Reducing the Risk of Nuclear War in Europe Requires Dialogue. This is the overarching conclusion of the latest PISM report “Options for Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures Related to Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Cost-Benefit Matrix”.
The Ukrainian crises highlighted the role nuclear weapons still play in Europe. Russia has conducted a series of nuclear forces exercises, signalling to NATO members that any escalation of tensions could have dramatic consequences. NATO’s nuclear capability, in turn, was emphasized with deployments of U.S. strategic bombers to Europe. Nuclear weapons will always be more or less in the background of future NATO–Russia crises. Threats to use nuclear weapons or actual use resulting from a miscalculation by one side cannot be excluded.
Today’s nuclear threats in Europe could be reduced by NATO and Russia agreement on transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) related to non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, including the exchange of information about the numbers and locations of nuclear warheads, their removal away from NATO–Russia borders and regular joint seminars on nuclear doctrines.
Such agreement, though, when taking into account current tensions in the NATO–Russia relationship, seems impossible in the near future. However, there is a chance that at some point a window of opportunity might open. To fully take advantage of it when it does, there is a need to have in place a list of available TCBM options that could be implemented by both sides.
This PISM report compares TCBM options and shows which ones seem relatively easily acceptable by both NATO and Russia, which are so challenging that they would require unprecedented political will on both sides, but especially by Russia, and which seem unrealistic for the foreseeable future.
The report is based on conclusions from the workshop “Options for Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures Related to Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Cost-Benefit Matrix” organized by PISM with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO RAN).
Authors: Jacek Durkalec and Andrei Zagorski