Theater nuclear weapons in Europe the contemporary debate
Polser, Brian G.
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Are U.S. nuclear weapons still needed in Europe now that the threat that brought them there is gone? This thesis examines whether basing theater nuclear weapons in Europe is useful, irrelevant or counterproductive for maintaining European security. U.S. and NATO policymakers adhere to political and military utility arguments, while others argue TNWs in Europe are irrelevant-their utility has been supplanted by political, cultural and economic interdependence, modern conventional capabilities and the existential deterrent of U.S. strategic nuclear weapons. Nonproliferation and arms control advocates argue TNWs are counterproductive because they enhance, rather than deter proliferation, undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and impede cooperation in the NATO-Russia security relationship. This thesis demonstrates how economic and political ties, including widespread participation in nuclear planning, the increasing importance of the nuclear taboo, prospects for conventional deterrence and the U.S. strategic nuclear umbrella render TNWs in Europe irrelevant. Emphasizing their utility provides incentive for others to join the "nuclear club," degrades the nonproliferation regime, and creates a roadblock for NATO-Russian arms control and counterproliferation efforts. This thesis recommends withdrawing U.S. theater nuclear weapons from Europe, relying instead on a strategy of conventional deterrence and reassurance while maintaining general nuclear deterrence via strategic forces.
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