Nuclear issue exposes rift in NATO strategy review

Agreement on the final version of the Strategic Concept is expected at the next NATO Summit set for Nov. 19-20 in Lisbon.

From Judy Dempsey, the New York Times:  Two months before what could be the most important NATO summit meeting in more than a decade, the 28 member states of the alliance have received a draft of its new strategic concept, which for the first time, at the insistence of Germany and other countries, includes calls for nuclear disarmament.

At the same time, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, has completed another highly classified document, numbering several hundred pages, that will be attached to the final strategic concept. Mr. Rasmussen’s document sets out in detail how NATO would react and assign units and forces to respond to a range of attacks — terrorist, cyber, conventional, nuclear or other — several diplomats said Thursday.

“If you think the strategic concept is classified, you cannot imagine how secretive the operational paper is and will remain,” an East European diplomat said. …

The move by Germany and other nations to place disarmament high in the strategic concept comports with President Barack Obama’s declared goal of eventually abolishing nuclear weapons, but it also exposes a rift between European nations that want to rid the Continent of atomic arms and those that want to keep them both for prestige and as a deterrent to longstanding enemies.

Germany’s stance has put it at loggerheads with France, a nuclear power. France opposes NATO’s having any role or influence in disarmament issues, fearing that it could undermine France’s sovereignty.

“If there is a sticking point in reaching agreement, then this is it,” said a German diplomat who has seen the document and has insisted on anonymity because of its sensitivity. …

Mr. Rasmussen, appointed secretary general in 2009 after serving as prime minister of Denmark, has said he wants the alliance’s 28 foreign and defense ministers to debate the draft during their meeting in Brussels next month.

By then, diplomats said, Mr. Rasmussen will know “which issues will go to the wire” when heads of states and leaders gather for the November meeting.

“So far, the nuclear issue has taken center stage,” a senior NATO diplomat said.

“The nuclear weapons issue has boiled down to this: Is NATO going to retain the status quo by keeping its weapons for deterrence, or is NATO finally going to give arms control and disarmament precedence?”  (photo: NATO)

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