Russian mind games with nuclear weapons mean that NATO has to step it up, write top German think tanks.
Europe wants to improve its use of nuclear power in response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Ukraine. Russia has paired its increased aggression and buildup of conventional forces with an expanded nuclear program, and Europe—especially Eastern Europe—is getting scared.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and Moscow’s associated nuclear threats, have triggered a new discussion in nato about enhancing its nuclear deterrent,” wrote the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (swp), a think tank responsible for advising the German Parliament, this month.
“Some Central European states are demanding a greater role for nuclear weapons in order to more credibly deter further Russian aggression in Europe,” it wrote. nato’s current policy says that it will only use nuclear weapons under “extremely remote” circumstances. These Central European states want that updated to a stronger threat.
Russia has given them good reason to fear. The Federal College for Security Studies (baks), a German government think tank that advises on defense and security, wrote last year that Russia has been playing “military mind games” with its nuclear weapons—for example, simulating a nuclear attack on Poland.
Since 2008, “the nuclear arsenal of Russia has been steadily strengthened and improved,” it wrote. “New ballistic missile systems have been introduced and stocked with more warheads. Modern submarines replaced the models originating from the times of the Cold War. Far-reaching cruise missiles were tested, resulting in a serious violation of the disbarment treaty on intermediate-range missiles.”
“There is a fear that Moscow reduced its nuclear inhibitions threshold and that it will increasingly include nuclear threats in its policy toward its neighbors and nato,” it wrote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin continually emphasizes in his speeches that Russia is a nuclear power. Russian nuclear bombers constantly probe nato’s air defenses.
Just six years ago, Germany’s vice chancellor wanted nato’s nuclear weapons out of Germany. Now they’re there to stay, and some Polish leaders are calling for nato nukes on their territory.
Instead of reducing nuclear arms, these German think tanks are talking about becoming better at using them. “Nuclear-capable nato fighter jets, which can be fitted with U.S. nuclear bombs, have a response time of about 30 days,” wrote baks in a separate article. “This imbalance has led to calls to reduce response times … and to step up military exercises in the use of nuclear weapons.”
“A tighter integration of nuclear weapons into defense planning is also conceivable by more closely linking conventional and nuclear defense and deterrence capabilities,” write the swp. The think tank noted that “the growing role of nuclear weapons” could mean “including nuclear-capable systems in exercises and holding more frequent and more realistic maneuvers.” In doing so, “nato would be following the example set by Russia, which since the annexation of Crimea has demonstrated the integration of its conventional and nuclear forces in a series of exercises.”
Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium all have American B-61 nuclear bombs ready to fly on their own planes. These bombs are variable yield bombs. One variant currently stationed in Europe can be set to give off an explosion 50 times smaller or 10 times larger than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
The Trumpet has long pointed to the role Russia’s aggression is playing in forcing Europe to unite—especially militarily. “The more bellicose and dangerous Russia grows, the more we must watch Europe,” wrote Trumpet columnist Brad Macdonald in 2007. “Europe’s reaction to Russian ambition is more important than the growing power of Russia itself.”
Europe quickly reversed its defense cuts after Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Europe and nato are in the middle of restricting Russia’s forces, aiming to counteract this threat. As baks noted, “To the surprise of many allies, Germany of all countries, made a special effort to build up new defense capabilities in Eastern Europe.” This renewed focus on nuclear power is the most dangerous manifestation of this trend yet.
This trend could also see America give Europe more control over American bombs In European territory.
Full article: Europe Demands ‘a Greater Role for Nuclear Weapons’ (The Trumpet)