general, and on tactical nuclear weapons in particular. Such talks could inject a positive note into NATO–Russia relations, bring about greater transparency and enhance mutual trust. This would then increase the likelihood of further weapons reductions and bring us closer to our goal of eliminating tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

The Chicago summit should send a strong signal of NATO’s resolve to engage with Russia on nuclear issues. Our aim is to strengthen the partnership between NATO and Russia, and to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security.

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(Together with Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski).

 

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