News

    Future of US, Russian Short-Range Nuclear Weapons Could Be on Negotiating Table

    U.S. President Barack Obama signs the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, February 2, 2011.
    U.S. President Barack Obama signs the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, February 2, 2011.

    A far-reaching debate is under way among members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over the future of tactical nuclear weapons, arms control experts say.

    The United States and Russia maintain large numbers of such weapons and part of the NATO debate is about whether Washington and Moscow should open negotiations to reduce the stockpiles, which some experts consider more of a liability than an asset.

    U.S. President Barack Obama has made reducing the number of nuclear weapons worldwide a priority issue of his foreign policy.  Experts say that goal was furthered by the New START treaty the U.S. and Russia signed in 2010.  The treaty calls for Washington and Moscow to reduce the number of long-range or strategic nuclear weapons, by half.

    START

    Location of US short-range nuclear missile in Europe
    Location of US short-range nuclear missile in Europe
    But the New START agreement does not address the issue of short-range or tactical nuclear weapons. Those are mounted on land- and air-based missiles with a range of less than 500 kilometers - so called "battlefield weapons" used alongside conventional forces.

    Neither the U.S. nor Russia has provided detailed information about their stockpiles of tactical nuclear weapons.

    But analysts estimate Russia has between 2,000 and 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons.  Not all are available for operational use.  Some are in deep storage bunkers and others are slated to be dismantled.

    The United States is estimated to have about 200 short-range nuclear missiles, mainly located in five European countries: Germany, Italy, Turkey, Belgium and The Netherlands.  

    NATO debate

    Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation focusing on nuclear weapons policy, says there is an internal debate within NATO on what to do with the tactical weapons.

    "The Germans and the Belgians in particular have pressed to get the weapons out of Europe," Cirincione said in an interview with VOA.  "They say these are anachronistic, that maybe there was a purpose for these during the Cold War."

    The Belgians and Germans, he said, find it inconceivable that they would face any military contingency that would require the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

    But that attitude is not shared by most other NATO nations, according to David Holloway, an arms control expert at Stanford University.  Others feel differently, he says, "most notably the countries of central and eastern Europe, who are more acutely aware of the kind of danger of Russian military power.

    "Because given their history and more fearful of Russian intentions, they say: 'No, we should keep the tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, even though they are not based in central or eastern Europe.  We should keep them in Europe as a kind of signal to Russia that it needs to be careful in how it conducts its policy toward Europe.'"

    Asset or liability?

    Complicating the issue is the question of security - making sure that the weapons are kept out of the hands of terrorists or others trying to acquire nuclear capabilities.

    "You have a greater security risk for tactical weapons than you have for strategic weapons," Cirincione said.  "And the reason is that the strategic weapons tend to be bolted onto large pieces of metal - missiles, or at bomber bases - things that are very secure, very hard to steal."

    Tactical weapons, particularly with the Russian weapons, he said, tend to be in storage depots that are less secure.

    "And there are lots of them," Cirincione said of the tactical warheads. "So you are talking about thousands of tactical weapons compared to hundreds of strategic weapons."

    Seeking right mix

    Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, says NATO is currently revising its military doctrine, which will be discussed at its May summit in Chicago.  Specifically, he says NATO members will be considering how to achieve the proper mix of nuclear, conventional forces and missile defenses needed to protect alliance countries.

    "NATO can be expected to say at the Chicago summit that NATO's defense can be maintained with conventional forces primarily, and the supreme guarantee of the alliance's defense are the strategic nuclear weapons that the United States and France and the United Kingdom possess," Kimball told VOA.  "They will likely say that they are interested in further steps with Russia to account for and reduce tactical nuclear weapons."

    Kimball cautions, however, that he and other experts following the issue do not expect U.S.-Russia talks on the tactical weapons issue to begin anytime soon, given the presidential campaign now under way in the United States.

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.