How Wars of the Future May Be Fought Just to Run the Machines That Fight Them
Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.
Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption.
Such numbers cannot do full justice to the extraordinary gas-guzzling expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, for every soldier stationed "in theater," there are two more in transit, in training, or otherwise in line for eventual deployment to the war zone -- soldiers who also consume enormous amounts of oil, even if less than their compatriots overseas. Moreover, to sustain an "expeditionary" army located halfway around the world, the Department of Defense must move millions of tons of arms, ammunition, food, fuel, and equipment every year by plane or ship, consuming additional tanker-loads of petroleum. Add this to the tally and the Pentagon's war-related oil budget jumps appreciably, though exactly how much we have no real way of knowing.
And foreign wars, sad to say, account for but a small fraction of the Pentagon's total petroleum consumption. Possessing the world's largest fleet of modern aircraft, helicopters, ships, tanks, armored vehicles, and support systems -- virtually all powered by oil -- the Department of Defense (DoD) is, in fact, the world's leading consumer of petroleum. It can be difficult to obtain precise details on the DoD's daily oil hit, but an April 2007 report by a defense contractor, LMI Government Consulting suggests that the Pentagon might consume as much as 340,000 barrels (14 million gallons) every day. This is greater than the total national consumption of Sweden or Switzerland.
Not "Guns v. Butter," but "Guns v. Oil"
For anyone who drives a motor vehicle these days, this has ominous implications. With the price of gasoline now 75 cents to a dollar more than it was just six months ago, it's obvious that the Pentagon is facing a potentially serious budgetary crunch. Just like any ordinary American family, the DoD has to make some hard choices: It can use its normal amount of petroleum and pay more at the Pentagon's equivalent of the pump, while cutting back on other basic expenses; or it can cut back on its gas use in order to protect favored weapons systems under development. Of course, the DoD has a third option: It can go before Congress and plead for yet another supplemental budget hike, but this is sure to provoke renewed calls for a timetable for an American troop withdrawal from Iraq, and so is an unlikely prospect at this time.
The U.S. Armed Forces response isn’t to immediately cut its carbon emissions in order to curb climate change. Rather it is to determine how best to defend against the instability and chaos that climate change may bring to the international community, as well as the threat it poses to U.S. military bases and operations around the globe.
What’s absent is any discussion of the carbon emissions of the U.S. military and plans to change the role that it plays in fueling climate change.
Tamara Lorincz explains:
The U.S. military itself acknowledges that it is the largest institutional consumer of oil.
And the burning of fossil fuels, the burning of petroleum products, oil, is causing the climate crisis. And the U.S. military spends approximately $17 billion on oil, and it needs this oil to fuel its fighter jets, its vehicles, and to power its military bases domestically and internationally. The problem, though, is that the U.S. military emissions and, actually, the military emissions of all countries’ militaries outside their borders are not included in the national greenhouse gas reporting for countries.
A.Woronczuk: Why is that?
Tamara Lorincz: It’s something called international aviation and bunker fuels. This is the fuel that’s used by fighter jets and by warships, for example, outside of state borders. So those military emissions are not included in the national greenhouse gas inventory reporting(*). And the reason why those emissions are not included is because of the lobbying of the United States in the mid-1990s around the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. delegation at the Kyoto negotiations was able to secure an exemption for military emissions, these international aviation and bunker fuels, and it was also able to secure, under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change guidelines, a confidentiality clause so that it actually doesn’t need to report all of its emissions and it doesn’t have to disaggregate its emissions.
So right now, countries need to abide by the UN Framework Convention guidelines on reporting for greenhouse gases in all different types of sectors, so for transportation, for energy, for buildings, etc. But the military is not a separate category, and the military has these exemptions.
It is required to report its energy use in fuel use domestically, but not internationally. And the United States military is operating all over the world, and all of those greenhouse gas emissions that it’s emitting around the world in its wars overseas, in its thousand bases overseas, those emissions are exempt from its reporting.
A.Woronczuk : And I imagine, then, that if all these are exempt from the national tally, that this must have a significant effect on the figures that are used to make things like emission targets.
Tamara Lorincz : Absolutely. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the three working group assessment reports that have just been released over the last ten months, none of those three documents refer to military emissions. And the calculations and the analysis that the IPCC is using, it exempts these emissions. So it’s not a full analysis of the emissions and the projections of the IPCC going forward, the kind of reductions that we need for greenhouse gases. They are not including the military emissions.
So the forward projections for the IPCC are not adequate, because they’re not including a big bulk of the emissions that are coming right now from the military. It’s not just the U.S. military. It’s–all countries’ militaries have these exemptions. And so the kind of reductions that we need to see for the future are even deeper than what the IPCC is saying. We need to–the military needs to be a sector that the IPCC is considering and is considering as it’s part of its decarbonization pathways. And right now it’s not. And it must be, because we will not be on track to stabilize the climate, to limit the increase in global mean temperatures by two degrees if we don’t include the military. The military emissions, if they continue to be exempt, will keep us off track, and we will not be able to stabilize the climate.
A.Woronczuk: Yeah, and this is an important point to make, because from the climate scientists that we’ve interviewed on The Real News, (TRNN), they’ve all–have basically said that the IPCC reports are conservative in nature; but the point being, do you think that this issue of military emissions being left off of the national tallies, do you think it will be brought up at COP 21 summit in Paris
Tamara Lorincz: For the last ten years there’s evidence that nongovernmental organizations, that civil society organizations, have tried to push the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat. They have tried to push the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists to [include] military emissions in the work that they’re doing in the analysis in these 'Conference of the party' negotiations. There has been effort by civil society to get the international community to confront military emissions, but they have not been successful. And we do not expect that at the COP 20 meeting in Peru (2014) or at the COP 21 meeting in Paris, (2015) we do not expect that the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change will put on their official agenda the issue of military emissions. It's going to be up to global civil society to mobilize, to unify together, and to force the Secretariat and to force the IPCC to confront this issue. And State governments must confront this issue. We can no longer allow military emissions to be exempted anymore, because we will never be able to get the stabilization of the climate if we continue with these exemptions.
A Woronczuk: In an imaginary world, let’s say you could advise Chuck Hagel on this matter of the military’s carbon emissions. What policy recommendations would you make to him?
Tamara Lorincz: It was Chuck Hagel as Senator in the mid 1990s that led the Senate campaign to prevent Congress from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. He was working at the time with the defense community, with the foreign affairs community, to kill the Kyoto Protocol for the U.S., in the U.S. has never ratified it. And, actually, even 16 years ago, Hagel in many speeches and in many documents, denied the veracity of the science of climate change. So he has prevented progress from being made on the climate crisis and he has been the one that has undermined efforts to have collaborate internationally on dealing with the climate crisis. (…)
In terms of policy recommendations now, the U.S. government, the international community, has to face the fact that if we are going to be serious about climate change mitigation and adaptation, we must at the same time be serious about peace and disarmament.
We must demilitarize foreign policy, because we will not be able to stay within the carbon budget that has been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We simply are not going to be able to maintain a military, this huge military of the United States and all of these wars, and still protect the climate. It’s just not going to be possible. So, the U.S. government and the Secretary of Defense, if they really are concerned about the climate crisis or if they’re concerned about future generations, they’re going to have to get serious about demilitarization.
Senior researcher with the International Peace Bureau, a Rotary International world peace fellow from 2013 to 2014. She serves on the board of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Extracts from interview with The Real News Network (TRNN) producer Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.
(*) The vast majority, around 75% of DoD’s energy consumption occurs not at facilities but in operations – think hundreds of globetrotting aircraft, ships and vehicles. This very big slice of the military’s energy pie is not subject to DoD’s renewable goals.
The “Green Book on Defence” or Livre Vert de la Défense is a French policy paper on environmental security published in February 2014. The project was directed by Senator Leila Aïchi, Vice President of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Commission of the French Senate.
The paper represents a response to the near complete neglect of environmental security issues in the Livre Blanc de la Défense et la Sécurité Nationale, made public by former French President F. Hollande in April 2013. The “Livre Blanc de la Défense et la Sécurité Nationale” or ‘White Book on Defence and National Security’ is the French equivalent to the U.S. National Security Strategy, setting the general guidelines of national foreign and defence policy. Placing environmental security at the heart of military strategic planning.
The Livre Vert proposes first of all to place environmental security issues at the heart of military planning and defence, as environmental issues are still too often neglected in national security and military strategies. It points to the near complete lack of consideration for environmental security in the 2013 French Livre Blanc, where it occupies only half a page due to the fact that scientific uncertainties remain about the real impact of climate change. This neglect stands in contrast to the approach of other powers, such as the United States, the United Kingdom or Germany. For example, the 2010 U.S. Quadrennial Defence Review devotes an entire section to matters of environmental security.
The Livre Vert underlines that France is lagging behind on environmental security, and proposes several strategies that would allow France to become a model for “green defence”. France would need to create an institution for dialogue and consultation between the defence/military establishment and the environmental party. This could take the form of a ministry entirely devoted to environmental security that would be linked to the ministry of defence, a far-reaching proposal. It also recommends the commissioning of a parliamentary report on how to develop and apply the concept of “green defence” in the context of the French military.
The Livre Vert acknowledges that the concept of environmental security has been developing over the last decade, but argues that other analyses do not go far enough. For instance, even in countries such as the UK and the US where environmental threats are taken more seriously, they are still not an integral part of military reports and school curricula. The Livre Vert proposes both to create specialised “green defence” training in military academies, as well as to systematically integrate a section on environmental security in military strategic planning documents. At the European level, the Livre Vert underlines that the European Security Strategy still does not place environmental security on the same level as issues such as terrorism or cybersecurity, even if more consideration was given in the 2008 update. Thus, it proposes the elaboration of a “Livre Vert Européen de la Défense”, to be written in collaboration between member states, the Commission, the European Parliament and the External Action Service. This would help position environmental security at the heart of the EU’s “Common Security and Defence Policy”.
At the international level, progress has been made with the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution in June 2009 explicitly recognising that climate change has security implications. Nevertheless, the Livre Vert argues that UN institutions still do not take environmental security seriously enough. Many countries continue to consider environmental issues to be economic and social matters, and reject the idea of associating them with international security. Hence, the Livre Vert recommends that France and other EU member states use their influence within the UN system to push for a new resolution by the General Assembly that identifies environmental degradation linked to climate change as one of the main threats to international security Greater use of preventive action to tackle the root causes of environmental degradation.
The Livre Vert focuses on preventive action and diplomacy to forestall environmental conflicts before they emerge. Like many current policy analyses, this policy paper is critical of international interventions post-Cold War, underlining that excessive military action has shown its limits. (cf. Seybolt T. B. (2008), Humanitarian Military Interventions: The Conditions for Success and Failure, Oxford University Press).
As a result, the Livre Vert argues for more diplomacy and preventive action to resolve the root causes of conflicts before they emerge, thus averting the need for intervention later on. This is especially true for environmental threats, whose origins are often linked to conflicts over the sharing of resources, which should be addressed through diplomacy and dialogue.
The Livre Vert outlines several proposals for reinforcing preventive action at the national level.
First, it recommends strengthening Parliamentary oversight over defence. It criticizes current procedures in countries such as France or the United States, where the executive does not need Parliamentary approval for launching a military operation abroad. The Livre Vert argues that this often leads to abuse and lack of transparency, as was the case with the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Stronger Parliamentary supervision over defence would help to contain the risk of unilateral military intervention, reinforcing preventive action and diplomacy. Second, the Livre Vert proposes to create a section entirely devoted to conflict prevention within the ministry for environmental security described above that would work in close cooperation with the Ministry of Defence.
At the European level, the Livre Vert recognises that the European External Action Service (EEAS) has been active in preventive diplomacy. However, it is critical of what it terms insufficient preventive action for environmental crises, arguing that the EU has tended to focus instead on diplomacy for high profile tension points such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iran’s nuclear program. The Livre Vert proposes to create an office entirely dedicated to preventive action for environmental security issues within the EEAS, and relies on the fact that preventive action enjoys a strong legal base in the EU Treaties.32 Moreover, as with the national level, the Livre Vert argues that reinforcing the European Parliament’s powers of oversight over EU external relations can strengthen preventive action. For example, it proposes to transform the current Sub-Committee on Security and Defence into a full standing committee in the European Parliament.
At the international level, the Livre Vert welcomes the progress that has been made over the last two decades in reinforcing preventive action within the UN system, for example the creation in 2005 of a new UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). Nevertheless, it argues that such initiatives are also insufficient because they do not focus enough on issues of environmental security. Thus, the Livre Vert recommends that France, together with other EU member states, submit a resolution to the UN General Assembly for creating new categories under international law such as a “State facing acute environmental challenges” or the notion of “environmental refuge” to reinforce the legal base for global preventive action. Second, it suggests the creation of a specialized U.N. Agency on matters of environmental security (particularly for climate refugees) that would rely on preventive action to address the root causes of environmental problems.
However, it should be noted that the Livre Vert does not rule out the use of force as a last resort if all other options have failed. Preventive action cannot always succeed, and environmental degradation and resource scarcity are likely to enhance tensions that may result in civil or inter-state conflict. The main difference between the Livre Vert and other policy papers is that the strategic focus of “green defence” is on preventive action, whereas it represents just one policy option amongst others in the 2013 French Livre Blanc or the 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy, for example.
5 Key Recommendations to the French government:
Create a Ministry entirely devoted to environmental security.
Create specialised “green defence” training in military academies, and systematically integrate a section on environmental security in military strategic planning.
Reinforce Parliamentary control over foreign military interventions and over matters relating to defence in general.
Create permanent units within national militaries entirely dedicated to and specifically trained for civilian rescue missions in areas hit by natural disasters, both at home and abroad.
Broaden the concept of national security and embrace a transnational, possibly even a supranational, strategic framework, given that climate change is a quintessentially global threat
5 Key Recommendations to the European Union:
Prepare a European “Green Book on Defence” in cooperation between national member states and EU institutions.
Create an office entirely dedicated to preventive action for environmental security issues within the EEAS and transform the current Sub-Committee on Security and Defence (SCSD) into a full standing committee in the European Parliament.
Create a rapid reaction corps fully integrated into the CSDP and specialized in civilian rescue missions following natural disasters, both on the European territory and abroad, fully coordinated and managed by the EEAS.
Over the short run, reinforce bilateral and multilateral cooperation between EU member states on matters of defence, including common training centres for soldiers, a common maritime surveillance policy, closer coordination of air defence and space policies, greater cooperation on cybersecurity, and more integration of European industries and markets for security and military equipment. Such initiatives can later be fully integrated into the CSDP.
Over the long run, environmental threats linked to climate change render it urgent to engage in a “federal leap forward”. This would involve transforming the European External Action Service into a federal European ministry of foreign affairs and defence, placed above national ministries and with the power to set the agenda for the EU as a whole, and creating a federal European army under the authority of the EEAS, capable of being deployed in operations around the world.
A.B. - (extracts of Executive Summary compiled by Arnault Barichella, Research Intern for Senator Leila Aïchi, who also contributed to the drafting of the Livre Vert)
For more than half a century, Israel has maintained a cover of silence and opacity regarding its nuclear program and arsenal, backed up by the threat of severe punishment and persecution for any Israeli (see Mordechai Vanunu) who dares publicly breach the cover. In return for this silence, plus a pledge of restraint on certain nuclear development activities, the United States has reportedly agreed in writing not to pressure Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or get rid of its nuclear arsenal. US policy on Israel also includes its own public silence concerning Israeli nuclear weapons. But this policy should change as a result of a new scientific study of an event that took place nearly 40 years ago, during the Carter Administration. That study makes it virtually certain that the event was an illegal nuclear test. This strengthens previous analyses concluding that Israel likely carried out a nuclear test in violation of US law and the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT). The response to this new study will determine whether the United States and the 'nternational community of nations' are serious about nuclear arms control.
On September 22, 1979, a US Vela satellite, designed to detect clandestine nuclear tests, recorded a “flash” off the coast of South Africa that every nuclear scientist monitoring the satellite’s detectors at the time believed fit the classic description of a nuclear explosion. President Jimmy Carter’s book based on his White House diaries notes that he was immediately informed of the “flash” by his national security team; with the information came speculation that the event was an Israeli nuclear test at sea, with South African participation. Corroborative data from different sources was immediately sought and analyzed, but much of that data and analysis has remained classified to date (nearly 40 years later), despite attempts to get the government to remove the classification. Independent scientific studies of the event have reinforced the growing circumstantial evidence that the Vela event was an atmospheric nuclear test, and that Israel was the perpetrator, with possible assistance from apartheid South Africa’s navy. The US government’s position, held to this day, was to neither admit nor deny that a test took place. A panel of scientists carefully selected by the Carter White House produced a report in 1980 that did not rule out a test, but said the probability of its being something other than a test was more likely. That conclusion is now derided by nearly all independent observers who have studied and reported on the issue.
Important new and dispositive evidence that the “flash” was a nuclear test has been added recently by two respected scientists, Christopher Wright of the Australian Defense Force Academy and Lars-Eric De Geer of the Swedish Defense Research Agency (Ret.), writing in the journal Science & Global Security
Using data first gathered by Distinguished Professor Lester VanMiddlesworth of the University of Tennessee on radioactivity found in the thyroids of sheep in Australia within the time period following the “flash,” plus meteorological data from the time and some radionuclide and hydro-acoustic data released by the US government, Wright and De Geer have produced an analysis of the Vela event that removes virtually all doubt that the “flash” was a nuclear explosion. The explosion was one of small yield, perhaps to simulate the result of firing a nuclear artillery shell. Wright and De Geer do not speculate on who might have performed the test. But none of the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS) would feel the need to perform a small clandestine test of that kind. Similarly, in 1979, neither India nor Pakistan nor South Africa had nuclear development and logistics capabilities at a stage where a nuclear test of that kind in that area was feasible for them. Israel was the only country that had the technical ability and policy motivation to carry out such a clandestine test, which, according to some sources, was the last of several and was detected by the Vela satellite because of a sudden change in cloud cover.
The new study by Wright and De Geer should receive wide attention because it provides a test of the commitment by the international community to nuclear arms control and nonproliferation norms. While a comprehensive nuclear test ban is yet to be achieved, the nations of the world did manage to put in place an extremely important arms control, non-proliferation, and environmental protection measure called The Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT). This treaty, which went into force in 1963, bans nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water, thus rendering legal only those nuclear tests performed underground. Israel signed the treaty in 1963 and ratified it in 1964. The Israeli nuclear test puts Israel in violation of the PTBT, which has been signed by 108 countries, including all the officially recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS) plus India, Pakistan, and Iran. Israel would also be in violation of the Glenn Amendment to the Arms Export Control Act, a US law passed in 1977, requiring the cut-off of military assistance to any country setting off a nuclear explosion. The President can waive the sanction, but he has to face the issue.
In the meantime, what should be a consequence of the flagrant violation of the Partial Test Ban Treaty?
At a time when public demands for nuclear transparency are loudly and justifiably trumpeted toward Iran and North Korea, which are pariahs in many Western eyes, it is illogical at best and hypocritical at worst for the world, and particularly the United States, to maintain public silence on Israel’s nuclear program, especially in the face of a violation of an important nuclear norm. For the sake of future progress on arms control, on steps to reduce nuclear risk, and on honest public as well as private communication among governments and their constituents to achieve such progress, it is time to end an existing double standard that has allowed Israel to escape accountability for developing advanced nuclear weapons by violating a major international treaty.
By Leonard Weiss
August 3, 2018
Since 2016, the question of strategic autonomy for the European Union has become unavoidable and faces its first credibility test with the debate on the modernisation of NATO's nuclear deterrent. Will this system be replaced by Franco-German cooperation? Or will it be strengthened to the benefit of NATO and the United States? This article examines the issues in this strategic debate and imagines some possible outcomes. In doing so, it outlines a European strategy for nuclear de-escalation, something which remains an important milestone on the way to the de-nuclearisation of the continent.
In June 2016, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, presented an outline for “European strategic autonomy” as the cornerstone of the EU’s global strategy. French president Emmanuel Macron repeated this idea in his speech on the future of Europe at the Sorbonne University in 2017 A consensus seems to be forming: Europe must defend itself with its own means and use its own diplomacy to negotiate and bring influence to bear on the arms race. It is no longer enough to rely on its economic and soft power. Public opinion seems to back this approach. According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted by the European Commission, between 60% and 80% of citizens believe that the EU should decide its foreign policy independently from the United States. The building of a Europe of defence, presented as a counterweight to indifference in Washington, carries risk: the resurgence of a particular kind of European militarism. In this context, what role do nuclear weapons have to play in the EU’s global strategy? The United States is planning on modernising or withdrawing the nuclear sharing system that has been in place on European soil since the Cold War. While this system has underpinned the credibility of the American nuclear deterrent since 1957, a debate has been raging since last year on whether it should be maintained or replaced by European cooperation in nuclear defence. The Franco-German axis would be a strong candidate for taking on this heavy burden, currently borne by NATO. Key to the future of Europe and its shared defence, the issues surrounding nuclear deterrence must be publicly debated. Under certain conditions, the idea of European nuclear deterrence could provide real diplomatic leverage for a European nuclear de-escalation strategy.
NATO’s conditional commitment in continental Europe
The modernisation of NATO’s posture on the continent will be the subject of fierce debate in coming months. The vagueness of Washington’s intentions reflect the ambivalence of a president who has been openly anti-NATO from the outset. Proposals for escalation rather than withdrawal are on the agenda for the next NATO summit, the 28th of its kind, due to take place in Brussels in July 2018. If the United States and NATO were to reduce their stockpile of nuclear weapons pre-positioned on European soil, the EU would have to decide how and with what means it would achieve strategic autonomy. In this scenario, the question of nuclear deterrence is crucial. The United States, which extolled the virtues of sharing both nuclear and conventional weapons, as well as scientific knowledge, to lend credibility to their nuclear umbrella in the 1950s, is now proposing protection of variable geometry. By suggesting during his presidential campaign that only members who pay will be defended by America, Donald Trump turned the idea of “unconditional” political alliance into something “purely transactional”, rendering the guarantee of American protection “insecure and revocable”, as François Heisbourg recently observed. This reconfiguration of NATO with “reduced commitment” comes as the Europhile vision for more Europe founders, nationalism returns and Europeans struggle to agree a shared strategy.
Europe divided on strategic autonomy
There is no consensus among the 27 on the best way to position the EU in relation to NATO or the best way to share defence and security resources, with nuclear weapons chief among these. There are competing visions across the European politico-military landscape. There is the vision held by the neutral states - Sweden, Ireland and Austria - who want European defence to be based on “civilian crisis management” and “conflict prevention” with the idea that this job can be performed by the UN with the support of the EU. Italy and Spain (and perhaps Portugal) see things differently. They have a sort of dual loyalty to both NATO and the EU. The leaders of the Baltic states have no objections to the NATOisation of Europe, as underlined by Estonia’s defence minister Jüri Luik at the Munich Security Conference: “NATO and the transatlantic Alliance is the crucial deterrent which keeps Europe safe. We would have never worked with those projects [PESCO or the European Defence Fund] if we would have believed that they would, in any way, step over NATO or kind of copy what NATO is doing.”
Poland, the only European country willing to talk about nuclear deterrence with Paris, is another Atlanticist. Greece’s ruling class look favourably upon the idea of a European nuclear deterrent in light of the withdrawal of B-61 bombs from their soil and ongoing negotiations for further withdrawals. The situation in France is again different. National strategic autonomy has been somewhat weakened since Paris rejoined NATO’s integrated military command in March 2009. France decided not to rejoin NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), but in signing the Lancaster House Treaties in 2010, allied itself with the United Kingdom to ensure the country does not find itself isolated as it modernises weapons systems. But these treaties were met with suspicion in some European capitals, particularly Berlin and Rome, who saw them as an exclusive Franco-British affair. And in this context, Germany merits particular attention.
The Eurobomb and the German dilemma
Last year saw the lifting of the taboo surrounding the Eurobomb, an idea first conceived in 1950’s West Germany around the time Franz Joseph Strauss was appointed defence minister in 1956. In an article published recently in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Felix Wimmer envisaged three scenarios for European nuclear deterrence if the United States were to no longer guarantee nuclear protection for their allies. The first option would be to base this on the French and British deterrents. For the reasons cited above, this Franco-British arrangement would be unacceptable for states like Germany, Italy and Poland. The second option is the proposal advocated by Roderich Kieswetter, the CDU Bundestag member and former Bundeswehr general staff officer. He has openly called for a German military nuclear programme, pointing out that German technological and scientific assistance was key to France’s acquisition of the hydrogen bomb in 1961. However, this option (aimed at Trump and his entourage) has little chance of going anywhere given opposition from the armed forces, public opinion (over 80% of Germans oppose US nuclear weapons on their soil) and the international community (a casus belli for Moscow, as reiterated in 1992). Last but not least, the third scenario imagined by Felix Wimmer is “the most likely”. In it, Germany would contribute to the French air force. These air-to-ground missiles would replace U.S. nuclear warheads stockpiled in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. Their number (fifty or so) is dwarfed by Russia’s 2,000-3,000 tactical nuclear weapons, but it’s not necessarily a question of parity at this stage. Although a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, (NPT), Germany is entitled to participate in its neighbours’ nuclear weapons programmes through technical cooperation or financial support, as a Bundestag report published in April 2017 reaffirms.
What about France?
Are French strategists prepared to share their nuclear weapons with their German counterparts? This question has long been settled. The socialist party, including president François Mitterrand, has envisaged just this since the 1990s, taking up a Gaullist idea. Tying the 'force de frappe' to Europe is therefore a return to its roots; it means boosting France’s prestige, gambling on renewed military leadership despite economic weakness and counting on real German partnership. It means realising the neo-Gaullist concept of Alain Juppé who, as prime minister in 1995, advocated the merits of a “joint” or “shared” deterrent (dissuasion concertée). It is no longer a question of to modernise or not to modernise: France no longer has a choice. To prevent its nuclear deterrent from becoming obsolete, to answer critics (who say it’s a “Cold War relic”, a “new Maginot Line” etc.) and to lend credibility to a programme that began in the 1950s, extending and Europeanising the French nuclear umbrella seems the only solution.
A European strategy for nuclear de-escalation
In the current arms race, modernising NATO’s nuclear deterrent risks dragging Europe into a new military escalation with Russia. To avoid such a scenario, it is vital to properly assess the issues in this crucial debate, and not to abandon the use of diplomacy to encourage nuclear de-escalation at a time of enormous uncertainty surrounding the future of the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes. The European Union must also play a greater role in diplomatic efforts towards disarmament, especially at the UN, by putting forward a timetable and initiatives for preventive disarmament. It must speak with a single voice in forums like the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to give fresh impetus to a process that would not just focus on nuclear disarmament. On the question of nuclear deterrence, which the EU has somewhat neglected since Javier Solana was High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy prior to the Treaty of Lisbon coming into force, the 27 could also adopt the Danish stance, in other words, refuse to have any nuclear weapons (American or Franco-German) on its soil. The EU has the opportunity to revive the idea of a gradual denuclearisation of Europe, one that can be traced back to the 1957 Rapacki Plan. The EU could, for example, “Europeanise” the stances of Denmark (excluding Greenland) and Norway, countries who do not allow the presence of nuclear weapons on their territory in peacetime. Finally, as part of negotiations on the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the EU could propose the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from all European states who do not possess them in their own right, knowing that, with or without Trump, the strategic umbrella cannot depend on an outside power, even if it was benevolent in 1945. It would also be desirable to accelerate the process of withdrawing American nuclear warheads from Kleine-Brogel Air Base in Belgium and Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands as a prelude to doing the same in Germany, something that the vast majority of Germans want. So, while new B-61 bombs may be necessary, it is unreasonable to expect Europeans to rule out a Europe-wide approach to security and for decisions to be taken exclusively by the holders of these weapons rather than those who pay for their storage and upkeep.
These measures are an outline for a European strategy for nuclear de-escalation that could soften, or even replace, the NATO strategy of nuclear deterrence. The replacement of the American nuclear umbrella by Franco-German or even European cooperation must be seen as a diplomatic lever for pushing Russia and the United States to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons pre-positioned in Europe. This strategy of preventive denuclearisation had first been sketched out at the beginning of the Cold War, in the Rapacki Plan to prevent the nuclearisation of Central Europe. In our current arms race, we urgently need a plan for nuclear de-escalation in Europe. The debate on nuclear deterrent modernisation is another credibility test for the European Union’s strategic autonomy, if this is to be judged by a world free of nuclear weapons.
B.C. and Félix Blanc, in Green European Journal, July 2018