NATO and Russia’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons Policy

Russian Topol long-range missiles at Yushkovo, 50km from Moscow, March 18, 2008.

From Walter Pincus, the Washington Post:  [C]oncern was ignited across Europe recently when stories appeared about Russia moving tactical nuclear weapons near the border of NATO countries. During last week’s Senate treaty debate, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had to explain in a letter to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that a short-range ballistic missile unit had long been stationed near Russia’s border with Estonia. They added that Moscow had announced that its newer SS-26 short-range missiles would be stationed there.

Recognizing the unease such actions cause, the Clinton-Gates letter went on: "Although this deployment does not alter either the balance in Europe or the U.S.-Russia strategic balance, the U.S. has made clear that we believe Russia should further consolidate its tactical nuclear weapons in a small number of secure facilities deep within Russia."

Their comment about the Russians moving their tactical weapons east and far away from Russia’s borders with NATO countries brings up what will be the first sticking point in dealing with Moscow about the weapons.

As [Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Rose] Gottemoeller framed it last week with reporters: "Anybody who’s followed this over the years knows that the Russian Federation has had a kind of – well, clear conditionality for beginning negotiations on tac nukes, and that is that NATO should bring all of the nuclear weapons deployed in NATO – on NATO territory in Europe – back to the continental United States before Russia – and this is a long-standing conditionality, was from Soviet times – before they would consider beginning talks in this arena."  (photo: AFP)

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