Press Release
December 14, 1999

NATO-Russia Nuclear Security Initiative Urged

British, American & German arms control specialists recommend a new NATO-RUSSIA initiative to control nuclear weapons should be proposed by NATO. Joschka Fischer meets with NATO Foreign Ministers Dec 15th to review nuclear arms control and other pressing issues.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder agreed at the April NATO Summit to start a new process on nuclear disarmament (see: Summit Communique, Para. 32: /p99-064e.htm) and Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping reviewed the process this month at NATO's Nuclear Planning Group. Dutch Foreign Minister van Aartsen said last week that a range of nuclear issues should be discussed by NATO.

The arms control specialists point out that nuclear-armed warplanes are among the most dangerous leftovers from the cold war in both NATO countries and Russia. ‘Last week’s nuclear sabre-rattling by Boris Yeltsin and the bad state of NATO-Russia relations needs a new response from NATO. NATO and Russia are still stuck in Cold war mindsets’, said Dan Plesch, Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).

The specialists propose that Russia and NATO substantially increase the level of data exchange on non-strategic nuclear weapons and take the initiative to allow for mutual inspections of nuclear weapons storage sites. Such inspections are already carried out by Russia and America on their strategic missiles. Most states in Europe check each others tanks and other heavy weapons under the recently modernized Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. ‘Information exchange and mutual inspections of nuclear arsenals in Europe is a gap that needs filling’, said Otfried Nassauer, the Director of the Berlin Information Centre for Transatlantic Security in Germany (BITS). ‘NATO is in the position to take the initiative in this field and thus encourage Russia to follow.’

The US has some 200 nuclear bombs deployed on air bases in seven European countries for use by Belgian, Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Turkish and US warplanes ( Russia is concerned about these ‘forward-based systems’, since they can reach Russian territory and thus are an add-on to Western strategic nuclear capabilities. The nuclear-armed Russian Air Force is older than NATO's, but has far more nuclear weapons available. The risk of ‘loose’ nuclear weapons in Russia is a worry to Western leaders. ‘A system of inspections would respond to both sides’ concerns and prepare eliminating these types of weapons by verified disarmament’ said Tom McDonald, an Analyst at BASIC. 'These systems are militarily irrelevant in Europe and even in rogue states there are no targets that one could rationally attack with nuclear weapons.' said Martin Butcher, Senior Visiting Fellow at BASIC.

For more information call BASIC: Dan Plesch/Tom McDonald (+44 171 407 2977) or Martin Butcher (+1 202 785 1266); BITS: Otfried Nassauer Berlin (+49 30 446 8580)