Ecumenicals Urge NATO to Withdraw US Nukes from Europe

A group of ecumenical councils have re-emphasized their call to NATO to remove the US's remaining 150 to 200 nuclear weapons from their locations in Europe, calling them remnants of the Cold War era and a hindrance to NATO's credibility towards non-proliferation.

"These former 'battlefield nuclear weapons' are remnants of Cold War strategies, when Europe was considered the battlefield. We maintain that, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, NATO should rethink deterrence and security cooperation in Europe and decrease its reliance on nuclear weapons," reads a letter from the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) in the USA and the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC).

The groups further noted that by removing the weapons, NATO would enhance the credibility of its arms control policy in three ways: by reducing the number of countries in the world with nuclear weaponry, clearing up doubts about the group's compliance with the UN's Non-Proliferation Treaty, and denying other countries the opportunity to use deterrence as a rationale to acquire nuclear weapons.

"By withdrawing these tactical nuclear weapons from Europe NATO is contributing concretely to nuclear arms control," they said.

The councils, which represent over 560 million Christians worldwide, have been advocating for the removal of the weapons since April 2009 when they sent an initial letter to NATO urging them to endorse a vision of a "world free of nuclear weapons" in its new Strategic Concept.

Following the adoption of the Strategic Concept in November 2010, the councils say that they "cannot be but disappointed by its nuclear paragraphs."

"The Strategic Concept provides no indication of whether NATO's existing nuclear sharing policy for tactical nuclear weapons will change, as we and many others have advocated," the groups wrote.

The groups further suggested that NATO look to the US's Nuclear Posture Review as an example as they continue to deliberate the details of their nuclear policy during the Defence and Deterrence Review, which will last for a year.

"This would mean that NATO 'will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations,'" they said. "We welcome that the new Strategic Concept provides an opening for this change, as compared with the previous Strategic Concepts of 1991 and 1999, NATO's declaratory policy in the 2010 text no longer includes the purpose of its nuclear weapons as 'to prevent (…) any kind of war.'"

Furthermore, the councils suggested that NATO reduce its overall reliance on nuclear weapons, eliminate weapon sharing among the alliance, de-link its nuclear policy decisions from the policies of Russia, and to "live up to their current commitments to non-proliferation."

"NATO's new nuclear policy should fully comply with the commitment by all NATO member states at the 2010 NPT Review Conference 'to pursue policies that are fully compatible with the Treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons,'" the groups said.

"NATO and its Member States should seize the opportunity of the Defence and Deterrence Review in 2011 to take bold steps and end the anachronistic policy of nuclear sharing including the deployment of U.S. [Tactical Nuclear Weapons] in Europe," they said.

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