NATO and Nuclear Expansion into Eastern Europe

putin tactical nuclear weapons

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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A recent speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg regarding Europe's nuclear defense posture has raised eyebrows in Russia.  Let's look at some of the details from the speech highlighting what NATO believes are threats from both Russia and China.

Let's start with some background.  Here is a map showing the former eastern block nations of the former Soviet Union:

Nuclear Expansion into Eastern Europe,nato

As you can see, the heart of the Soviet Union was protected by a significant number of nations along its western flank.  This was important to the leadership of the U.S.S.R. because the nation was invaded from the west through Poland and Romania as shown on this map:

Nuclear Expansion into Eastern Europe,nato

Here is a current map showing the current NATO member states:

Nuclear Expansion into Eastern Europe,nato

Other than Belarus and the Ukraine, the Russian heartland is far more vulnerable to invasion from Europe than it was in the years after the Second World War.

With that background, let's look at some highlights from Stoltenberg's speech.  

"In an increasingly dangerous and competitive world, this commitment (to NATO) is as important as ever.

Today we face many different challenges.

Russia carries out aggressive actions. It interferes in other countries' affairs.

It has invested significantly in military capabilities, including new, advanced nuclear weapons.

And Russia continues its massive military build-up, as we see now around the borders of Ukraine. And it has shown a willingness to use military force against its neighbours."

It's a good thing that Washington never interferes in other nations' affairs, isn't it?

Here is his solution to the "Russia problem" noting the use of the words "eastern Allies" which refers to the former Warsaw Pact nations of the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria as members:

"Our aim is a world free of nuclear weapons.

But as long as others have them, NATO must have them too.

The nuclear weapons we share in NATO provide European Allies with an effective nuclear umbrella.

This,of course, also includes our eastern Allies.

And they are an important signal of Allied unity against any nuclear-armed adversary.

So NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements are of particular importance for Europe."

As it stands now, the United States has "nuclear-sharing arrangements" with a number of European NATO member nations.  These nations have dual-capable aircraft which are dedicated to the delivery of these U.S-owned nuclear weapons which remain in U.S. custody at all times.  According to Arms Control Center, there are the following nuclear weapons in the NATO member states which do not have their own nuclear programs:

"The United States and its NATO allies do not disclose exact figures for its European-deployed stockpiles. In 2021, it is estimated that there are 100 U.S.-owned nuclear weapons stored in five NATO member states across six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel Air Base in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi Air Bases in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands, and Incirlik in Turkey. The weapons are not armed or deployed on aircraft; they are instead kept in WS3 underground vaults in national airbases, and the Permissive Action Link (PAL) codes used to arm them remain in American hands. To be used, the bombs would be loaded onto dual-capable NATO-designated fighters. Each country is in the process of modernizing its nuclear-capable fighters to either the F-35A, the F-18 Super Hornet, or the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Obviously, the Russians are concerned about any nuclear weapons ending up in former Warsaw Pact nations along its western edge.  In fact, here's Russia's response through state-owned RT:

Nuclear Expansion into Eastern Europe,nato

Just in case you thought that one of the world's "greatest threats" was not receiving any attention from NATO since it is not located in the North Atlantic, here is what Stoltenberg had to say about China:

"Meanwhile, China is using its might to coerce other countries and control its own people. It is investing heavily in new technologies, like hypersonic glide vehicles. Expanding its global economic and military footprint in Africa, in the Arctic and in cyber-space.

And China is suppressing democracy and human rights at home. We don’t regard China as an adversary but we need to take into account the consequences for our security, the rise of China."

Isn't it interesting to see that NATO is even looking to the Far East for yet another threat to its existence?

Since NATO is largely an offshoot of American hegemony, one has to wonder how many fronts (i.e. China, Iran etcetera) Washington thinks that it can wage war at one time?  With the hard lessons taught by the U.S. experience in Afghanistan barely in the rearview mirror, the Biden Administration should be doing what it can to prevent the United States from entering yet another losing proposition.  After all, there are no winners in a nuclear exchange.

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