Tactical nuclear weapons on US arms reduction agenda

Tactical nuclear weapons have often been excluded from the traditional strategic arms control that has dominated the discourse over the last 40 years. This has been the case despite there being no clear definition of what constitutes a ‘tactical nuclear weapon’. In the last six months, several statesmen has addressed the issue of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. For instance Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski has called for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Europe in return for a withdrawal of Russian weapons from Europe’s boarders (‘Next, the Tactical Nukes‘).

According to an article in the Associated Press (‘US plans broader nuclear arms talks with Russians‘) the US now plans to seek negotiations with Russia on limiting numbers of tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. This might be difficult to achieve, since the Russian Federation views tactical nuclear weapons as a counterweight against overwhelming conventional attack. In fact, the new Russian military doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons ‘in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat’.

It is said that limitations on stored and tactical nuclear weapons will require a more invasive system for monitoring compliance with such commitments. While this is not necessarily true, it is certainly an area for further research and thought.

– Martin Groarke, London