WORLD

NATO AT THE CROSSROADS

AT AN ALBERTA SKI RESORT, DEFENCE MINISTERS DISCUSS NEW NUCLEAR STRATEGY FOR A CHANGING ERA

JOHN BIERMAN May 21 1990
WORLD

NATO AT THE CROSSROADS

AT AN ALBERTA SKI RESORT, DEFENCE MINISTERS DISCUSS NEW NUCLEAR STRATEGY FOR A CHANGING ERA

JOHN BIERMAN May 21 1990

NATO AT THE CROSSROADS

WORLD

AT AN ALBERTA SKI RESORT, DEFENCE MINISTERS DISCUSS NEW NUCLEAR STRATEGY FOR A CHANGING ERA

As North Atlantic Treaty Organization defence ministers met in an Alberta ski resort last week to discuss new strategies for the 1990s, some analysts quoted a wry aphorism coined four decades ago by the alliance’s first secretary general, Britain’s Lord Ismay. NATO’s main function, said Ismay, was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” Present-day Europe is vastly changed, with the Warsaw Pact in ruins and the Soviet Union in a nonaggressive posture. But, at least for the moment, there seems to be remarkably little difference in NATO’s aims. Washington and its leading allies are insisting on the maintenance of a credible deterrent to prevent the Kremlin from reverting to confrontation. The European members—and the Americans—are unanimous on the need for a continued U.S. presence in Europe. And NATO is clearly hoping to guarantee the future behavior of a reunited Germany by tying it firmly to the Western alliance.

Still, the alliance has entered a time of enormous transition. Many analysts say that NATO, which grew out of the Cold War, will have to redefine itself to survive the thaw—and some of them openly doubt that it can. But, for two days last week, the ministers of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, meeting at the Kananaskis ski resort,

100 km west of Calgary, were concerned not with grand strategy but with specific matters of military hardware. Apart from a communiqué announcing that the alliance will have to retain a nuclear arsenal of some kind “for the foreseeable future,” they reached no detailed conclusions.

In fact, no decisions are likely to be announced until a NATO summit scheduled for London on July 5 and 6. And

even then, there may be no comprehensive policies to declare, because last week’s discussions foreshadowed a major debate within the alliance on nuclear weapons policy.

For the short term, West Germany and the Netherlands urged the swift removal of nucle-

ar-tipped artillery shells from German soil. But, although the weapons have little use under present circumstances because shells fired from West Germany could only hit targets in friendly East Germany, the Americans appeared reluctant to make the move. For the long term, a larger issue loomed: what kind of nuclear weapons, if any, should replace the nuclear artillery and the 88 outmoded Lance short-range nuclear-missile launchers that Washington has decided not to modernize? President George Bush announced that decision on May 3, bowing to pressure from Congress and the West German government.

Official sources in Washington told Maclean ’s that the U.S. administration itself was divided over the issue of the nuclear artillery.*" Secretary of State James Baker favors the prompt unilateral withdrawal of all the estimated 1,450 nuclear shells in Europe, the sources said, while Defence Secretary Richard Cheney wants to keep them for the time being. The NATO ministers did not refer to the contentious issue in their communiqué. ^

Nor was there any direct reference to the new generation of nuclear weapons that the Bush administration is clearly intent on deploying in Europe by the mid-1990s. Those weapons, now under development and known as TASMs, for tactical air-to-surface missiles, could be launched from fighter aircraft currently in service. They would be capable of hitting targets inside the Soviet Union from a distance of 250 miles. Some smaller NATO members have expressed misgivings about their deployment. They claim that replacing obsolescent ground-launched weapons with air-launched missiles defeats the spirit of East-West arms reduction. As Daniel Plesch, director of the London-based British American Security Information Council, put it, “This is like trading in two handguns for an assault rifle.”

Meanwhile, William Taylor, a senior analyst at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, predicted a long wrangle over TASMs within the alliance. He added, “Airlaunched systems will be the subject of the next big NATO debate.” In Kananaskis, Canadian officials seemed unable or unwilling to play any part in that debate. Defence Minister William McKnight told reporters, “I don’t understand the technicalities.” He added: “The TASM is not a weapon that has been discussed. You jump to conclusions when you say that it has been.” But that statement seemed to contradict a briefing given by a U.S. official who quoted one delegate’s remarks on the subject. Added the official: “This is an issue for the next decade.” Still, McKnight said that, in principle, Canada believes that NATO must maintain its nuclear capability. “We continue to support nuclear weaponry as a deterrent,” he said. For his part, Defence Secretary Cheney made it clear that first use of nuclear weapons to blunt a massive Soviet conventional attack would remain one of NATO’s options. Before the meeting, he declared, “The basic strategy of NATO ought to continue as it has in the past.” He added that Bush’s decision not to update the land-based Lance missile had “no effect” on plans to

develop and deploy the TASM. NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner, who flew from Washington with Che ney, was also emphatic about maintaining a nuclear capabil ity. Said Wörner, who is a former West German de fence minister: "It's unani mously accepted by all mem ber nations that there should be no denuclearization, nei ther of Europe nor of Germafly." At the close of the con ference, Wörner offered a further explanation for NATO's continued reliance on nuclear forces. "We cannot escape the fact," he said, "that the Soviet Union re mains, and will remain, the strongest nuclear and con ventional power in Europe." The Soviets, too, seemed reluctant to abandon nuclear weapons. As the NATO de fence ministers assembled, the Soviet Union marked the 45th anniversary of its vic tory over Nazi Germany with a series of military parades. And as the newest generation of Soviet tanks, tactical mis siles and armored personnel carriers rumbled through Moscow's Red Square, De fence Minister Dmitri Yazov, standing next to President Mikhail Gorbachev, declared

But the Kremlin’s show of strength did not disguise the fact that the Warsaw Pact is disintegrating. The former Soviet satellites in Eastern and Central Europe retain only formal membership in the alliance, and observers say that those nations’ adherence to the pact is increasingly weak. In Hungary’s newly elected parliament last week, the second-largest party, the Alliance of Free Democrats, demanded that the country should withdraw from the pact and declare its neutrality. On the other hand, NATO officials claimed to detect growing signs that the Soviet military, dismayed at its loss of prestige and concerned with the prospect of massive arms cuts, was pressuring Gorbachev to slow down the pace of disarmament. As Secretary General Wömer said at the end of the Kananaskis meeting: “The future is not secure. There are still risks and instability.”

Meanwhile, analysts said, it was clear that NATO will have to settle its internal debate and define a new role for itself. Some European experts claimed that the affiance could not survive without an enemy to confront. Said Samuel Rozemond of the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think-tank: “If the Soviet Union were to withdraw entirely behind its borders and turn democratic, NATO would probably wither on the vine.” Added Rozemond: “It is too confirmed in its ways to adapt to a nonthreatening environment.” But others say that NATO members have the imagination to take on fresh obligations in a changed world. Said Paul Beaver, publisher of London’s authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly. “Newcomers could climb aboard, such as Hungary and Poland.” He added: “NATO’s two best claims to the job of peacekeeper in the new Europe are its past success and the fact that the United States and Canada are members, giving it a strong transatlantic dimension.”

Other organizations seemed likely to play an expanded role in strengthening European security, perhaps in co-operation with NATO. One of those is the 35-nation Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), which includes both Warsaw Pact and NATO members as well as such neutral nations as Sweden, Austria and Finland. The CSCE was set up in 1973 as a forum to bridge the two power blocs, ease tensions and promote human rights. The Soviet Union, with the endorsement of France and West Germany, recently suggested that the CSCE could form the basis of a new European security system. The 12-nation European Community, with headquarters in Brussels, also seems increasingly anxious to play a larger role in ensuring continental security, as does the nine-nation Western European Union. And last week, French President François Mitterrand repeated his call for a special secretariat to deal with relations

between Eastern and Western Europe. Such a secretariat, he said, would discuss “economic and cultural questions [and] start talks on security.”

But the United States clearly remains cautious about diluting NATO’s role—or its own.

Said Baker recently: “We encourage others to enter the picture, as long as their action complements NATO rather than competing with it.” The Americans are plainly anxious to bring home many of their 305,000 troops currently based in Europe, and some analysts predict that the number will decline to about 75,000 by 1995. But even that reduced presence would fulfil one of Lord Ismay’s three considerations—keeping the Americans in Europe. As for keeping the Russians out, the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ William Taylor commented last week that “the Soviets are not going into Europe in any military way.” As for the Germans, added Taylor, “nobody is going to keep them down. Nobody.” It seems that the Ismay doc-

trine may, after all, have to be rephrased.

JOHN BIERMAN

JOHN HOWSE

PETER LEWIS

WILLIAM LOWTHER