NATO to Move Small A-Weapons From Europe : Military: The step has been sought by Germany, where most of the tactical weapons are based.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has decided that all of its tactical nuclear weapons will be removed from Europe.
Formal ratification of the decision may be announced as early as November, when the 16 NATO defense ministers are scheduled to meet in Rome, Secretary General Manfred Woerner said Thursday in Bonn.
NATO officials in Brussels disclosed that eliminating the so-called battlefield nuclear arms will be part of its revised doctrine. The doctrine has been undergoing change since the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact and is now being further revised because of the upheaval in the Soviet Union.
The move has long been called for by Germany, where almost all of NATO’s more than 2,000 nuclear artillery shells, which have a range of about 20 miles, and short-range missiles, with a range of about 60 miles, are based.
Originally, removal of short-range nuclear weapons was meant to be the subject of negotiations between NATO and the Soviet Union--as was the treaty on conventional arms reduction signed last November. But it is now unclear whether the emerging government in Moscow will be capable of such negotiations.
However, a senior American NATO official declared: “It wouldn’t hurt for the U.S. to get out ahead on this issue, since the nuclear weapons are going to be removed eventually anyway. We could just get rid of them--whatever the Soviets do.”
Since the Soviet army has moved out of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and is in the process of doing so in the former East Germany--taking its battlefield nuclear weapons with it--Soviet short-range missiles no longer pose a threat to the West.
The new NATO strategy is being worked out in a series of meetings among top-level planners.
Overall, the new strategy will call for smaller numbers of troops, though more flexible formations, and reduced defense budgets, taking into account the lack of a real threat from a Soviet force crossing the German border.
When the battlefield atomic weapons are removed, the West’s European nuclear deterrent will consist of bombs and missiles carried by aircraft.
Britain and France have their own strategic nuclear weapons, not under the control of NATO.
The coming reductions will also put pressure on the U.S. Congress to scrap plans for a tactical air-to-surface nuclear missile, the funding for which has yet to be approved. U.S. and British military officials favor proceeding with such a missile, but German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher has called for abandoning the expensive weapon on the grounds that America’s strategic nuclear missiles and land-based nuclear bombers are deterrent enough against any possible Soviet attack.
He has been backed by NATO members Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.
French President Francois Mitterrand announced earlier this week that France will not deploy its new Hades short-range nuclear missiles, a program that had upset the Germans because the missiles would have been placed looking eastward, near the German border. Mitterrand said that the 30 missiles being built will be put in storage.
The Kremlin is reported to be considering removing its nuclear missiles from the western Soviet republics of the Ukraine and Byelorussia.
The idea of a greatly reduced nuclear capacity in Europe has been tacitly accepted by Boris N. Yeltsin, president of the Russian Federation, who advocated a nuclear-free Europe, and by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who said recently that the United States is in a position to “address the question” because battlefield nuclear weapons are “practically unnecessary.”
Meanwhile, in Germany, U.S. and NATO forces are conducting annual fall maneuvers in the first test of new multinational, rapid-deployment forces. About 28,000 American, British, German, Belgian, and Dutch troops are carrying out the exercises, while simulating through computers a much greater force of 160,000 troops locked in combat.
As a sign of the times, the intruding force is no longer designated “red” but rather “gold,” and the direction of the attack is from the south rather than the east.
For as British Gen. Peter Inge, commander of NATO’s Northern Army Group, put it: “I would be the first to recognize that the threat of an all-out attack (from the Soviet Union) is no longer credible.”