Strategic Need Remains For Nukes in Europe

NATO member nations have decided to hold on to the alliance’s deployed nuclear weapons in Europe for the time being, Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, told reporters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 9. There remains a “strategic need and advantage for the alliance to retain those weapons,” he said, noting that there has been “no debate to retrograde them out.” The latter statement was Craddock’s response to a reporter’s question on whether US military officers have been advocating the unilateral withdrawal of US nuclear warheads from the continent. Even the highly regarded Schlesinger nuclear task force noted this attitude with concern in its newly issued phase 2 report, stating that EUCOM believes that “there is no military downside to the unilateral withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Europe.” (Full task force report, caution, large file; see p.59 for reference.) Craddock acknowledged that such views have existed, but emphasized that unilateral decisions are “not the way you do the work in the alliance” and that no members have been pressing to change the status quo. He said, too, he talked to members of the Schlesinger task force a few months ago, noting that he believed that the European allies have made it clear they want the alliance to retain the nuclear capability. Craddock said he is confident that the nuclear weapons in Europe are safe and secure where they are currently housed; the number deployed is “appropriate.” US and NATO routinely assess the strategic situation to ensure that the nuclear posture is aligned with policy, he said.