U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN EUROPE: A RELIC FROM THE COLD WAR?

FOR MOTHEREARTH - Member of Friends of the Earth International. Pol D'Huyvetter

Last June 2nd, 2005 Russian Defence Minister Ivanov declared that he is ready to discuss cutbacks of its tactical nuclear weapons only provided that all nuclear weapon states withdraw their nuclear weapons on their own territory, a clear reference to the U.S. nuclear arsenals in Europe. The U.S. is the only nuclear weapon state to deploy nuclear weapons on foreign territory.

According to a February 2005 report by Hans M. Kristensen, an independent nuclear weapons policy analist, 480 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs are stored at 8 NATO air bases of six NATO countries – a formidable arsenal larger than the entire Chinese nuclear stockpile. These U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe continue to be a serious obstacle for further nuclear disarmament and undermine the non-proliferation treaty.

According to Hans Kristensen the weapons are stored in Kleine Brogel, Belgium (20), Buechel and Ramstein, Germany (150), Ghedi Torre and Aviano, Italy (90), Volkel, Netherlands (20), Inçirlik, Turkey (90) and Lakenheath, UK (110).

The European pleas to reinforce the non-proliferation treaty are clearly undermined by the presence of nuclear weapons on its territory. Many countries view NATO’s nuclear sharing not only as a violation of the NPT (Article I and Art. II), but also as a real threat, because the U.S. military doctrine does not exclude the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state.

Furthermore, how can the EU be taken seriously when pressing countries like Iran and North-Korea not to develop nuclear weapons, when several of its member states deploy U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory, and even two of its members -France and the UK- have an independent nuclear weapons programme.
Mohammed El-Baradei, Director-General of the IAEA, illustrated this contradiction very well when he stated: “As long as you continue to have countries dangling a cigarette from their mouth, you cannot tell everybody not to smoke with a high degree of credibility”. How can the EU be taken seriously by the people of the world as long as they allow deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territory? How can the EU receive credibility as long as they tolerate two NWS in their midst who do not comply with the NPT Article VI?

The failure of the recent NPT review conference last May calls for urgent new initiatives for nuclear disarmament if we want to preserve and strengthen the non-proliferation regime. The retreat of the U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe could be such a step. Today no single danger or threat can justify the presence of these U.S. nuclear weapons. We all know we can not protect ourselves against terrorists with nuclear weapons.

The previous months politicians in several European countries, across traditional political party lines, have raised their voices and asked for a removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. According to Abolition 2000, the global coalition of over 2000 NGO’s in 90 countries it’s time to act, especially following the failure of the NPT Review Conference in New York last month where the state parties could not agree on a final document, thus undermining the fragile nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The debate over the retreat of U.S. nuclear weapons started in several NATO member states. On April 21st the Belgian Senate passed a unanimous resolution calling for the withdrawal of the 480 US nuclear weapons based in Europe. This was soon echoed in Berlin, The Hague, Oslo, Paris and other European capitals.

In Germany the liberal party FDP called for a withdrawal of U.S. nukes from Germany, which on its turn of course found support from the ruling Green and Social-democrat members of parliament. Thereupon the German Minister of Defence Mr. Struck proposed to put the retreat of U.S. nuclear weapons based in Europe on the agenda of NATO, this following consultation with the NATO member states involved in the nuclear tasks. Also the French Minister of Defence Ms. Alliot-Marie gave her support to start this debate. Also the Social-Democrats in the Netherlands changed their position on the issue and are now advocates for withdrawal. This while Canada has been a long time supporter for the removal of these U.S. weapons, now also supported by the Christian-democratic party KrF, the party of the Norwegian prime minister. It is clear that despite the political pressure from Washington to keep a status-quo, an increasing number of European politicians are calling for the removal of these obsolete weapons.

Last Thursday NATO Defence Ministers met in Brussels and decided to keep a status quo: U.S. nuclear weapons will remain in Europe. Dieter Ebeling from DPA, the German Press Agency, asked U.S. Secretary of Defence Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, if the continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Western Europe was raised at all during NATO’s Defence Ministers meeting, particularly in the Nuclear Planning Group? And whether it was or not, what was his reaction to the discussion, particularly in Germany, which leads many to ask for the removal of those remaining few nuclear weapons within a foreseeable time frame? Mr. Rumsfeld answered: “The -- we did have a Nuclear Planning Group meeting. And it's a classified meeting, and I'm unlikely to discuss it. I have no -- nothing to say about the political debates or discussions that take place in any of the member countries.” Dieter Ebeling from DPA still tried before being taken off the mike: “But your opinion of it. Do you have an opinion?”, where Rumsfeld replied: “Well -- (chuckles) -- of course I have opinions. (Light laughter.) But I think I've answered it exactly the way I want to. (Laughter.)”
I am honestly shocked by such an answer. How can we expect transparency from others when we aren’t ourselves? To date not only the European public, but also the elected MP’s can not get any information and confirmation about the deployment and nuclear exercises with U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.
Therefore it was not a surprise to have elected Members of Parliament join Citizens Weapons Inspections, making a parallel with the weapons inspections in Iraq, wondering why we should know about Iraq’s WMD-programme, yet remain ignorant about the deployment of U.S. WMD in Europe?

Last April approximately one thousand citizens, amongst whom several Members of Parliament, inspected several NATO-sites in Belgium asking for disclosure of the secret plans of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group and accusing NATO of an illegal nuclear policy. To this date more than 2,500 people have been arrested during these Inspections in Belgium alone. With these actions attention is drawn to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the illegality of nuclear weapons and the legal obligation to conclude complete nuclear disarmament under NPT Art. VI.

It is clear that a growing number of European politicians are finally voicing the unambiguous calls for nuclear disarmament across Europe and the world. Also the European Parliament has reinforced this with its latest resolutions.

Also mayors from across Europe are joining the Emergency Campaign of the "Mayors For Peace" network, a network led by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The campaign calls for the total elimination of all nuclear weapons by 2020. This campaign was endorsed by two resolution in the European Parliament, while a fast growing number of European mayors becoming member of the network.

In Europe many mayors have joined the now 1000+ members network, with i.e. 235 mayors today member in Belgium, 30 in Britain, 176 in Germany, 49 in Italy, 11 in the Netherlands, 49 in Norway and 25 in Spain to name some countries where the campaign is starting to have an impact. New mayors are joining the network on a daily basis.

Today we continue to live in a system of nuclear apartheid, where some seem to take unjustified privileges over others. But as the apartheid regime in South-Africa collapsed thanks to the sustained actions of the grass-roots people and governments, we are confident that with your help we will also bring down the obstacles towards a world free of nuclear weapons. We need European leaders to follow the people and an increasing number of mayors. We know Europe has taken leadership in the recent past with the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court and the Landmines Treaty. Europe will have to take up this new challenge, and lead the world through multilateralism towards the start of negotiations for the long awaited convention banning nuclear weapons.

For more information:

Abolition 2000 Europe & For Mother Earth :
Pol D'Huyvetter +0495/28.02.59 pol@motherearth.org

Websites with more information:
Abolition 2000 Europe
http://www.abolition2000europe.org/

For Mother Earth ¬ Friends of the Earth Flanders
www.motherearth.org

Mayors for Peace – Hiroshima
http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/mayors/english/
Latest NRDC report on U.S. nukes in Europe, Hans Kristensen, February 2005
http://www.abolition2000europe.org/reportNRDC.pdf

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