Should Europe be a “nuclear-free zone”? Other continents have managed it, including Latin America and Africa (with South Africa being the only country to have successfully built a nuclear bomb before scrapping their arsenal completely). Despite domestic political grumbles, the United Kingdom and France both remain nuclear powers, whilst Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all participate in the NATO policy of nuclear weapons sharing with the United States.
But, with the end of the Cold War, is there still a reason for European states to cling to their thermonuclear toys? Or do worsening relations with Russia (not to mention North Korea joining the nuclear club, and Iran on its way) provide reason enough to retain a nuclear deterrence?
One of our commenters, Alex from Germany, said he would like to see his country withdraw from NATO and build its own nuclear arsenal. He hopes the future Germany might resemble a nuclear-armed “big Switzerland, independent and neutral” . It’s an unconventional (and unlikely) vision, to be sure, but does anybody really know what the future holds for nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War order?
We recently had this question sent in from Wouter:
What will the role of nuclear weapons be in the future? How is NATO going to defend against nuclear arms? [And] how far can a nuclear threat influence major crisis (like the crisis in the Ukraine right now) and limit the possibilities of conventional warfare today?
During the Security & Defence Agenda’s Annual Conference “Overhauling Transatlantic Security Thinking”, we spoke to Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General of NATO, and asked him to respond:
We also had the chance to put the same question to Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, former NATO Secretary General (2004-2009). What did he think the future held for nuclear weapons?
With the end of the Cold War, is there still a reason for European states to have nuclear weapons? What will the role of nuclear weapons be in the future? And should Europe be a “nuclear-free zone”? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.