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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 11, December 1996

NATO insists it has 'no plans' for nuclear expansion

At meetings of its Foreign and Defence Ministers in early December (see Documents and Sources for details and texts of communiqués), NATO committed itself in perhaps the clearest way yet to not deploying nuclear weapons on the territory of any new Member State. However, no change of policy appeared to be signalled: the Alliance's self-proclaimed right to consider such a deployment, if strategic circumstances are seen to shift, remains.

NATO's position was summarised succinctly by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking at the Alliance's Headquarters in Brussels on 10 December:

"We are declaring that in today's Europe NATO has no intention, no plan and no need to station nuclear weapons on the territory of any new members."

Christopher added that "no NATO nuclear forces are presently on alert."

Christopher was referring to the key phrase in the Foreign Ministers' communique of 10 December:

"Enlarging the Alliance will not require a change in NATO's current nuclear posture and, therefore, NATO countries have no intention, no plan, and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members...and we do not foresee any future need to do so."

Similarly strong wording had been used by US Defense Secretary William Perry in Washington on 4 December:

"I think NATO can and should make a very direct statement; 'We have no plans to expand the nuclear base in NATO and no need to expand the nuclear base in NATO.'"

In Moscow on 10 December, President Yeltsin's Press Secretary, Sergei Yastrzhebsky, made clear that Russia would continue to oppose NATO expansion, regardless of this major attempt to reassure it as to the possible nuclear consequences:

"Russia's position on this issue remains firm and rather tough... We think there are no arguments supporting NATO's eastward expansion. It is a step which would lead only to negative consequences..."

On 9 December, reacting specifically to Perry's remarks, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vladimir Andreyev maintained that "such a declaration will only be an intention, [and] that is inadequate."

Canada's Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, conceded on 10 December that "we cannot guarantee that Russia will accept enlargement," but was adamant that "we have to satisfy ourselves we have taken every reasonable step to address its concerns."

Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister, speaking in Kiev on 10 December, gave a qualified welcome Christopher's remarks:

"We are very satisfied. The American decision is the biggest owner of nuclear arms... But at the same time we would prefer a much more formal answer from all of NATO. It's very important that such a pledge would be strictly followed."

NATO's assertions singularly unimpressed former senior Warsaw Pact General Miroslav Vacek, who was also Defence Minister of Czechoslovakia at the time of its dissolution in 1993. Vacek, currently a Communist Member of the Czech Parliament, stated in Prague on 12 December:

"This proclamation cannot change our opinions about NATO... If NATO creates infrastructure necessary for the transfer of these weapons in crisis situations, then their deployment on the territory of new members can be done in just several hours... Those who allow such a deployment must be aware that right after their deployment, whenever it is done, these installations will become first-strike targets to be destroyed."

Reports: Washington to make concessions to Moscow, not Paris, at NATO, Agence France-Presse International News, 9 December; NATO woos Russia with nuclear pledge over enlargement, Agence France-Presse International News, 10 December; NATO rules out deployment of nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, Agence France-Presse International News, 10 December; Christopher vows no NATO nuclear bases in East Europe, Agence France-Presse International News, 10 December; Kiev welcomes US vow of no nuclear weapons in East, Reuter News Reports, 10 December; Russia stands firm against NATO enlargement plans, Reuter News Reports, 10 December; US vows no NATO nuclear weapons in East, Reuter News Reports, 10 December; Czech Communists dismiss NATO nuclear gesture, Reuter News Reports, 12 December.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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