Autors: Raimonds Rublovskis .
Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) hosted an expert roundtable in April 19 in Warsaw, Poland. This event gathered subject matter experts from Poland, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and the Baltic States. The main issues addressed in the roundtable were related to the role of nuclear weapons in European security, NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture and required mix of nuclear and conventional military capabilities within posture as well as arms control and disarmament issue.
Several experts offered their points concerning this very important issue for NATO Alliance and the security of Europe. One could address several important questions. Firstly, what is required mix of conventional, nuclear, and missile defense capabilities if tactical nuclear weapons are to be withdrawn from Europe, and conventional military capabilities in Europe are to be significantly decreased due to both- strategic shift of the United States to Pacific pivot and significant decrease of European defense budgets? Secondly, is reduction of nuclear weapons in Europe contributing to effective NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture?
One has no doubt that nuclear issue will remain very important for the United States, Russia and countries of Europe concerning European defense. There is different approaches how to deal with nuclear issue in Europe- some nations wants to maintain the Status Quo, others insist on reduction of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. However, one has to bear in mind that Kaliningrad issue is strongly related with NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture, and any further decision on reduction of NATO tactical nuclear capabilities in Europe should be bound with similar activities of Russia in Kaliningrad enclave.
Some experts have argued that tactical nuclear weapons in Europe will remain as significant political leverage to influence international security affairs system and any withdrawal of tactical nuclear assets of the United States from Europe would be viewed as significant political and military mistake. In order to avoid such a mistake, tactical nuclear assets of the United States should remain on European soil both- as the symbol of American commitment to protect Europe, and as military capability in order to counterbalance Russian tactical nuclear capabilities.
Certainly, one has to distinguish significant difference of nuclear posture between last century and the 21st century. Now tactical nuclear weapons are mostly used as tool to exercise political pressure with very low probability of use. Therefore, some experts pointed out several possible scenarios in order to decrease current nuclear posture in Europe after Chicago Summit and there is high probability that current Status Quo is not likely to remain in the years to come. However, maintenance of cohesion of the members of NATO Alliance over this issue is of utmost importance.
What conclusions one could draw from the Latvian perspective? Clearly, all issues concerning NATO nuclear posture in Europe have to be tied with those of Kaliningrad, and the Alliance should avoid significant unilateral reduction of its tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.
Secondly, if NATO nuclear posture in Europe is reduced, the most effective conventional military capabilities of the United States are to be deployed in Pacific theatre, European conventional military capabilities are significantly reduced due to austerity of their defense budgets- all those issues significantly impact NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture. Make it extremely clear- significant reduction of both- nuclear and conventional- components within NATO Deterrence and Defense posture would mean unacceptable decrease of the security and defense level of Baltic countries. There should be credible reassurances that the security and defense level of Baltic members will not suffer from reduction of nuclear and conventional capabilities in Europe. Against this complex background, it is the core task of NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review to define possible new mix of nuclear and conventional forces, and every change within process has to increase and not decrease security and defense level of NATO members in Central and Eastern Europe.