Press Release
02 May 2000


NATO Council Could Adopt Nuclear Strategy Today
Spokesman Confirms Role for Nukes to Counter Chemical and Biological Attacks


WASHINGTON, DC – NATO is moving forward with a controversial plan to expand its strategic doctrine to, for the first time, threaten the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation for a chemical or biological attack, according to Zurich-based newspaper Tagesanzeiger. In an April 25 interview, Col. Frank Salis, NATO Military Committee spokesman, confirms BITS-BASIC’s contention, detailed in Questions of Command and Control: NATO, Nuclear Sharing and the NPT, that the 19 NATO allies are bent on widening the role for nuclear weapons in alliance strategy.

Col. Salis reportedly said the alliance needs “equivalent means of deterrence as well as defense against all forms of possible attacks. Since the alliance does not have biological weapons or chemical weapons, it can only threaten by nuclear weapons.” In the Tagesanzeiger report, Mr. Salis also confirms that NATO ambassadors intend to give political approval to NATO’s news strategic doctrine (MC400/2) before May 9.

This contradicts written assurances made to BASIC by the British Foreign Office on April 17. At that time Minister for Europe Keith Vaz said, “NATO has not widened the role of nuclear weapons, either in the new Strategic Concept, or through any language in MC400/2. And I can assure you we remain fully committed to the Negative Security Assurances we give in the context of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], and through the protocols of the Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, to non-nuclear weapons states not in material breach of their nuclear non-proliferation obligations. We have no intention of seeing them diluted.”

The apparent plan to move forward on expanding NATO’s nuclear options under MC 400/2 also contradicts a strongly worded statement made yesterday by the five nuclear weapon states at the ongoing New York conference on the nuclear NPT. Among other things, the statement reaffirmed the nuclear states’ commitment to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.

“How can the world consider the U.S. commitment to disarmament seriously when the United States and its NATO allies are finding new uses for nuclear weapons? The more roles NATO finds for nuclear weapons, the more it provokes proliferation by other countries,” said Daniel Plesch, director of BASIC.

“Widening the role NATO has for nuclear weapons will undermine the nuclear arms policy review that NATO is currently undertaking,” said Otfried Nassauer, director of the Berlin Information Center for Transatlantic Security (BITS). “At a minimum NATO should delay political approval of MC400/2 until after the NATO arms control disarmament and non-proliferation policy review has come to a conclusion, now slated for the end of the year. The new strategy, under no circumstances, should be allowed to constrain the arms control policy review.”

The NATO arms control policy review was initiated following pressure from Canada and Germany at last year’s NATO summit.