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Loving the bomb: NATO to splurge billions on nuclear weapons overhaul

Published time: May 11, 2012 02:22
Edited time: May 21, 2012 04:29
F-16 fighter jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp (REUTERS/Stringer)

F-16 fighter jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp (REUTERS/Stringer)

The US is planning to spend $4 billion to upgrade NATO’s Western European nuclear arsenal. The “unnecessary and expensive” initiative is likely to stir new animosity with Russia, a report says.

­The alliance is preparing to replace “dumb” free-fall nuclear bombs with new generation of precision-guided nuclear gravity bombs, reveals a report by the European Leaders Network (ELN), a political think tank. The new bombs will also require new delivery aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-35, each costing $100 million.

The report “Escalation by Default? The Future of NATO Nuclear Weapons in Europe” is authored by Ted Seay, a former arms control advisor to the US mission at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. It points to the fact that the upgrade will target such countries as Russia and Iran, who will be the most unlikely to be overjoyed with the prospect.

This will increase NATO’s ability to reach targets in Russia with tactical nuclear weapons,” the paper reads. The initiative comes at a time when NATO and Russia are already “locked in a tense stand-off over missile defense.”

This could alienate Russia in particular and worsen the prospects for further negotiations on non-strategic nuclear weapon reductions in Europe as a whole,” the report states.

A nuclear escalation “by default” would only harm security and safety prospects throughout Europe, and should be avoided, the paper concludes.

Commenting on the research, ELN chief Ian Kearns stressed to The Guardian that Washington’s plans for the upgrade are exorbitant.

The planned upgrade of NATO’s tactical nuclear forces in Europe will be expensive and is unnecessary,” said Kearns. “NATO states are fully secure without this additional capability and should be focused on removing all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, not on modernizing them.

NATO currently possesses around 180 B61 free-fall tactical nuclear bombs stored at bases in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Turkey. The report states that they are increasingly regarded as obsolete.

In the meantime, a US interceptor successfully downed a ballistic missile as part of a military test in Hawaii, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency stated.

The Raytheon Co-Built Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Interceptor is a key component in the anti-missile defense (AMD) shields the United States is due to build in Poland, Romania and Turkey. The SM-3 Interceptor is to be deployed to Romania by 2015 and will also be used aboard ships equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis anti-missile combat system.

Russia has been calling for NATO to give legally-binding guarantees that its AMD system would not target Russia, thereby upsetting the global balance of power. NATO and the United States have so far refused to give such guarantees.

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