Showing posts with label NATO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NATO. Show all posts

31 May 1994

Vital and National Security Interests After the End of the Cold War

This post is the introduction to a collective book I edited in 1994. You can buy the book on Amazon.


Since the end of the Cold War, a contradiction has developed in the way security problems are approached in Europe: on the one hand, there is a generalized tendency toward multilateral solutions to vital European security problems; on the other, a renewed nationalist trend has emerged in the foreign policy focus as many states on both sides of the former Iron Curtain. But this contradic­tion is only apparent and can be resolved if security in Europe is redefined such that vital security interests are no longer national interests, and national security interests are no longer vital. Furthermore, West European and American security interests are more inter­twined in the new geopolitical scenario that emerged from the dissolution of the Eastern bloc than they had been, and the former socialist countries increasingly share their interests as well.

Vital and National Security Interests After the End of the Cold War
by Marco Carnovale

Security Institutions in Europe after the Cold War

Since the Cold War began to fade into history, a wide interna­tional consensus has developed on the need for the establishment of an institutionalized international system of cooperative security. In Europe, this has been particular­ly true among Western states and the Soviet Union—and later also among the states emerging from its dissolu­tion. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev began talking about the desirability of building a `Common European House' rather early on in his tenure, and one of the most common phrases at the twilight of the Cold War was the need for a common security `architecture'.

More recently, Central and Eastern European (C&EE) states have been in the forefront of initiatives to overhaul the European institutional structure. To a significant extent, and despite excruciat­ing subsequent disappointments, this broad consensus on principles has shaped the foreign policies of major interna­tional actors. Conse­quently, it has also influenced the thinking on and the develop­ment of the diplomatic and military instruments which are intended to serve those policies.

The need for a profound restructuring of international security institutions has come forcefully to the fore since the 1989 democrat­ic upheaval in Eastern Europe and the subsequent collapse of the Eastern bloc, which marked the end of the Cold War. These epochal changes highlighted the increasing inadequacy of existing institutions, which had been created to cope with what have now become non-issues: the United Nations (UN) to manage the post-World War II global geopolitical reorganization; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to deal with the Soviet threat; the Western European Union (WEU) to forestall the danger of a resurgent Germany and to consolidate a special relationship between France and the UK; and the Conference on Security and Coopera­tion in Europe (CSCE) to mitigate various aspects of a conflictual East-West relationship. Also the role of the European Community (EC), initially concerned only with the integration of member states, has evolved to the point where the nascent foreign and security policy of the European Union (EU) that was inaugurated with the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on 1 November 1993 now includes a greater opening toward security issues outside of the Union itself.

The urgency for stronger international security institutions has been further emphasized by the disappointing realization that the end of the Cold War did not make Europe `whole and free'. Rather, it produced a new array of conflicts. As of late 1993, several new post-Cold War wars have either broken out or seem about to explode. In many parts of Eastern Europe, the end of communism has been accompanied not by the flourishing of democracy but mainly by the virulent revival of old, long-repressed cleavages. As several old Cold War problems have been solved (mainly in the field of arms control and confidence-building) new problems have developed, in economic cooperation, sub-regional arms control, human rights, ethnic disputes, border disputes, etc.

International institutions have been widely seen as the most appropriate instruments for dealing with these new problems. In the West, the reasoning has been that the peaceful management of post-Cold War transition from confrontation to cooperation would not have been possible without multilateral arrangements and the momentous break-up of the Soviet bloc. Post-Soviet and East European states themselves, emerging from the isolation of Soviet times, have been eager to join whatever forum the West has been willing to accept them in. Existing institutions have been earmarked for additional responsi­bilities and expanded member­ship, and new institutions, such as the North Atlantic Coopera­tion Council (NACC) have been created ad hoc.

Since the end of the Cold War, international security institu­tions have already evolved; the UN has been increasing­ly active in various parts of the world, so far with mixed results; the CSCE has considerably increased in membership thus becoming truly pan-European; the EU and the WEU have been given increased responsi­bilities, at least on paper; in NATO, the debate among member states over the adaptation of the organization's missions to changing circum­stances is still on-going. The thorny issue of expanded member­ship is still on the table, if somewhat more muted, after the Summit of January 1994.i In some cases, old European institu­tions are even being considered as models for new ones in other parts of the world (e.g. the CSCE, which is sometimes envisaged as a model for the proposed creation of a Conference for Security and Cooperation in Asia).

An additional argument in favor of the multilateralization of security policies is that as contemporary problems become intrinsi­cally multidi­mension­al they require a multilat­eral approach. The more security is defined in economic, political and social terms, beyond purely military considerations, the more individual states are likely not to be prepared to address the complex solutions single­handed­ly.

A final reason to push toward multilateralization in Europe is the sad realization that nationalism (whether it is real or, as is often the case, it is built-up spuriously around `imagined communi­ties'iii instead of real nations) is likely to be associat­ed with war. Such nationalism may be a cause or a consequence of war. Most often, and most dangerously, it is used by political élites as a catalyst for the channeling of military and other resources toward the achieve­ment of war aims.

The Re-nationalization of Security Policies

Paradoxically, while security institutions have gained increasing appeal and face more challenging tasks ahead, the end of the Cold War has also ushered in a trend toward reinforced national outlooks in the foreign and security policies of most major countries, both from the West and from what used to be the Eastern bloc. This trend has been caused by several factors, which vary from country to country, though there are some common denomina­tors. The main question which applies to all countries involved in European security affairs (broadly speaking, members of the CSCE) is: What do states and nations expect of interna­tion­al security institu­tions? The following paragraphs will aim to create a sort of `map' of political forces which are for or against additional security roles for international institutions. It will seek both to analyze how they might be intertwined and to assess their relative strengths and weakness­es. The analysis will cover the major countries from Western Europe, the United States, the Common­wealth of Indepen­dent States, and Eastern Europe.

In the United States, a strong bipartisan support has developed for continued American involvement in world security affairs through international institutions. At the same time, certain tendencies toward unilateralism and isolationism may be observed as well. Some have argued for a unilateral US role as the world's only superpower, able to persuade or compel all others to follow a policy of political democracy, free-market economy, and respect for the rule of law and human In European affairs, the US has placed a strong emphasis on the UN and NATO, has been largely skeptical of the CSCE, and has displayed a thinly veiled opposition to a greater EU role in security issues; however, it has generally supported a stronger role for the WEU.

In most of Western Europe, prevailing political forces are still at least nominally in favor of an increasingly multilateral approach to security policies, but there is a lesser degree of consensus than before. Germany is a special case, and is addressed separately below. In the UK, a continued adherence to the Atlantic Alliance clashes with the British reluctance to contribute to the creation of a supranational European pillar within it. In France, a continued propensity toward national solutions contradicts a renewed interest in coordination with the US and NATO. In Italy, there is a continued consensus on the necessity of a NATO and European Union framework of reference, as well as a yet undefined and uneasy mix of nationalist ambitions in the Balkans and the Mediter­ranean.

More or less everywhere in the Western world, there is a diffuse if somewhat rudimentarily articulated feeling that the disappearance of the Soviet enemy means there is no longer any need for common security arrangements, much less for commitment to a common defense. Because the common Soviet threat no lomger exists, the reasoning goes, national priorities among the Allies now prevail over collective ones, and they just happen to diverge, thus requiring unilateral ways and means to address them.

There is abundant evidence of this in recent history—e.g. in the different perceptions among the major Western sates toward the crises in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Eastern Europe and the former USSR. In addition, domestic security problems, such as the survival of a viable national defense industry, are becoming more pressing, and politicians must tackle them on a national basis. Therefore, the proponents of this line of reasoning argue there is now a need to reorient Western security postures toward a revaluation of national instruments to be used for national purposes.

This sentiment becomes manifest in two ways: some argue for a straightforward renationalization of foreign policy in general, and of defense posture and procurement plans in particular. Defense budget cuts also contribute to impairing collaborative procurement pro­grams—though the laws of the economies of scale should suggest otherwise—as each state tries to save a propor­tionally greater slice of a shrinking pie for its national industry.
Others in Western Europe and in the US argue that collective defense arrangements must enlarge their member­ship or risk becoming out-of-date. According to this view, Eastern Europe is no longer a potential enemy, but a security cooperation partner to be integrated as soon as possible in Western security institutions. In some cases, however, this second view might be used by the advocates of the first to provoke a dilution of the effectiveness of interna­tional institutions in security affairs: the British advocacy of a quick EU expansion to the C&EE countries comes to mind.

For Germany, the issue is complicated by the fact that the process of renationaliza­tion of its foreign and security policy is part of the process of its recent re-acquisition of full national sovereign rights. Both processes have catalyzed a marked degree of national reassertion.vii German predominance in the EU has become more manifest, not only in the economic and monetary field, but also in foreign policy. The finest example of this was the diplomatic recognition of the indepen­dence of Slovenia and Croatia, which the EU adopted under strong German pressure—something which would have been unimaginable before reunifica­tion.

In 1992, the decision was taken to send troops out of German territory (for the first time since World War II) when they were earmarked to contribute to the UN operation Restore Hope in Somalia (albeit in a non-combat role). Whether Germany's new activism will be an expression of renewed nationalism or a contribu­tion to collective, multinational and institution­alized Western security policies remains to be seen. An important test-case will be the way Germany handles its increasingly assertive request for permanent member­ship (and right of veto) in the UN Security Council.

Much of the same that was said above with respect to Germany applies, mutatis mutandis, to C&EE and non-Russian former Soviet states. Germany had to accept limited sovereignty and mandatory military integration with the United States for forty years because it had been defeated in World War II. Eastern Europeans see the renationalization of their foreign and security policies as an instrument of emancipation from the forced integration they were subjected to under the Soviet Union's hegemonic influence.

The post-Soviet Russian government has been at the forefront of the efforts by former communist states to gain an increasing role, if not outright cooptation, into Western multilater­al security institutions. In this effort, it has been supported by a majority of opinion makers and security specialists in the country.viii At the same time, again as a result of the rebirth of the Russian nation after the collapse of the USSR, there is an on-going renationaliza­tion of Russian foreign and security policy. Moreover, nationalism in foreign policy is perceived by many in Moscow as a means to maintain world-power status without being forced to compete with the US according to Western rules. More recently, nationalism in security policy has been a tool in the hands of conservatives and would-be restorers of autocracy, who have argued that both the Gorbachev and the Yeltsin leaderships have been selling the country out to the West.

Economic failures, the lack of decisive Western aid, and recent disagree­ments over the role of some international institutions in world crises (most notably in the ex-Yugoslavia) have dangerously reinforced this trend. Whether and how Russia will contribute to the institution­alized and multilateral management of European security in the future will depend to a large extent on the outcome of this domestic political struggle. In short, this struggles resembles the historical juxtaposition between Westernizers and Slavophiles, which has shaped so uch Russian history since Peter the Great. Successful reforms, coupled with effective Western aid, will likely produce a victory for the Westernizers, and this will result in a more internation­ally cooperative and multilaterally-oriented Russia. On the contrary, ineffective or half-hearted reforms, and/or insuffi­cient or ineffecient aid will make a victory of some combination of Slavophile forces easier, and would likely produce a more inward-looking and nationalist attitude.

Much as in Eastern Europe, nationalism in foreign and security affairs has been an instrument of nation-building in many non-Russian ex-Soviet republics. The Central Asian republics have shown a propensity to retain close ties to Moscow. The newly indepen­dent Caucasian and European states initially displayed greater national assertiveness, but were later forced to revise their position and they, too, are again rebulding security connections with Russia. The viability of these national choices remains to be seen, however, and it is hoped that national identities will develop in an institutionally coopera­tive context rather than through the assertion of mutually incompati­ble national claims. The challenge for the West (and for those Western states, like Turkey, which have the greatest influence in that region) is to assess what, if anything, can be done to channel national debates in some of the major non-Russian ex-Soviet states toward the exploitation of the best opportuni­ties for a cooperative rather than a conflictual approach to multilateralism.

Thus, the end of the blocs in Europe has not brought about, a romantic cultural renais­sance of pre-Yalta European nations as some naïvely hoped after the revolutions of 1989. Rather, it has resulted in the revamping of national perspectives that might lead to a network of incompati­ble and therefore conflictual claims. In some cases, this is the myopic resurgence of narrow-minded political chauvin­ism, often masqueraded behind the old spiritual and moral values which for centuries pitted Europeans against Europeans in a tragic sequence of negative-sum wargames.

National and Vital Security Interests in Europe

Like most political paradigms (both domestic and interna­tional) the concept of `national interest' has changed since the Cold War. This is especially true in security affairs. Despite the rather bleak picture presented in the preceding paragraphs, there do exist genuine national interests which are perfectly compati­ble with a cooperative multination­al approach to security. These may be economic interests (e.g. milk or steel production capacity; or agricultur­al import quotas in the EU). They may be related to the environ­ment (e.g. the regulation of international transit rights for cargo, or control of pollutants that are not usually very respectful of national borders).

National interests may also be political, as country A may jostle for political advantage vis-à-vis country B by establish­ing special bilateral ties with country C, (e.g. to push its export products, to obtain special access to C's economic resources or technologies or to foster the rights of its affiliated ethnic community in country C). Finally, there may even be military-related national security interests, as might be the case in future contingen­cies similar to the Falklands war, the US-Libyan clashes of 1981 and 1986, and the US intervention in Grenada or Panama. But the national interests involved in this type of operations can hardly be described as vital.

The interests described in the preceding paragraphs are definable and defensible at the national level, but they are not vital. In light of this contradic­tory trend to look at security problems from an international perspective while nationalist pressures build, it seems appropriate to refer no longer to `national' security interests, but, rather, to `vital' security inter­ests in the contempo­rary Europe­an land­scape.

The most fundamental vital interest for post Cold War Europe­an states remains the protection of the physical safety and territorial integrity of nation states against the danger of attack from resur­gent, residual or wholly new military threats—including internal threats from within existing states. While the Soviet threat is gone, a variety of actual or potential military threats still exists. Newly independent Russia seeks to become a security partner today, and in some circumstances it has proved that it is able to be one, but it is far from certain that this will be true in the future. While the danger of post-Soviet prolifera­tion is usually exaggerated in the press, other nuclear powers might emerge from the ashes of the USSR. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a distinct possibility around Europe's southern periphery. Any of these develop­ments could threaten the vital security interests of European states. As for threats from within existing states, the example of Yugoslavia speaks for itself: while not likely to be replicated in the same scale, it might not be the last European state to break-up violently, and the repercussions might yet be felt outside of Yugoslavia itself.

The second vital interest is to maintain a minimum standard of living and economic development. This implies, among other things, the preservation of a free market economy, unimpeded access both to sources of raw materials and to foreign markets, and freedom of navigation over the high seas. Recent events in the Gulf have demonstrated (if there had been any doubt) that the defense of this vital interest can not quite be taken for granted even after the end of the Soviet threat to NATO sea-lines of communication.

The final, and most important, vital interest lies in the protec­tion of the Western way of life. Despite all its shortcom­ings, is increasingly accepted as a pan-European model. This translates into the preservation of a pluralist democracy, which in turn means freedom of movement for people and informa­tion (and hence open borders) but also support for the social order of civil society (and hence regulation of migration flows).

Other formulations could be devised, but the above are by and large what the general consensus within the Western civiliza­tion has come to define as `vital interests'. But these are not synonymous with `national' interests; none is nationally definable or defensible, by any state, but especially not by European medium powers. The following paragraphs will discuss why this is true now even more than during the Cold War.

When two blocs divided Europe, Western nations had to join up forces to counter the Soviet Union. The possibility always existed, however, that one or more could try to strike a deal with Moscow, in extreme circumstanc­es, for example in order to avoid the escalation of nuclear war on its territory. This possibility applied to the Allies on both sides of the Atlantic: the US at times feared that the Europeans might rather be `red than dead'; the Europeans feared that the US would fight a limited war in Europe but not challenge the Soviets to the point of a reciprocal nuclear exchange. Such fears were based on rational calculations of national interests which took into account the probable behavior of con­cerned parties, bona fide allies as they might have been. Today, sources of resurgent, residual or new threats (nuclear, conventional, or anything in between, as they might come) are unlikely to be as amenable to the same rational thinking as was the centralized and monolithic Soviet state; hence, it is unlikely that the freedom of `opting out' would still be available to any party in a future continen­tal crisis.

A discussion of increasing international economic interde­pendence is beyond the scope of this chapter; suffice it to say that the end of the Cold War has opened far greater opportunities for international economic exchanges and therefore for growth. As recent vicissi­tudes in the Gulf have demonstrated, however, free access to raw materials must sometimes be guaranteed by collective efforts, including by means of armed force. On a different plane, the GATT negotiations demonstrate how, mutatis mutandis, an equal degree of collective political commitment is necessary to ensure free access to markets, the other essential ingredient of world economic growth and prosperity.

As for the third of the vital interests considered here, during the Cold War, it was possible, indeed obligatory, to protect democracy in the West while avoiding any determined effort to promote it in the East. Today, without the Iron Curtain, consolidating democracy in the East is increasingly becoming a pre-condition for maintaining it in the West. Indeed, as European borders are wide open to flows of people and information, it would be utopian to think that a privileged island of prosperity and freedom can be maintained only in selected parts of the continent. Again, multilateral effort are indispens­able, for it is unthinkable that any single state, however influential, could pursue such an ambitious goal single-handedly.
The foregoing does not suggest that national interests no longer exist in Europe today; nor does it lead to a prescription of exclu­sively multilateral solutions. There are interests that can and should be defined at the national level, just as there are other interests that can be defined at the regional, provincial or municipal level. In fact, it is not a coincidence that this time of increasing nationalism is also a time of increasing demand for regional and local autonomy throughout Europe, both East and West.

What is sometimes referred to as the rebirth of `national­ism' in reality is often tribalism, parochialism or fanaticism decorated with a patina of religious fervor. In post-Cold War Europe, the nation-state is in some cases as much in crisis than international alliances and organizations, if not more so. More Europeans are rediscover­ing the value of local autonomy than are revamping that of national independence. The recent support build-up garnered by Flemish separatists and Northern Italian secessionists are the latest additions to what seemed to be the isolated exceptions of Northern Ireland and the Basque Country. The nineties are more likely to go down in history as a decade of threats to nationhood than as a decade of nation-building.

Multilateralization vs. Renationalization of Security

The preceding section has argued that national approaches are not adequate for the defense of post-Cold War vital inter­ests, both in Western Europe and in what used to be its political antago­nist. Therefore, there is a need for a renewed multination­al effort directed toward the solution of the new challenges to those interests, especially when it comes to security and de­fense. The major challenge in contemporary European security, then, is not whether, but how to make interna­tional security most effective to address current risks (which are more likely and more controversial than those of the Cold War) before they degenerate or escalate to uncontrollable levels of vio­lence.

Assuming that the future harbors the need for a multination­al approach, the question arises as to how to pursue it. Two basic avenues are possible: the first is that of ad hoc coali­tions, in which, states reserve the right to act on a case-by-case basis.xii The advantage of this type of multilateral action is that it is easier to achieve, as it does not demand any renunciation of national sovereignty by those states which agree to take part in it.

An approach of this kind was adopted in the multilateral response to the Gulf crisis of 1990-1991. It might suffice in extreme circum­stances, such as those which are most threaten­ing, least controversial but also least likely (e.g. the Gulf). But the international community (or even just the Western community) will not enjoy the luxury of operating under such clear-cut circumstanc­es very often. It is more likely that most future security threats will be less extreme, and therefore more controversial. In these cases, improvisa­tion might be risky, and there is a greater need to develop a set of pre-arranged criteria, rules, and standard operating proce­dures; in other words, there is a need for an institution­al­ized approach.

One example in which an improvised decision-making process has failed tragically is the crisis in Yugoslavia. The perceived security threat has been considered (rightly or wrongly) as less than an extreme danger by the US and by Western Europeans (but also by most C&EE countries). Institutions have not been empowered with either the political and legal mandate or the necessary instruments to intervene effectively. Ad hoc collective arrangements have turned out to be half-hearted and failed.xiii States have pre­ferred a largely national approach, and the result has been a nearly complete failure.xiv Some states (as well as journalists and scholars) have unfairly blamed various institu­tions for this failure. There is certainly much that needs to be done at the UN, in NATO and most of all in the EU/WEU to make those organiza­tions better fit to deal with future challenges. But the main responsibili­ty for interna­tional institutional failure rests with the govern­ments of member states which, unlike in the Iraq/Kuwait case, did not put the instruments of those institutions in a position to act effective­ly.


International security institutions are indispensable for an adequate approach to the post-Cold War security problems of Europe. One does not need to be an `idealist of the post-Cold War mend-the-world school'xv to realize that no single state can address, let alone begin to resolve, the complex intricacies of resurgent nationalistic cleavages, civil struggles and potential conflagrations across borders. This emerges with sobering clarity from most of the chapters presented in this volume. Nevertheless, because of the new strength gained by old pre-Cold War (rather than new post-Cold War) thinking, multilateralism is still all too often seen as an unaffordable luxury.xvi But it is Realpoli­tik, not idealism, which calls for a wider and more structured pattern of interna­tional cooperation in order to best serve the vital interests of European democracies (both old and new).xvii It would be naïve idealism to presume that those interests can be served through the romantic restoration of the nation-state to its pre-Cold War preroga­tives, cultural, political or moral as they may be.

To pursue this multilateral approach, all countries of Europe (but the principal responsibility inevitably falls upon Western Europe) need to both deepen and widen international security cooperation. In this, Europe does not have to start from scratch; much was done during the Cold War which can still be utilized if it is properly built upon. NATO is the obvious place to start to maintain a collective security and collective defense apparatus, the first of the three vital interests considered in this study. The WEU has been revived after the end of Cold War, and there is no question that, in time, it might work as the future European pillar of the transatlantic alliance if the political will is there to make that happen. The member states of these two organizations (together, but not individually) clearly possess the necessary military, technolog­ical and economic resources to face the new risks of the post-Cold War world in which Central and Eastern Europe in no longer an enemy but an increasingly effective security partner.

As of mid-1994, however, partnership with the former Eastern adversaries is still fragile. Collective security bridges to Eastern Europe are being built, among others through the NACC and the WEU's Forum for Consultation, but success is not guaranteed. It is not enough to pile economic, military, and technologi­cal resources, to organize conferences and sign agreements. There is a much deeper need to build up political coherence among states and peoples which have long been suspi­cious of and estranged from one another. This will take time, but there is no reason to think that the successful construction of a collective security system in Western Europe in the 1950s and 1960s could not be replicat­ed, in the late 1990s and beyond, across the whole continent.

The second vital interest has been defined here as the mainte­nance of unimpeded access to raw materials and the fostering of market economy. Here, too, there are useful precedents that make good examples: the energy sharing schemes of both the Internation­al Energy Agency (IEA) and the EU have proven largely success­ful. The European system of pipelines guarantees that energy security is a preeminently international end, which will require international means to achieve and maintain. They could be further improved to guarantee access to primary sources and provide a safety net in case of emergency.
Here, too, there is a need to expand the multilateral approach to Eastern Europe. Again, there is some degree of similarity to what was done in Western Europe in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when the democracies, threatened by rising prices and the two oil crises, effectively overcame their narrowly defined national interests in order to foster the common good.

The strengthening of democracy, the on-going gradual opening of frontiers to movement of goods, people, and ideas strengthen democracy, the third vital interest considered in this paper is concerned. The CSCE and the Council of Europe have contributed to achieve this, and their further strengthening will be useful to accomplish more. But their action, particularly in the case of the CSCE, will need the backing of adequate military force by other institutions if necessary.

Unlike during the Cold War, when the West had to close its eyes to human rights violations because of overrid­ing security concerns, ignoring violations of those human rights today can be a determinant to political instability. During Cold War, stability was a synonym for preservation of the status quo; today, on the contrary, stability can only be maintained through a careful management of change, and there is a change toward increased democracy; change must be actively assisted.

Implications for the Atlantic Alliance

The broad conclusion that emerges from this analysis for North American and European vital interests (as defined in this chapter) is that they are even more inseparable after than they were during the Cold War. It is becoming increasing­ly evident, as argued in several chapters in this volume, that Europe is less than fully prepared to act alone if the US does not lead. It is also evident that the US is not ready to act alone (whether because it can not afford do so—politically or militari­ly—or because domestic politics will not allow it) if Europe does not contribute significantly. If the US can not face post-Cold War security challenges unilaterally, it would be preposterous to think that others can.

Therefore, in the context of the debate over a new European security identity, a true post-Cold War `Europeanist' is an Atlanticist. Because Western Europe is still far from reaching the point where strategic independence from its Atlantic partners is a viable option, an alleged supporter of a European security policy or defense identity who advocates that it be distinct from a North American one is more likely to be a nationalist in disguise.

In recent cases where real post-Cold War security challenges had to be met (e.g. the Iraqi aggression in Kuwait, simmering threats of nuclear and missile prolifera­tion, the break-up of the USSR and Yugoslavia) one lesson has emerged clearly: when the US has become involved, the Europeans have acted; when the US has been recalcitrant, Europeans have hesitated. This will likely be a pattern for the rest of the 1990s and beyond.

Yet, to call for a continued Euro-Atlantic security partnership is not to advocate its immutability. It has changed in the past, and, after the revolutions of 1989-1991, it must change again. While the US inexorably reorients much of its political and economic attention toward the Pacific, Europeans must take up a greater share of both burden and responsibility for the handling of Atlantic security. This means Europeans must expand their security horizon, not contract it as they have gradually been doing since World War II. If Europeans continue to retreat and narrow their security focus to national interests, they will not be able to protect their vital inter­ests.

To assume greater responsibilities in a wider security horizon, Europeans have no choice but to act together, selecting and reinforcing the appropriate institutional military and political instruments as needed. For most Western Europeans, this increased role of international institutions has the additional function of keeping the US involved in European security affairs. In addition, some institutions continue to be the venue for Western Europeans to integrate their own foreign and security policies and postures, implement burden-sharing, build coalitions on an ad hoc basis, and exchange information.

The US, of course, can protect its vital security interests on a national basis to a somewhat greater extent than Europeans can, but not much more; it also requires multilateral political legitimation and allied military cooperation for the protection of its interests, in Europe and elsewhere. In the past, the US has sometimes been less than forthright about its position vis-à-vis the formation of a European identity in foreign and security policy.xix It might be helpful if this ambiguity were soon resolved in favor of an unequivocal recognition that increased European commitments (political, economic, and military) will earn additional European responsi­bilities in the transat­lantic decision-making process on security affairs.

In sum, there is an urgent need for what has been referred to as a `new partnership' between the US and Europe (initially Western Europe). This is necessary to keep the transatlantic alliance strong in these rapidly changing times, and it is therefore also a pre-condition for a fruitful expansion of this historically success­ful partnership eastward. Only a strong and renewed Western alliance will be able to satisfy the quest for collec­tive security (and perhaps, later, collective defense) that is coming from its erstwhile adversar­ies in C&EE and in the former Soviet Union.

21 November 1992

Appunti da incontri a Malta

Bandiera di Malta
La partecipazione al convegno dei "Giovani Cristiano-democratici europei" è stata  interessante. Il tema era "Il dialogo euro-arabo", ma non era stato invitato nessun arabo—in compenso c'era un israeliano! Indicativo dello spirito politico prevalente a Malta, che si allontana dai tradizionali legami con il mondo arabo per abbracciare l'Europa occidentale e le sue istituzioni.

Ne hanno le tasche piene del socialismo terzomondista di Dom Mintoff, dei vicini cugini arabi e della neutralità, oggi interpretata in materia restrittiva solo nel principio non ospitare forze armate straniere. Da quando il partito nazionalista (di nome ma non di fatto: è molto europeista) è andato al governo nel 1987 Malta si è proiettata anima e corpo verso la Comunità ed in particolare verso l'Italia. Ci manca poco che chiedano il ritorno della flotta NATO.

Il paese è però diviso esattamente a metà tra i laburisti che continuano ad essere in larga parte anti-UE e certamente anti-NATO e i nazionalisti che vogliono portare Malta in entrambe le istituzioni. Negli anni a venire questa spaccatura, che polarizza fortementeil paese, rischia di diventare destabilizzante e comunque sarà al centro del dibattito politico sul futuro del paese.

15 October 1990

A European nuclear force in NATO

The control of the use of nuclear weapons in Europe has long been a subject of extensive debate in NATO.1 Ultimately, however, the US has retained both absolute negative control over allied dual-key forces and virtually absolute positive control over its own forces deployed in and around Europe. This arrangement, adopted in the fifties, has arguably yielded considerable advantages to the non-nuclear members of NATO Europe. The most important of these is that it has provided at least some degree of coupling with the US central nuclear deterrent. Second, reliance on the US extended deterrent has probably prevented a proliferation of national nuclear arsenals in NATO Europe.

However, at least since the Athens and Ann Arbor speeches of 1962 by then US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, NATO has witnessed a gradual decrease in the emphasis that was put by the US on the use of nuclear weapons for the defense of Western Europe. This trend has progressively eroded the credibility of the extended nuclear deterrent of the US and poses fundamental challenges for the future of deterrence in Europe. This paper argues that this trend is not acceptable for NATO Europe; that it is nonetheless continuing; and that, if NATO Europeans wish to continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for the maintenance of peace in Europe--as it is argued here they should--they will have to assume greater nuclear use control responsibility. I will first analyze the requirements that would have to be fulfilled for the achievement of this goal and then propose an option for the future.

In an era of rapid political change in Eastern Europe, with the Soviet Union retreating politically and militarily and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) collapsing, one could wonder whether a nuclear deterrent continues to make sense in the first place. The fact is that the military threat to peace in Europe is not withering away with the disgregation of the Soviet bloc. As one authoritative analyst recently put it, the capability to attack would "vanish only if weapons and soldiers ceased to exist",2 which is not likely to be the case for a long time indeed. In all other conceivable scenarios, the ability of nuclear weapons to make war unusable as an instrument of policy can not be replaced. Even after all on-going and projected nuclear reductions in Europe, the Soviet Union will retain a plethora of land-, air-, and sea-based systems with which to inflict a holocaust on Western Europe. While that intention seems to be a remote one indeed in the minds of the Soviet leadership today, the capability is there, and the wholly unpredictable character of future political developments in that country warrants an insurance policy against it.

In addition, rising nationalism throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union raises the possibility that, at some yet indefinite point in the future, one or more of the newly emerging national actors might decide that nuclear weapons are necessary to its security, and may well have the capability to make them. This might be the case, for instance, either with an independent but politically isolated Ukraine or with a fiercely nationalistic, undemocratic and ostracized Romania.

In sum, while the security scene in Europe is changing in ways that are certainly welcome inasmuch as they reduce Cold War vintage tensions, uncertainty and instability are increasing. It would be imprudent to assume that the on-going dramatic geopolitical reshuffle will produce a new static order that is both Western-friendly and long-lasting. In the absence of moderating hegemonic spheres of influence, these may more easily degenerate in armed conflict.

Therefore, while the US extended deterrent has been eroded, the need for war-preventing nuclear deterrence has not lessened in Western Europe, despite current military and political changes in Eastern Europe and in the USSR. However, all traditionally solid justifications for keeping US nuclear weapons in Europe (offsetting Soviet conventional superiority and nuclear forces as well as the ideologically offensive character of the Soviet state) might soon be invalidated by the enthusiasm over Gorbachevism. That the US nuclear presence in Europe will decrease is an ascertained fact. Therefore, NATO Europe urgently needs to take greater nuclear respon­sibility off US shoulders. The thesis of this article is that if NATO Europeans wish to continue to rely on a nuclear deterrent to guarantee their security, they must begin to reconsider options for increasing their own nuclear control responsibilities. This would be a far from uncontroversial process, and the proposal put forward in this paper would certainly attract much opposition. But the issues which it raises are the kinds of questions that Europeans must answer lest they throw up their hands and just hope that the end of the Cold War is also the end of all their security concerns. This paper will have served its purpose if it contributes to generate further debate on the question of the Europeans' nuclear responsibilities after the Cold War.

The option proposed here is the establishment of a NATO European Nuclear Force (NEF) within the integrated military structure of the Alliance. A small survivable force could be constituted as a separate Major NATO Command, equivalent in rank to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) and to the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT), and to be headed by a European general, who would be either French or British for the time being, but whose nationality could later be chosen on a rotational basis if greater European political unity will make it feasible to do so. This post would be assigned solely nuclear retaliatory missions. In case of confirmed Soviet nuclear attack against NATO ter­ritory, the commander would have the pre-delegated authority to fire, at his discretion.

Pre-requisites for a NEF

Several conditions would have to be met to make a NEF a workable political, military and economic proposition: (i) the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), or a united Germany, would have to be involved but, for political reasons, at this time it would not desire--and should not be given--an independent nuclear trigger; (ii) the Nonproliferation Treaty regime should not be weakened; (iii) the cost of any nuclear control rearrangement should be acceptable to those concerned; (iv) such rearrange­ment does not need to be an alternative to the European-North American alliance or even to just the US military presence in Europe, and should therefore be acceptable to the US; (v) nuclear responsibility rearrange­ments in NATO should not be seen by the Soviets to be deliberately provoca­tive; (vi) the force should be acceptable at the domestic political level in the countries involved.

The issue of German nuclear control is a contradictory one in NATO. On the one hand, few Europeans, Eastern or Western, not to mention the two superpowers, are eager to see a German national trigger for nuclear weapons. As of 1990, few have that desire in Germany as well. But the geopolitical equilibria in Europe are changing as a result of both politi­cal transformations in Eastern Europe and continued US nuclear withdrawal from NATO Europe. The new Germany which is emerging as an economic and political superpower in Europe might one day decide to develop a national nuclear arsenal. Should they do so, they would ultimately be able to withstand foreign opposition: therefore, the task for the West is to prevent any development in this direction.3

On the other hand, it would be politically and militarily inconceiv­able to structure any nuclear deterrent in Europe without some kind of prominent German participation, since the central front remains the crucial area of the East-West military equilibrium. For this reason, most West Europeans who believe in nuclear deterrence as an element of their security have been concerned by the growing sentiment in some sectors of the German polity against the presence of US nuclear weapons in Germany. It is difficult to determine exactly to what extent this sentiment is anti-nuclear per se or is just resentment against the US ability to wage nuclear war in Germany. It is certainly a combination of the two. In any case, any measure intended to take some nuclear responsibility away from the US and into Europe--including Germany--should help contain it.

Put another way, most West Europeans and Americans fear both the prospect of a fully nuclear Germany (a traditional concern which may be raised anew by a reunified Germany) and that of a denuclearized one (a relatively new concern).4 A NEF would have to balance these two contradictory aspects.

The second problem is constituted by the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). With the recent accession of Spain, all non-nuclear European NATO members are parties to the NPT. The treaty has long performed an important role in stabilizing the military situation in Europe and elsewhere. It would be a mistake to weaken it, perhaps decisively, as the withdrawal of some NATO Europeans in the pursuit of a European deterrent most likely would.

Yet, the creation of the NEF would not require the withdrawal from the treaty by countries participating in the proposed new forces. Italy and the FRG, for example, introduced reservation clauses at the time of signing to the effect that their participation in a European nuclear force created as a follow-on to the current French and British national forces would not be prejudiced by the treaty.5 Hence, an integrated NEF would not be incompatible with the NPT if it is created as a successor, albeit a partial one, to the current French and British national arsenals.

While such a succession will obviously not be easy to work out politically, recent renewed political emphasis on European defence coopera­tion (and particularly Franco-German and Franco-British initiatives) are encouraging. A greater degree of joint nuclear control need not be the result of full European political unification and defence integration, but, rather, could act as a catalyst for it. A good, if limited, precedent is set by the gradual turn-over of economic sovereignty with the Single Act, which will produce a united market by 1993. After all, European unification will not be born overnight, but must go forward in steps, and there is no reason not to gradually pursue incremen­tal steps in the defence realm as well.

Threshold countries outside Europe can be expected to seize on the issue to restate the discriminatory character of the NPT, particularly in light of the upcoming 1995 debate over the extension of the treaty, but there is little reason to think they would change their nuclear policies as a result. In the past, the history of the nonproliferation regime shows that nuclear weapon decisions have consistently been taken on the basis of perceived national security interests, and not simply by following the example of other distant states. The NEF would not influence the security environment of any nuclear weapon threshold state such as Argentina, Pakistan, South Korea or South Africa. Consequently, no major change in the nuclear weapon choices of these countries as a result of its creation is to be expected.

At a time of severe budget constraints for all Western governments, the cost of a NEF would have to be low to be acceptable. Yet, since the force could be small in size and might utilize in large part the existing logistical infrastructure and weapons of NATO, this requirement should not be prohibitive.

The force should not be seen as an alternative to the overall US security tie to Western Europe. In particular, it would have to be com­patible with a continued US nuclear presence in Europe. In fact, a con­tinued US conventional and nuclear presence in Europe would be essential to the feasibility of the NEF. As will be shown below, the NEF proposed in this paper must be backed by conventional and short-range nuclear forces, under the existing NATO commands, which can be guaranteed only by a continued US contribution. In addition, the US military presence in Europe serves a political purpose which still retains the support of the over­whelming majority of Europeans. Finally, US technical cooperation and targeting coordination, while probably not essential--much as it is not essential today for the French and the British--would be advisable. Even if the strategic rationales of the new force would be different from those of US forces, a minimum of coordination would be desirable to avoid both fratricide and operations at cross purposes. Therefore, a NEF would not require, nor should it encourage, an erosion of the European-American security partnership in NATO. Indeed, one of its purposes would be to reinforce the partnership by avoiding false illusions on each side about what such a partnership can and can not provide to its participants.

A NEF would have to be structured in such a way that it is not regarded as unduly provocative by the Soviets. Several problems might arise in this regard. The USSR has traditionally been very sensitive to the idea of West European, and particularly German, nuclear use control. Several Soviet strategic analysts6 emphasize that Moscow can not but be concerned about any type of West European defence cooperation because, in their view, it would be directed mainly or even, arguably, solely against the USSR. This is all the more worrisome, from the Soviet point of view, when nuclear weapons are involved. But the argument for greater European nuclear control, presented here, would not be to increase the offensive capability of NATO against the Warsaw Pact--or whatever will be left of it. Indeed, given its small size, the warfighting value of the NEF would and should be negligible.

The Soviets could see a NEF as a disruption of the current rather stable bilateral nuclear relationship with the US. Yet, Moscow should realize that any move toward a Europeanization of the British and French national deterrents, to the extent that it would prepare the way for the eventual renunciation of their national trigger (to be achieved when a true West European political entity is created) could, in time, simplify rather than complicate the Soviet nuclear problem in Europe.

Finally, it has been pointed out that a greater West European nuclear role may pose political problems because the Soviets could not match it with an organization of their own among their Eastern European allies.7 Traditionally, the USSR has never shared nuclear use control with its allies. With the current de facto dissolution of the Pact this has become a mute question.

On the other hand, there are several reasons to believe that the Soviets might, in time, perceive some benefits in the creation of an integrated NATO-European nuclear force. It would not be the first time that the Soviets belatedly recognize that there is something to be gained from policies they have long opposed on political grounds. This has been the case with recent shifts in Soviet in arms control positions and with their official recognition that a free Eastern Europe, anathema until recently and accepted by default, actually contributes to enhance their security.

First, a long-range NEF would reduce, though not eliminate, current NATO reliance on US Short Range nuclear forces (SNF) for battlefield use, thereby reducing the incentives to hasty action in a crisis and enhancing strategic and crisis stability. The latter is a declared Soviet goal as it is for the West, and there is no reason to think it will change. As a gesture to prove its genuine interests in common security and stability, parallel to the creation of the NEF NATO could continue to reduce its reliance in SNF.

Second, a NEF, with its renewed emphasis on nuclear deterrence, would reduce pressures for costly conventional improvements in NATO. One should keep in mind that, despite the recent reduction of defense budgets and deployed in both NATO and in the Soviet Union, the latter in still pursuing vigorous technological upgrading of its conventional forces. A marked NATO shift away from conventional improvements would further reduce the likeli­hood of a continu­ing expensive investment in conventional forces on the part of the Soviets, thus freeing precious resources for their domestic economic needs. In particular, a NEF would, ceteris paribus, reduce pressure on defence-related technological improve­ments by NATO, particular­ly as pertains to conventional forces. In fact, there is current­ly a tendency to improve NATO's technological edge in the conventional sphere so as to strengthen conventional capabilities in light of the declining credibility of its nuclear deterrent. While the NEF would hardly stop the momentum of defence technology research, it would only need to slow it down to be beneficial for the Soviets. This might relieve them from a technological competition to some extent, and particularly in Emerging Technologies (ET), which would drain their R&D resources and which they would probably lose.

Third, the NEF could serve to bring the French and British arsenals into the arms control process. Along with its creation, NATO might propose to set alliance-to-alliance limits on all INF--including also air-borne and sea-based systems in and around Europe capable of hitting Soviet territory. In practice, this would mean a NATO-USSR deal, since Eastern Europeans are hardly likely to have any role in nuclear control in the WTO. If anything, current developments make one wonder whether the WTO will even continue to exist as a viable military entity. Such a NATO-WTO deal would, however, thwart a traditional Soviet objection, namely that NATO third country forces (i.e. the UK and France) unrestrained by arms control agreements, circumvent the INF treaty.

Finally, a NEF would further strengthen the integration of the FRG into NATO nuclear affairs, thus repressing potential future stimuli toward an independent German nuclear force. The latter has been a most serious Soviet concern in the nuclear field over the years. As mentioned above, while the issue is simply not topical in the FRG at this time, it might become so in the not so distant future. The resur­gence of a German political and economic superpower could make such a prospect a more concrete one in this decade. The Soviets would certainly feel particularly threatened should the Germans decide to proceed with a national nuclear option; they would be likely to exert strong pressure to prevent it, but they would probably be unable to impede its creation.

Quite aside from the strategic merits of the NEF which will be discussed in this article, two further kinds of preliminary political objections might be raised against the case for increasing European nuclear responsibility in NATO. One possible political problem with respect to the broader implications of greater European nuclear control responsibility is that it might fuel renewed global geopolitical ambitions for Western Europeans, which might be destabilizing and should be avoided.8 However, increasing European nuclear decision-making power according to a scheme such as that proposed in this study does not need to involve greater geopolitical ambitions. In fact, in no way would NATO Europe need to redefine its global political or military role in order to provide for a more autonomous nuclear deterrent. The only purpose of such greater nuclear responsibility should be to provide a nuclear deterrent against any kind of war in Europe, which the US guarantee is increasingly failing to provide.

Another political problem would be to make the proposal acceptable at the domestic political level in the various countries concerned. The domestic political acceptability would depend on many factors which are difficult to estimate, such as the perception of the Soviet threat, the status of West European integration, and the costs involved. This paper will not speculate in depth on each of these; the main purpose of this study is to suggest a possible solution to the strategic and military aspect of NATO's nuclear deterrent problem. This is the fundamental security problem in NATO Europe. Should Europeans agree on how to solve it, their governments should then fit the solution into the more general framework of European defence cooperation which is taking shape today. West European establishments are moving toward a consensus on the desirability for greater cooperation in defence matters. For the first time since its withdrawal from the NATO integrated military structure, this trend involves France as well.9

To make it politically acceptable to the European public, the NEF arrangement proposed here should be presented as the Europeanization of the existing French and British forces. NATO should point out that this would not mean their proliferation but rather their harmonization into the more general new East-West security architecture of Europe. In time, this may also mean bringing these forces into the arms control process, though at a date which might indeed be far into the future.

In addition, it should be pointed out that one of the main reasons for public uneasiness with nuclear weapons in Europe has been that they are American-controlled. In France, national control has historically con­tributed to shaping and consolidating a strong national consensus for nuclear weapons, and to a large extent the same has been true for the UK. In the rest of NATO Europe, the INF debate in the early eighties showed how popular opposition to their deployment was in large measure opposition to giving the US the ability to unleash nuclear war in Europe.

A NATO-European Nuclear Force (NEF): A Proposal

Many proposals for increased NATO European nuclear control have been discussed in the past, either officially (such as the European Defense Community and the Multilateral Force) or in the strategic literature.10 For different reasons, they all failed to be adopted by NATO. The remainder of this paper will explore a possible structure for a NATO European nuclear force. The following paragraphs do not purport to provide a detailed operational proposition. They do intend to outline the broad contours of a possible arrangement which would satisfy the widely perceived necessity for NATO Europeans to acquire greater responsibility for their defence while maintaining both a nuclear deterrent and an American presence in Europe.

A NATO-European Nucleaer Forces (NEF) should be organized as a separate Major NATO Command (MNC), headed by a Supreme Allied Commander, Nuclear European Force (SACNEF), who would be equivalent in rank to SACEUR (the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe) and SACLANT (the Supreme Allied Commander in the Atlantic). SACNEF would command exclusively nuclear forces and would be assigned a purely deterrent, second-strike mission. Because its mission would be to deter attack against all allies, SACNEF would not be assigned to any specific geographic area of responsibility.11

Forces and Costs In light of the simplicity of its strategy (see below) the size of the NEF would be small. The purpose of the force would be neither to survive nor to fight any kind of war, but to deter it by being able to add credibility to NATO's willingness to ignite strategic nuclear escalation against an aggressor. For this, some two hundred survivable warheads (approximately equivalent to the currently programmed combined French and British SSBN arsenals) would be sufficient.12 While this number is obviously arbitrary, it should be underlined that the purpose of the NEF would be far less ambitious than flexible response today. The NEF should only be capable of bringing escalation to the territory of the USSR, thus making it more credible that in case of war NATO's deterrent would be involved as a whole.

Submarines would be the most appropriate systems for the NEF in that they are invulnerable and the most penetrating of all French and British forces. Their major shortcoming, i.e. detectability after the first launch, would not be a problem in light of the extreme circumstance under which they would be used--see below. They would also avoid, at least in part, the political problems connected with the visibility of any land-basing decision in NATO.

France and Britain would not necessarily have to turn in all of their national nuclear arsenals to SACNEF. They could still retain a portion of it (perhaps the air-borne and land-based legs of their triads) under exclusively national control. French and British nuclear forces could thus be developed as a basis for a future European Community nuclear deterrent, the exact form of which we can not yet be defined. In this way, while the discussion of Franco-British cooperation has usually been limited to development and procurement--such as with the recent case of negotiations over the Long-range Air-to-Surface missile--it would be aimed at ensuring the triggering of nuclear escalation in case of Soviet attack in the continent.13

The UK and France would benefit from this change in several ways. First, the credibility of their deterrents would increase because their launch would automatically involve other allies. Knowing this in a crisis, the Soviets would be deterred from attacking all NATO states participating in the NEF at least as much as they are from attacking the UK and France today. If the Soviets could not ascertain that NEF had executed the attack, they would have to assume that the US were involved, with the obvious, and welcome, coupling effect of that.

Second, the UK and France would be able to save financial resources, since part of their current expenditures on nuclear weapons could and should be shifted toward the allies participating in the NEF. While in the past both France and Britain have enjoyed a strong national consensus on the need to pay for national nuclear forces, current budgetary pressures, particularly in the UK, may put it in doubt in the future.

There would also be other major advantages for the Alliance as a whole in utilizing the French and British arsenals. One would be to allow for the creation of a European nuclear force without violating the NPT.14 Another would be that if France and Britain coordinated the patrols of a joint submarine force, much higher patrol ratios could be obtained than the two countries combined can achieve now separately.15 Joint targeting could offer attractive returns to scale. Coordinated deployments would help to maximize survivability.16 Finally, the NEF would prevent France and the UK from being "singularized" as the sole nuclear powers in Europe in case of substantial US SNF withdrawals from the continent.

The NEF would also contribute to stabilizing the nuclear situation in Germany, since any German national nuclear ambitions could be more solidly frozen by the additional margin of security it could provide. After being integrated into the NEF, the Germans would have a more direct role in the security destiny of their own country than they do now under the US umbrella. At a time of increasing German uneasiness about the presence of US nuclear forces on their territory, the NEF might allay at least some anti-nuclear sentiments in the country. On the other hand, the NEF would prevent the possible denuclearization of Germany which might result from future short-range nuclear arms control agreements between the superpowers.

A NATO-Europe nuclear force would also be a logical and essential step forward in the currently on-going process of increased defence cooperation among Western Europeans, and notably France and Germany. Otherwise, their bilateral efforts, of which the joint Franco-German brigade created in 1987 is a symbolic prototype, are bound to hit a dead end. As the size and scope of such joint forces are expanded, the issue of nuclear weapons will inevitab­ly arise. The question of who will ultimately control those joint forces will then be increasingly difficult to avoid.

SACNEF would command exclusively nuclear forces. This would allow him to concentrate attention on the manage­ment of a purely retaliatory mission, which would greatly simplify the nuclear decision-execution process. It would also relieve dual-capable commanders from the burden of having to worry about the cumbersome security and safety regulations that come with nuclear missions.17 Nuclear-conventional separation would also make it possible for the NEF not be integrated with the military structure of NATO's other supreme commands,18 which would make it easier for the French to participate without renouncing their prerogative of remaining outside the NATO structure.

The range of NEF systems should also be sufficient to reach Soviet territory, so as to reduce the perceptions of "calculability" of a war in Europe, thus providing additional coupling between the US and NATO-Europe. In order to avoid an unacceptable return to a trip-wire strategy, however, SACNEF would best be backed by conventional forces under SACEUR's command, sufficient to hold the line long enough until negotiations could terminate hostilities. Thirty days has been suggested as a desirata for NATO's conven­tional defensive capabilities for this purpose.19

The question of the relationship of the NEF to the US interests and nuclear posture in NATO Europe is a delicate one. The former might worry that the latter was prepar­ing a scheme to draw it into nuclear escalation against its will. This would not be the case; to avoid misunderstandings, the strategy of the NEF would leave it to the US to shoot the first nuclear strike on the NATO side, without which SACNEF could not launch. Secondly, it would be rather odd, and politically difficult, to create a NATO command without any participation of US forces; but the NEF, by definition, would include no US nuclear warheads. Should the US so desire, some American manned delivery systems could be assigned for European warheads in the NEF--a reversed "dual-key" arrangement.

Third, the command and control network of the NEF should remain tied to the current US/NATO apparatus. This would preclude unnecessary duplica­tions and expenses and, what is most important, the network's vulnerability would strengthen the coupling of the force with the rest of the NATO forces and the national forces of the US, whose central C3I is dependent on numerous facilities either located in Europe or dedicated to NATO.20 However, since the Europeans would be using an increased part of the system's capability, it would be fair for them to contribute a larger share of its cost. A necessary addition might include a survivable, perhaps airborne, command post, from which SACNEF would be able to order the launch of the force.

The Seat of Authority Perhaps the most contentious issue in the creation of the NEF would be to decide who would command it and with what powers. The nationality of SACNEF could be rotated among generals from several of the European allies who would express an interest in the position. France and the UK would be the most obvious candidates, at least in the initial years, for their holding the top post would be essential to make the whole idea acceptable in the domestic political scene of those countries. The subordinate commanders to SACNEF would be from interested countries, including the US and Canada, as would the personnel manning the nuclear delivery vehicles. This would ensure that no country in addition to the current nuclear-weapon states would, under any circumstances, acquire the capability to unilaterally use the force without the active cooperation of the others.

SACNEF, more than SACEUR today, should have day-to-day authority to mobilize and alert forces, but not to launch them. This would simplify decision-making in times of crisis, and help overcome likely initial political hesitancies among some of the allies, without however raising the prospect of politically unauthorized nuclear use. Mobilization during crises could be a problem if the opponent should perceive it as a step toward war. However, in the case of the submerged and undetected NEF, mobilization would entail virtually no visibility, and should not therefore precipitate Soviet reactions. In order to make this possible, NEF person­nel, much like today's Allied Mobile Force is for SACEUR, should be permanently assigned to SACNEF's command.

Needless to say, it would be extremely damaging if the US should perceive that the Europeans wanted to manipulate the possibility of unauthorized use as a means to increase the probability of nuclear escala­tion in a conventional war. However, SACNEF would be delegated authority to use forces only in all cases of confirmed nuclear strikes, even the most limited one, against any of NATO's members. That such confirmation would come through the NATO-wide warning system, of which the US and Canada are also a part, would be at the same time both a further instrument of transatlantic coupling and a way to reassure the US (and Canada) that they would not be drawn into nuclear escalation in Europe against their will.

Similarly to what happens in NATO's European Command today, the capability to activate the forces, i.e. the warhead release codes, would be in the custody of SACNEF at all times,21 both to ensure delivery in case of incapacitation of the relevant NCAs and to smooth execution procedures. The custodial units of the NEF would be vertically integrated with the force (i.e. it would be completely separated from other NATO nuclear custodial units) and they would be internationally manned as well, so that there would be no danger of any single alliance member acting unilaterally.

Strategy The main goal of the NEF should be to strengthen the deterrent role of nuclear weapons in an evolving strategic situation in Europe in which the threat of massive Soviet attack is giving way to that of more limited wars. In brief, the purpose of the NEF, in an era of arms reductions and politi­cal instability in Eastern Europe, would be to add credibility to the NATO deterrent and thus stress the unusability of war as an instrument of policy in Europe.

The doctrine and operational strategy of the NEF should be drawn somewhat along the lines of the "inflexible response" suggested by François de Rose. He suggested that NATO build its conventional forces to withstand an attack only for a period--perhaps several weeks--sufficient to explore possibilities to terminate the war without returning to a trip-wire strategy. Failing that, NATO should use nuclear forces in a strictly tactical fashion, against Soviet forces either on or near NATO territory. However, if the Soviets still not stop aggression and respond instead with their own nuclear weapons, then NATO should escalate to nuclear strikes against Soviet territory itself, thus bringing the risks and costs of war to the homeland of the aggressor. de Rose proposes that the final escalatory step against the USSR should be taken by the US.22

The well-known problem here is that, while a US tactical use of nuclear weapons in the battle areas of Europe might be credible, US control would likely prevent NATO from escalating to the point that the USSR would no longer have any incentive for refraining from striking the US itself. If it is to be a credible NATO doctrine, therefore, inflexible response would have to be backed by European control of forces capable of reach­ing the USSR, as only Europeans might credibly risk Soviet strategic responses even after Soviet limited nuclear strikes against their territory. Therefore, the European SACNEF should be authorized to launch, though only after confirmed Soviet nuclear attack against NATO territory.

That SACNEF should not launch his forces until after the Soviets have in no way implies a "No-First-Use" pledge. But it does mean that the decision of NATO's first nuclear use would be left to the present-day nuclear powers, and not to SACNEF. This would guarantee that no new peacetime nuclear triggers would be created in Europe. In the end, the threat of US tactical nuclear first use against advancing Soviet forces--a relatively credible one--should be maintained. In addition, the Soviets would have to account for a pan-European strategic response if they in turn use nuclear weapons.


Increased European nuclear use control within the integrated military structure of NATO in the form presented in this study would have several positive consequences. First, it would strengthen and stabilize deterrence of any war in Europe providing for a nuclear force which would ensure a high likelihood of escalation, and hence a credible deterrent, even against limited aggression. By increasing the credibility of NATO's deterrent, it would strengthen the case for caution in any potential future crisis. In doing so, the NEF would reverse the trend toward NATO's conven­tionalization of its defense posture, which is leading toward a greater degree of warfighting options in Europe. To this end, the doctrinal rationale behind NEF should be made clear to all allies and potential adversaries alike: keeping it secret or ambiguous would defeat its pur­pose. NATO has often argued that doctrinal ambiguity is useful in that it increases uncertainty, but this justification is not a logical one. Ambiguity is useful only when clarification reveals either indecision or disagree­ment over diverging strategic interests. Otherwise, it can be argued that certainty of unacceptable costs would deter more. The NEF would not achieve deterrent certainty; nothing could. But it would come closer to it than today's arrangements.

Second, an NEF would put one more bridle on the potential resurgence of national nuclear weapon ambitions in Europe and reduce the pressure which might mount against the nonproliferation regime in the face of gradually decreasing US nuclear commitment in Europe. The non-nuclear nations of NATO Europe have long disappeared from the list of the so-called "threshold" countries which threaten the current nonproliferation regime, but they might join that list again if they should perceive that the US continues to decrease the nuclear emphasis of its commitment in Europe in a situation of growing political instability around the continent.

In conclusion, a NEF, while not a panacea for the problems of nuclear deterrence in Europe, would address all of the traditional main European concerns about nuclear deterrence--with respect to strategy, organization, coupling and cost. At the same time, it would not pose any provocative threat of aggression to the Soviets, and thus it would not be a cause for a deterioration of East-West relations.

The most important aspect of the NEF is that it would respond to the numerous US calls for NATO Europeans to assume greater responsibility for the defence of their own territories. While the US has usually referred to the need for greater European defence expenditures, Washington must realize that as the post-war scenario of a Europe in ruins, completely dependent on the US for its security fades definitively away, Europeans also need to acquire greater responsibilities for their own defence. On their part, and for the same reason, Europeans must realize that the strategic sustainabil­ity of nuclear free-riding has gradually but steadily been fading for many years now. In fact, it began to wither away almost immediately after it was instituted.

In the post-Cold War era Europeans must still grapple with the issue of a nuclear USSR at their side. The eventual inclusion of former Easter European satellites in Western European political and economic mechanisms might actually contribute to bring the Western-USSR border closer to the West. If both nuclear proliferation and denuclearization are to be avoided, NATO Europeans must now make a new concerted effort to assume greater nuclear responsibilities.


1This paper is a revised version of a chapter of the author's Ph.D. dissertation, completed at the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1989. For useful comments and criticism on earlier drafts of this paper, the author is indebted to George Rathjens, William Griffith, Jack Ruina, Carlo Jean, Stefano Silvestri, Trevor Taylor, Harald Müller, Sean Lynn-Jones, Guido Lenzi, Roberto Zadra, Ettore Greco and Guido Venturoni.

2Kaiser, Karl: "Why Nuclear Weapons in Times of Disarmament?", in The World Today, Vol. 45, No. 8-9, August/September 1989, p. 136.

3Yet, there are some analysts who argue that German control is needed for an effective deterrent. See Treverton, Gregory: Making the Alliance Work (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), p.158. Others take an even more extreme view and argue that not only is German control necessary, but it is necessary outside of the current alliance framework. One analyst suggests that it would be advisable to give nuclear weapons to the FRG after dissolving the alliance so as to push Bonn, Paris and London closer into nuclear cooperation arrangements. See Layne, Christopher: "Atlanticism Without NATO", in Foreign Policy, No. 67, Summer 1987. Another, less extreme, proposal is outlined in Garnham, David: "Extending Deterrence With German Nuclear Weapons", in International Security, Vol. 10, No. 1, Summer 1985, p.108. These views, however, are rare, at least for the time being. Their adoption, at present highly unlikely, might have major destructive repercussions on the political cohesion among the allies.

4In recent years, the anti-nuclearism of the Social Democrats seems to have somewhat softened. While still advocating nuclear disarmament in the long term, they would support, for example, a shift to a sea-based deterrent in the shiort term. See Asmus, Ronald D.: "West Germany Faces Nuclear Modernizat­ion", in Survival, Vol. XXX, No.6, November-December 1988, p.508.

5Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Yearbook of World Armament and Disarmament 1968/69 (London: Taylor & Francis, 1978), p. 160. For the text of the Italian reservation, see Text of the Italian Declara­tion to the UN General Assembly, 12 June 1968, reprinted in Bettini, Emilio (Ed.): Il Trattato Contro la Proliferazione Nucleare (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1968), p.129. For an Italian parliamentary resolution which explicitly underlined "the necessity that [with Italy's accession to the Treaty] the possibility for collective control of nuclear weapons [among members of the European Community] should be guaranteed", see the Text on the Non­proliferat­ion Treaty approved by the Italian Chamber of Deputies on 26 July 1968, reprinted in Bettini (Ed.): op. cit., p.139.

6Personal communications.

7Burrows, Bernard and Geoffrey Edwards: The Defence of Western Europe, (London: Butterworth, 1982), p.76.

8Bull, Hedley: "European Self-Reliance and the Reform of NATO", in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 61, No.4, Spring 1983, p. 848.

9At least since 1976 France has begun talking about an "enlarged sanctuary", which erodes the originally purely national rationale for the force de frappe. See Lellouche, Pierre: "The Transformation of NATO: Parallel European Cooperation" in Broadhurst, Arlene I. (Ed.): The Future of European Alliance Systems, (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1982), p.100. This is now a matter of consensus in France. The consensus has consolidated itself also at the government level, as demonstrated by Defense Minister Chevènement's declaration, in January 1990, that with greater European political unity the "vital interests" of France will cover an expanded geographical area beyond its borders. See "Non-accès de l'Allemagne aux armes nucléaires", Le Point, 8 January 1990. The author is indebted to an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out to him.

10For example, see Gliksman, Alex: "Three Keys for Europe's Bombs" in Foreign Policy, No. 39, Summer 1980, for a proposal to establish a "triple-key" arrangement involving both nuclear and non nuclear allies; an idea for a multilateral force with majority voting for launch is proposed by Robinson, David: "A European Coordinated Force", in Orbis, vol. IX, No.3, Fall 1965.

11Thus, in addition to its primary mission of increasing the credibi­lity of the NATO nuclear deterrent in Europe, the NEF would provide a kind of reverse extended deterrence for the US and Canada as well. While the size of the US arsenal would make this European guarantee little more than a merely symbolic measure, it would nonetheless be an important one, for two reasons. First, it would underline the basic principle of collective security in NATO at a time when the creation of the NEF would put it under questioning. Second, it would likely serve to buy some public and congres­sional support for the NEF in the US.

12One possibility would be to have a force of, say, six submarines, at least two of which would be at sea at all times with sixteen missiles each. Assuming an average of six warheads for each missile, this would result in one-hundred and ninety-two warheads. Subtracting an average twenty percent failure rate, about one-hundred and fifty warheads would reach their targets. (2 on-station-subs x 16 missiles x 6 warheads - 20% failure = 150 warheads.) I am indebted to Dr. Trevor Taylor for this calculation.

13Lellouche, Pierre: "The Transformation of NATO: Parallel European Cooperation" in Broadhurst, Arlene I.: The Future of European Alliance Systems, op. cit., p.108.

14Several European NATO members, upon acceding to the treaty, reserved the right to participate in a European nuclear force should one be created in the future as a step toward the creation of a West European political entity as a successor to the French and British national forces. See Ducci, Roberto: "Tentativi e Speranze di Una Forza di Dissuasione Europea", in Affari Esteri, Anno XIII, No.52.

15Smart, Ian: Future Conditional: The Prospect for Anglo-French Nuclear Cooperation, Adelphi Paper No. 78, (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1971), p. 15-16.

16Joshua, Wynfred and Walter F. Hahn: Nuclear Politics: America, France and Britain, The Washington Papers, No. 9, (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1973), p.67.

17Sandoval, Robert: Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Dilemmas and Illusions, unpublished manuscript, 1985, p.292; Kaufmann, William W.: "Nuclear Deterrence in Central Europe", in Steinbruner, John D. and Leon V. Sigal: Alliance Security: NATO and the No-First-use Question (Washington, DC: Brookings Institutions, 1983), pp.41-42; interest­ingly, this thesis is supported also by some analysts who do not favor relying on nuclear weapons. See for example Halperin, Morton: "Deterrence Cannot Rely on Nuclear Arms", in International Herald Tribune, 29 June 1987.

18The only exception might be a common early-warning system and some common communication facilities. In this case, economies of scale would probably make the cost of dedicated systems a prohibitive one.

19Senator Sam Nunn, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Commit­tee, has suggested that if conventional forces were able to hold the line for a period of thirty days this would be an adequate time buffer to avoid using nuclear weapons too early. See interview in The International Herald Tribune, 15 February 1988, p.2. The same parameter value could be agreed to by the Europeans to be a reasonable nuclear threshold for SACNEF as well.

20In fact, it has been argued that the chances of escalation to all-out war of a war in Europe might be reduced by separating to the extent possible the US C3I network from NATO's. On the other hand, keeping the integration of the NATO European C3I network with that of the US will increase the likelihood of such escalation and therefore improve coupling. See Ball, Desmond: Controlling Theater Nuclear War, Working Paper # 138, Strategic and Defence Studies Center (Canberra: Australian National University, October 1987), p.37.

21Neither NATO nor the US have officially confirmed that US warhead release codes are under US custody in Europe, but this was the unanimous opinion among a number of current and former NATO officers interviewed by the author.

22de Rose, François: "Inflexible Response", in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 61, No.1, Fall 1982, passim; see especially p. 143ff.

This article was first published in "Orbis" in 1990.