For some time I have been advocating that our government remove our last nuclear weapons from Europe. One problem though is that it is difficult to determine exactly how many US weapons remain on the continent.
I recently came across this on the blog of the Federation of American Scientists. It is a blog post from July noting that the last US nuclear warheads in the UK have been removed. However, the post notes that the US is doing much of this in secrecy. With those weapons removed, the question now is how many remain? Why the secrecy? As noted by the commenters, NATO is missing a big opening to engage the Russians. And if engaging the Russians is not enough, why not make a big deal about the reductions for PR purposes?
T^he remaining number of US nuclear weapons in Europe is somewhat small and many seem to be housed on allied bases. I assume that those weapons are stationed under the Cold War era agreement between the US and our allies to have nuclear weapons available for them in case of war with Russia. That concern is obsolete, so why keep them there, especially as nuclear weapons require upkeep and security, money that can better be spent addressing other security concerns.
The author of the FAS article wonders if part of the problem is that the US thinks everything involving nuclear weapons must be secret. Yet, with enough digging, he was able from public sources to, with much difficulty, determine the fate of the weapons. I wonder if the real issue is that European governments fear the US is "leaving" Europe. Yes, there are old emotional, military and economic ties between the US and Europe, but since the end of the Cold War, those ties have been fraying. As the United States becomes more Latino and Asian and the history of European immigration becomes a distant memory, I think the US will look to the south and the Pacific, not the Atlantic. And once US forces leave Europe, I doubt they will ever go back there again. For Europeans, that cannot be a good result, as that means they will have to spend more on their security.
Granted, I think it is time we removed the last of our troops there — given that the USSR is no more. I do not see Russia as a threat to the United States, unless we make her one. NATO policy made sense in that the USSR was a threat to the US. It was, however, primarily an ideological treat, so it made sense to say to Europe we have so many troops here that if the Soviets attack, we are in it from the beginning, I have trouble seeing that relevant today.
I hope this will be something the Obama administration will address. He can start by removing the last US warheads from the continent.