Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2012

Looking Beyond the Chicago Summit: Nuclear Weapons in Europe and the Future of NATO

George Perkovich, Malcolm Chalmers, Steven Pifer, Paul Schulte, Jaclyn Tandler

April 2012

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet for a summit in Chicago this May to conclude their Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR), which was intended to be a vehicle for resolving key questions about the future role of nuclear weapons in NATO policy. However, NATO is unlikely to resolve the question of what to do about its forward deployed nuclear weapons before the summit. The Alliance’s 28 member states fall along a diverse spectrum of views on these nuclear weapons, with some advocating complete disarmament and other, more vulnerable states seeking to retain these weapons indefinitely for reassurance purposes. Currently, five European countries—Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Turkey—base U.S. B61 bombs on their territory and some have dual-capable aircraft that can deliver these weapons. But it is possible that some NATO allies may choose to abandon their nuclear role as they make decisions regarding successor aircraft for their own air forces. While NATO can extend the status quo for now, it cannot put off resolving its defense and deterrence dilemmas without undermining Alliance confidence and cohesion.