NATO’s Defence & Deterrence Posture Review

Susi Snyder and Wilbert van der Zeijden, IKV Pax Christi

NATO is about to embark on a year long round of consultations on a new “Defence and Deterrence Posture Review” (D&DPR). Many debates that the alliance was unable to settle while deciding on a new Strategic Concept were moved forward to be dealt with in this D&DPR. But the whole thing is riddled with questions. Trying to find some answers, we approach Mr. NATO, for an imaginary interview.

Why do a Defence and Deterrence Posture Review at all?
Mr. NATO: "Well sonny, the thing is that many member states pushed for the idea of a nuclear posture review as we negotiated the new Strategic Concept. Some countries however had a real hard time separating nuclear weapons out of our overall defence and deterrence theories. See, we haven’t really reviewed our deterrence policies since the late 1960s and some think it’s time to do that. So, instead of not agreeing on a Strategic Concept at all, we kept the language on nuclear weapons in there fairly vague and used the Lisbon Summit Declaration – the Declaration accompanying the Strategic Concept to say we’re going to do a D&DPR. During the D&DPR we’ll find a way to reach consensus on those sticky issues that we weren’t able to finish in the twenty months we negotiated the latest Strategic Concept."

What DOES the Declaration say about the D&DPR?
Mr. NATO: "The document states that NATO Allies:
2. [...] agreed to continue to review NATO’s overall defence and deterrence posture;[...]
And that
30. We have tasked the Council to continue to review NATO’s overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats to the Alliance, taking into account changes in the evolving international security environment. This comprehensive review should be undertaken by all Allies on the basis of deterrence and defence posture principles agreed in the Strategic Concept, taking into account WMD and ballistic missile proliferation. Essential elements of the review would include the range of NATO’s strategic capabilities required, including NATO’s nuclear posture, and missile defence and other means of strategic deterrence and defence. This only applies to nuclear weapons assigned to NATO."

But Mr. NATO, I’m confused, isn’t there a start or an end date to this process? Will it go on forever? And, if this is meant to be an ongoing review, well, isn’t that what the North Atlantic Council is supposed to be doing anyway?
Mr. NATO: "Oh you crazy kids and your time bound frameworks! You see, we already know that we have some external pressure to deliver this within a specific time. There will be elections in both the U.S. and France just after the next NATO summit, and summits are usually the best time to show off these new documents, so we’re aiming for that. Of course the North Atlantic Council’s job is to keep an eye on the overall defence and deterrence responsibilities in the Alliance, but we know full well that they also have a lot of other issues to deal with and don’t necessarily want to produce pointless paper. They want to be ready for action. So, we’ve tasked them with writing this document and in writing it to get to the bottom of some of those contentious issues mentioned earlier."

More on that Lisbon Declaration. It says that the review should be undertaken on the basis of deterrence and defence principles agreed in the Strategic Concept. What are those principles?
Mr. NATO: "They’re in the Strategic Concept."

What, you mean things like: “Deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy"?
Mr. NATO: "Exactly!"

So how many nukes are there in an appropriate mix?
Mr. NATO: That’s what we’ll decide in the review process.

Isn’t that a circular logic?
Mr. NATO: ....

Mr. NATO: "Stop nitpicking and ask me serious questions."

Right. I’m continuing on the subject of NATO nuclear weapons and how those weapons will be looked at in this new document. You said that this will only apply to the nuclear weapons assigned to NATO, so what does that mean for French and UK nuclear weapons? Will their deterrence postures be reviewed as they relate to the alliance, or will this review only consider the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that are forward deployed in the alliance?
Mr. NATO: "We’re still working that out. It was pretty clear in the Strategic Concept that:
'The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies.'
Of course if we take the easier path then we’ll just get to the tactical nukes. But don’t forget sonny, 'As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

What exactly do you mean by that? Does this mean that the three countries inside NATO with nuclear weapons will be the last on the planet to disarm?
Mr. NATO: Well....., we sort of borrowed that from statements made by the U.S.. Hilary suggested that we use those words when we all had dinner last year in Tallinn, and well, our man Rasmussen and I thought they made sense. People seemed okay with them, even that pesky German, Westerwelle. Though Sarkozy hoped we might say something a bit stronger....

The Concept states that you will:
ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in collective defence planning on nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces, and in command, control and consultation arrangement
Am I right to assume that this is about the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons now deployed in Europe?
Mr. NATO: "Indeed."

So how to read that sentence? Is participation in tactical nuke basing guaranteed? Or is collective planning on participation guaranteed? In other words: Would this formulation allow for an end to forward basing of tactical nukes?
Mr. NATO: "Good question. I think that we’ll have to talk about that in the review. Member states may have a different understanding of this sentence. Which is just as well. Whatever we decide will be covered by this sentence, we’ll just have to adjust the interpretation of the sentence accordingly."


Another question then, to what extent will disarmament and non-proliferation issues relate to this Review?
Mr. NATO: "Oh, that’s a pretty easy one. All of us NATO members are in good standing with the NPT...."

Uhm, Mr. NATO, actually, there have been questions raised about whether the five countries that host U.S. nuclear weapons are actually in compliance with Article 1 of the NPT.
Mr. NATO: "That’s a silly position taken by crazy countries like Iran. We’ve been saying for more than 40 years that the NPT was negotiated after the alleged nuclear sharing agreements were in place and no one had a problem then, so no one has a right to have a problem with them now."

Okaaaay... so back to this question - how will disarmament and non-proliferation issues be reflected?
Mr. NATO: "As I was saying, we addressed this in the Lisbon Declaration:
34. We call for universal adherence to, and compliance with, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to the additional protocol to the International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguard Agreement, and call for full implementation of UNSCR 1540. We will continue to implement NATO’s Strategic-Level Policy for Preventing the Proliferation of WMD and Defence Against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Threats. We task the Council to assess and report, before the meeting of Defence Ministers in June 2011, on how NATO can better counter the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery."

Thank you Mr. NATO! However, much remains unclear about that D&DPR. When will it start? What institutions will be part of it, and with what mandate? What issues will be dealt with in the D&DPR? And when will we see results? We hope that the June Defence Ministerial in Brussels will give us some more answers on those, and other questions.

(reproduced from IKV Pax Christi newsletter What's new in nukes - March 2011)