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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs