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# 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option

Source:
The Guardian, January 22, 2008
Title: “Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, NATO told”
Author: Ian Traynor

Student Researchers: Stephanie Smith and Sarah Maddox

Faculty Evaluator: Robert McNamara, PhD

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials are considering a first strike nuclear option to be used anywhere in the world a threat may arise. Former armed force chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France, and the Netherlands authored a 150-page blueprint calling for urgent reform of NATO, and a new pact drawing the US, NATO, and the European Union (EU) together in a “grand strategy” to tackle the challenges of an “increasingly brutal world.” The authors of the plan insist that “the first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.” The manifesto was presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to NATO’s secretary general in mid-January 2008. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008.

The authors—General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and NATO’s ex-supreme commander in Europe; General Klaus Naumann, Germany’s former top soldier and ex-chairman of NATO’s military committee; General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff; Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff; and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defense staff in the UK—paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the West in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope. The five commanders argue that the West’s values and way of life are under threat, while the West is struggling to summon the will to defend them.

They claim that the following are key threats:

  • Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism
  • The “dark side” of globalization, meaning international terrorism, organized crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction
  • Climate change and energy insecurity, entailing a contest for resources and potential “environmental” migration on a mass scale
  • The weakening of the nation state as well as of organizations such as the UN, NATO and the EU.

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of NATO decision-making methods, a new “directorate” of US, European, and NATO leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU “obstruction” of, and rivalry with, NATO. Among the most radical changes demanded are the following:

  • A shift from consensus decision-making in NATO bodies to majority voting, resulting in faster action through an end to national vetoes
  • The abolition of national caveats in NATO operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign
  • No role in decision-making on NATO operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations
  • Use of force without UN Security Council authorization when “immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings.”

Reserving the right to initiate nuclear attack was a central element of the West’s Cold War strategy against the Soviet Union. Critics argue that what was once a method used to face down a nuclear superpower is no longer appropriate.

UPDATE BY IAN TRAYNOR

I was the only person to write about this and nothing much has really happened since.