NATO to give up deployment of land-based nuclear weapons in Europe

An official statement is expected after the meeting on Monday

Photo: EPA

NATO members are preparing to formally oppose the alliance's deployment of ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe following US President Joe Biden's meeting with fellow heads of state on 14 June in Brussels, Defense News reported on Saturday.

The outlet, citing an undisclosed US Senate aide and one European source, states that the position echoes previous comments made by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and is set out in a draft communique to be released following the NATO summit. According to the report, the decision is considered as a possible mechanism to de-escalate tensions with Russia and kick-start an arms control debate ahead of the 16 June US-Russia meeting in Geneva.

Should the ban on ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe become official, Biden, whose approval is required for the communiqué, would likely garner acclaim from arms control activists but pushback from nuclear weapons race advocates back home, as several US officials reportedly have expressed concerns over the possible move.

The issue has been an open question since Russia deployed land-based SSC-8 missiles, which the US said violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That in turn prompted then-President Donald Trump’s 2019 withdrawal from the INF Treaty. Russia, however, denied the accusations, assuring that their actions were in full coordination with the treaty, and pointed out that the US itself had broken the agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin later announced a new initiative to resolve the situation with the growing tensions in Europe after the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. In particular, he said that Moscow is voluntarily ready to refrain from deploying its 9M729 missiles on the European part of the Russian Federation, but subject to reciprocal steps from NATO. He also suggested cross-inspections of the Aegis Ashore complexes with Mk-41 launchers at US and NATO bases in Europe and the 9M729 missiles located in Kaliningrad, Russia.

In other news, at the NATO meeting, US President Joe Biden and his counterparts from the alliance are also set to bid a symbolic farewell to Afghanistan in their last summit before America winds up its longest “forever war” and the US military pulls out for good. The meeting is bound to renew questions about whether NATO’s most ambitious operation ever was worth it, AP outlines.

The 18-year effort cost the United States alone $2.26trn, and the price in lives includes 2,442 American troops and 1,144 personnel among uS allies, according to figures from Brown University. NATO does not keep a record of those who die in its operations.

Those casualty figures, however, dwarf Afghan losses, which include more than 47,000 civilians, up to 69,000 members of the national armed forces and police, and over 51,000 opposition fighters.

Also, when NATO took charge of international security operations in 2003, Afghanistan was its first major mission outside Europe and North America. The aim was to stabilise the government, build up local security forces and remove a potential base for extremist groups. Yet, 18 years later, security is at its lowest ebb for most Afghans. The capital is rife with criminal gangs, many linked to powerful warlords, and there are routine attacks by an upstart Islamic State.

Now, with the US leading the withdrawal, European allies and Canada want to hear Biden’s thinking about how security will be assured at their embassies, along major transport routes and above all at Kabul’s airport. Many wonder whether the Afghan government can survive a resurgent Taliban. Some think Kabul’s capitulation is only a matter of time.

“We are currently in intense discussions with our member states, the United States, NATO and the United Nations on the absence of essential security conditions for our continued diplomatic presence. It will be difficult to keep it” in place, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

For now, NATO plans to leave civilian advisers to help build up government institutions, but it’s unclear who will protect them. The 30-nation alliance is also weighing whether to train Afghan special forces outside the country. As an organisation, NATO will not provide sanctuary for Afghans who worked alongside its forces - routinely risking their lives - although a few individual members will. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says it’s simply time to leave.

“Afghanistan has come a long way, both when it comes to building strong, capable security forces, but also when it comes to social and economic progress,” he told The Associated Press. “At some stage, it has to be the Afghans that take full responsibility for peace and stability in their own country.”

Few Afghans share that assessment of their country, which has a 54% poverty rate, runaway crime, rampant corruption and an illicit economy that outstrips the legal economy.

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