16 September 1987


The seemingly upcoming withdrawal of American Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) currently based in NATO Europe will not hurt the credibility of "extended deterrence"i.e. the coupling of US nuclear forces to the defence of Western Europefor the simple reason that their deployment did not enhance it to begin with: extended deterrence does not depend on where the forces which back it up are based, but on the degree to which the US is willing to incur the risk of a Soviet nuclear response against itself for the sake of Europe.

Some, like all French governments since de Gaulle, believe that willingness to be quite tenuous, and have opted to build their own deterrent. Most others in Europe either believe the US commitment to be credible enough to be relied upon, or have other reasons for renouncing an independent nuclear force. Be that as it may, it is utterly ridiculous, and yet one reads it every day in much of the European press, to hold that the US nuclear guarantee is credible only if US nuclear forces capable of reaching Soviet territory are based on European soil. To use INF to rejuvenate the trust in extended deterrence which many Europeans see as no longer credible is a product of their political schizofrenia, but carries no logic whatsoever.

Those who hold this view argue that while the US would be reluctant to defend Europe by threatening to use its intercontinentalforces because it would fear Soviet retaliation in kind, it would be less reluctant to threaten the Soviets with its INF based in Europe. For this proposition to be true, one must assume that the Soviets would consider a US INF strike somehow less escalatory, and respond differently, presumably sparing US territory. Yet this assumption is completely untenable.

Why should the Soviets, in shaping their response, care where the US missiles come from? Rationally, while evaluating their next move, they would be concerned about things such as where the warheads land, what type of targets they destroy, whether Soviet territory and cities are attacked, and who controls the weapons which are attacking them.

But what surely will not matter is the geographical location where the weapons are coming from, especially since the Soviets know that US INF capable of reaching Soviet territory are USonly controlled, unlike other "dualkey" systems where the US provides the warheads and the European man the delivery vehicles. Can anyone imagine an emergency Politburo meeting at which the Soviet Chief of General Staff takes the floor: "Comrades, Soviet territory has been struck by US weapons, but don't panic, it's not a 'strategic' attack, they are just using their INF based in Europe". At which point the Secretary General would reply: "This is intolerable Comrades, we must respond in kind, and strike with our own INF, but we'll refrain from using our intercontinental weapons as long as they do..." thus sanctioning the unilateral "sanctuarization" of US territory?!

At the time of the Cuban crisis Kennedy made it clear that the US would consider any nuclear attack coming from [Soviet INF then based in] Cuba as an attack from the USSR against the US. Obviously so,since US territory was threatened by Soviet controlled forces. Why should the Soviets think differently?

Therefore, there is every reason to believe that the US would be equally reluctant (or inclined) to threaten to use its INF against the USSR as it would be to use its intercontinental forces, which is why INF have not enhanced the credibility of extended deterrence: in light of the likely Soviet response, US risks would not be diminished by striking at the USSR from Sicily or the UK rather than from Montana or from a submarine in the arctic.

This of course says nothing about the real issue, namely whether the US nuclear guarantee is credible. But to perpetuate the myth that extended deterrence depends on US INF based in Europe only serves to create false illusions or, perhaps worse, unjustified fears in the minds of those it is supposed to defend.

26 June 1987

Book review: Obiettivo Difesa, by Luigi Caligaris and Carlo Maria Santoro, ****

this English review was originally published in Survival, Vol XXIX, No 4, July/August 1987.


In the last few years, the international economic and political stature of Italy has increased. One domestic repercussion of this has been a generalized concern about security policy. This renewed interest in security has revitalized a dormant debate along different currents of thought which have long characterized Italian defense thinking. At the risk of oversimplifying, three currents of thought can be identified. At one end of the spectrum there are the nationalists, who want Italy to assume an independent role above and beyond its Alliance commitments In the middle is a group, the "mediators", who want Italy to remain closely aligned with its Western partners, while simultaneously assuming a high diplomatic profile world-wide. At the other end one finds the "integrationists", who stake everything on European and Atlantic cohesion The work of Santoro and Caligaris falls somewhere between the first two groups.

While presented as a cooperative effort, the book is divided into three quide distinct and separately authored parts. The first part, written by Santoro, addresses the broad issue of the geopolitical context of Italy. What transpires here is the desire for both a greater national assertiveness at the regional lever - mainly in the Mediterranean - and a more active involvement in Alliance security and foreign policies at the global level. Santoro sees the world as fundamentally bipolar (p.14), but the implications he draws from that bipolarity are not wholly clear. On the one hand, he believes that should a medium power choose "not to belong to one of the two blocs ... instead of gaining in terms of independence it would see its task become more difficult", because its operating area would remain under the control of one or the other of superpower. He cites India and Yugoslavia as two such medium powers (p.15).

On the other hand, he recognizes that for a medium power the coordination of national interests and alliance obligations can often be problematic, and cites the crises of Suez in 1956, Cyprus in 1974 and Libya in 1986 as examples (p.29).

The implications for Italy are ambiguous: should it attach itself more tightly to NATO, in order to safeguard its freedom within world bipolarism, or should it disregard NATO whenever its national interests conflict with American ones? It does not seem possible to do both, as Santoro seems to wish. Also, it would have been helpful if he had explained why Indian or Yugoslavian foreign polity might have been more "independent" had those countries belonged to one of the two blocs; or how the medium powers involved in the afore-mentioned crises might have been at an advantage had they disregarded their respective blocs.

Santoro points to a possible answer when he writes that Italy should pursue national interests at the regional level in the Mediterranean area while framing its global interests within NATO (p.106). This however poses another set of unanswered questions. First, Italian national interests in a region may be global interests for one or both of the supposedly omnipresent superpowers, thus restricting its room for manoeuvre. Santoro does write that Italy needs a "more manoeuvrable and flexible tactical room for manoeuvre" (p.32) but the meaning of that phrase remains rather enigmatic to this reviewer.

Second, he states the need for Italy to develop a "package of national strategic objectives" which should "stress its natural role as a thermoregulator of the Mediterranean" (p.48). Again, it would have been interesting to read what he has in mind when he speaks of such objectives, and how Italy could impose them upon the Alliance and US, even if only at the regional level.

Finally, some elaboration would have been welcome as to why, in order to perform its thermoregulating function, Italy could "no longer maintain a low-profile political and military position" (p.42).

The difficulty of defining, before pursuing, national security interests is clearly recognized by Gen. Caligaris in the second part of the book, devoted to an analysis of the problems facing the italian political leadership. But, he points out, this is only one of the challenges facing the Italian leadership. Others include improving a highly deficient defense legislation (it is unclear, for instance, who would hold the High Command in case of war (p.202); creating an environment - for example, in the universities - where a security culture might flourish (p.205); refurbishing the now rather inadequately structured decision-making apparatus, both for day-to-day and for crisis-management purposes; restoring the position of Chief of Defense Staff above the service chiefs (p.287).

Unless these problems are satisfactorily solved, so the main thrust of Caligaris' argument implies, Italy will remain confined to its parochial dimension, wherein it is constantly seeking not to be excluded from international bodies and meetings - especially those restricted to the major industrialized countries - quite irrespective of what it can "say, deny or offer" as its own contributions (p.190).

The last part of the book, also by Caligaris, addresses specifically the issue of the military instrument, seen as an "extremely critical aspect of a national security policy" (p.243). Throughout this part he points to the dual function of force for both the "successful resolution of otherwise unresolvable crises" (war fighting) and the "catalization of effectively mediated solutions" (deterrence) (p.243).

Caligaris, however, betrays an overall uneasiness with the fact that, because of deterrence, military strategy has acquired an "unusual dimension" to the point of having both "lost its identity" (p.249), and weakened the military's commitment to force preparation. Moreover, nuclear deterrence in NATO has brought along a "deresponsibilization" and a "denationalization" of defense, as many countries, including Italy, found it easier to passively accept American protection (p.250).

With Caligaris' concluding chapter the book comes full circle. The main theme that emerges throughout is the perception on the part of the authors that Italy is not playing a role in the management of international security - particularly at the regional level - that is commensurate with its rising international profile, and that this role should increase. On this score, most Italians concerned will agree.

However, he means through which to achieve this end are more varied than the book would lead one to believe. Gen Caligaris does highlight several areas where Italy's defense posture is wanting, and his work is a useful contribution in the rather desolate panorama of Italian security literature. However, the book fails to provide clear prescriptions in terms of security policy objectives. It also does not convince that a higher military - and particularly nuclear (p.160) - profile is needed for Italy to be able to provide a better contribution to international security.

15 April 1987


Contributo di Marco Carnovale al progetto "Unilateralismo: Opzioni per l'Italia", dell'Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) e dell'Istituto per le Ricerche sul Disarmo, lo Sviluppo e la Pace (IRDISP).


Nell'ambito delle possibili iniziative unilaterali (e non) che le potenze nucleari potrebbero intraprendere nel settore del controllo degli armamenti nucleari, si possono distinguere due grandi categorie: le iniziative volte al controllo della quantità e della qualità delle armi spiegate sul campo, e quelle volte al controllo dei criteri per il possibile uso delle stesse armi.

Nella prima categoria, che potremmo definire di controllo dell' hardware nucleare, cadono la maggioranza degli accordi sinora negoziati tra potenze nucleari esistenti (SALT, Trattato ABM) o potenziali (Trattato di Nonproliferazione). In questa categoria si trovano anche quasi tutte le proposte al momento sul tavolo dei negoziati di Ginevra.