News / Europe

Next US-Russia Arms Talks Could Involve Short-Range Nuclear Weapons

Soldiers prepare to destroy a ballistic SS-19 missile in the yard of the largest former Soviet military rocket base in Vakulenchuk, Ukraine, December 24, 1997.
Soldiers prepare to destroy a ballistic SS-19 missile in the yard of the largest former Soviet military rocket base in Vakulenchuk, Ukraine, December 24, 1997.
President Barack Obama has made reducing nuclear weapons worldwide a priority of his administration.

The New START treaty limits to 1,550 deployed long-range nuclear warheads on 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery systems such as long-range rockets and heavy bombers.

But the new agreement does not address the issue of short-range, tactical nuclear weapons.  Those are mounted on land or air-launched  missiles with a range of less than 500 kilometers - so-called “battlefield weapons” used alongside conventional forces.

Analysts say Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, not all operational.  Many are awaiting dismantlement and others are in deep storage bunkers.

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, said the U.S. has a much smaller stockpile.

“In Europe, we still have an estimated 180 nuclear gravity bombs - the B-61 bomb that can be carried by fighter bombers like the F-16.  They are located in five NATO countries: Belgium, The Netherlands, Turkey, Germany and Italy,” he said.

NATO Discusses Future of Nuclear Arms

Analysts say there is a debate within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on what to do with those weapons.

Kimball said several countries, including Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, say these tactical nuclear weapons serve no military purpose for the defense of NATO today and should be scrapped.

“These weapons are stored in bunkers. They would take days to prepare for delivery by fighter bombers. Their use will have to be authorized by all of NATO’s [28] members which is a difficult accomplishment on virtually any issue, let alone using nuclear weapons for the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

But David Holloway, a nuclear weapons expert at Stanford University, said other NATO members have differing views.

“Other countries, especially the newer members in eastern/central Europe, want to keep the tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as an element of the commitment, as it were, or a sign, symbol of the commitment of the United States to the defense of the NATO countries, because they are more concerned about a potential threat from Russia, than the countries of western and southern Europe are,” he said.

Obama Calls for Reducing Nuclear Weapons

During a recent speech in Berlin, President Barack Obama said the United States and NATO will “seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.”

Holloway said that could be an arduous task.

“The issue of getting reductions in tactical nuclear weapons has traditionally been extremely difficult because Russia says, ‘We need tactical nuclear weapons because our conventional forces are very weak compared with either those of NATO, or with those of China. And therefore we need tactical nuclear weapons for our defense.’”

Russia Worries about China

Holloway said for Russian military officials, it is essential to have adequate defenses against China.

“Let’s say if the Chinese decided no matter how strange a threat it may seem at the moment, if they were to decide to attack or to invade the [Russian] Far East, what could Russia do with just conventional forces?  As one Russian retired general said to me, 'We talk about NATO, but we worry about China,” said Holloway.  

“So I don’t know even from a U.S. or NATO perspective how good it would be to have an agreement that says you can keep lots of these weapons over on the Chinese border, but you can’t have them in Europe.  That would not be well received, I imagine, by the Chinese.”

Experts say reducing American and Russian short range nuclear weapons is a much more complicated issue than lowering the number of long-range missiles by one-third - a proposal also made by President Obama in his Berlin speech.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs