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by Sergey Duz
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Mar 07, 2013
It sounds like the US is ready to cut the number of its battlefield nuclear weapons on condition that Russia takes similar steps. The total number of US battlefield nuclear warheads is estimated at about 760 units. Of this number 150-250 units are deployed on the US air bases in Europe and Turkey, while the rest are kept in the US.
Russia's battlefield nuclear warheads potential according to estimates of different experts, is much bigger. However Americans are in a more advantageous position because they have their tactical forces deployed near the Russian borders while Russia holds all its weapons on its territory and therefore these weapons do not threaten the US' national security.
Moscow has been concerned about this obvious misbalance for a long time. the Soviet Union pointed to that problem already in the 1950-s when Europe made its first attempt to build a collective security system on the continent.
Russia's concerns grew with the withdrawal of Soviet battlefield nuclear weapons from the former member states of the Warsaw pact and the former Soviet republics after the break-up of the USSR. By now the US and Russia have failed to reach a concrete agreement on this issue.
Recently, US Department of State's Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller said that cutting the number of battlefield nuclear weapons on mutual basis with Russia had been the long time goal of Obama's administration. She said that the US Senate had confirmed this intention when it ratified the strategic arms reduction treaty the US and Russia signed in 2010. She said Washington was interested in starting talks with Moscow on this issue. We hear from Fydor Lukyanov, Chief Editor of the Russia in Global politics magazine.
"Strictly speaking, for NATO and the US the issue of battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe is not crucial. It is not clear why the US needs these weapons in Europe except for fixing its presence there. Will there be a nuclear war in Europe? - Of course there won't be. It could not have been there before either."
But for Russia the situation is absolutely different. We are not getting ready for a war in Europe, but Russia's nuclear potential is a hint to China. It is a matter of balance and deterrent. When we spoke about strategic missiles it did not go beyond the ABM issue. But here we have a new component. I think that Russia will say "no" to the proposal of Rose Gottemoeller.
It should be noted that the very fact of the presence of US battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe already violates the agreement on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Under this agreement nuclear powers are banned from the deployment of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear states. In their turn non-nuclear countries are banned from receiving such weapons directly or indirectly on their territories. The fact that US weapons are deployed on the territory of member-states of this treaty such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Turkey contradicts this provision.
After the end of the Cold War the presence of US battlefield weapons in Europe has mainly had a political meaning. It is a kind of manifestation of the US commitment to the guarantees it granted to its allies in NATO. Meanwhile Russia's battlefield nuclear arsenal plays the role of deterrent with regard to those countries which are superior to Russia in the number of conventional forces. If Russia should cut its battlefield nuclear arsenal it must be done together with other measures on increasing mutual trust between the countries. Such measures should include partial liquidation of intercontinental missiles with conventional warheads. In any case such measures must be aimed at reducing the strategic military threat from the West.
Source: Voice of Russia
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