British American Security Information Council (BASIC)

BASIC-BITS Press Release
April 24, 1999


NATO’s new "Alliance Strategic Concept", adopted today in Washington, commits the Alliance’s military forces for the first time to play a role in countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). "By deterring the use of NBC weapons, they contribute to Alliance efforts aimed at preventing the proliferation of these weapons and their delivery means", says the new Concept (para 41).

While defensive measures and programs to increase the capability of NATO military forces to operate in an environment in which there is a threat or risk that WMD might be used has been subject to NATO military planning for some time, the Alliance never before assigned its military forces a role in "preventing the proliferation of these weapons and their delivery means." However the new Strategic Concept stops short of openly assigning Alliance forces a role in preemptive military action to stop proliferation.

Increased attention is given to the risks resulting to NATO and its forces abroad from WMD. "Some states, including on NATO’s periphery and in other regions, sell or acquire NBC weapons and delivery means. ... Non-state actors have shown the potential to create and use some of these weapons." (para 22)  Thus "the Alliance’s defence posture against the risks and potential threats of the proliferation of NBC weapons and their means of delivery must continue to be improved, including through work on missile defences." Since NATO forces might operate out of area "capabilities for dealing with proliferation risks must be flexible, mobile, rapidly deployable and sustainable."(para 56)  For the time being NATO’s Strategic Concept does not contain any reference to nuclear weapons having a role in deterring the possession or the use of WMD.

 For further information contact Otfried Nassauer or Thomas Neve at (202) 785-1266.