Over the past decade and a half, Russia has placed an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in its military strategy and doctrine. Moscow’s assertive “escalate-to-de-escalate” nuclear strategy poses a distinguishable threat to NATO nations, and requires greater strategic thinking about NATO’s nuclear posture. After a quarter century of reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons, NATO now lacks a credible deterrent for Russian “de-escalatory” nuclear strikes. To grapple with this possibility, NATO must consider the development of new, more flexible nuclear capabilities of its own.
In “Toward a More Flexible NATO Nuclear Posture,” Matthew Kroenig, nonresident senior fellow at the Council’s Scowcroft Center and associate professor at Georgetown, outlines a range of options available to NATO to bolster its position:
– Use nonnuclear options
– Designate a portion of US, UK, and French nuclear weapons as “NATO” nuclear weapons
– Forward base B-52s in Europe
– Forward deploy B61s in Eastern Europe
– Improve survivability of B61s in Europe
– Place lower-yield warheads on US intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBMs)
– Bring back a nuclear-armed submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM)
– Develop a new Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM)
– Use a Tactical Nuclear Air-Launched Cruise Missile
The author weighs these various options based on several crucial factors including capability, escalation control, burden sharing, and cost effectiveness, and ultimately argues that NATO should equip its Dual-Capable Aircraft (DCA) with a nuclear-armed, air-to-surface cruise missile.