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Joint Op-Ed in International Herald Tribune by Carl Bildt - Foreign Minister of Sweden - and Radek Sikorski - Foreign Minister of Poland, "Next, the Tactical Nukes", 2 February 2010

We hope that we will very soon have reason to welcome a new agreement between the United States and Russia on further reductions of strategic nuclear weapons. It makes no sense for either country to spend billions on weapons systems of such radically diminishing strategic utility.

But as we look forward toward welcoming such an agreement, we simultaneously call for early progress on steep reductions in sub-strategic nuclear weapons — in Europe often referred to as tactical weapons.

While the strategic nuclear weapons are seen as a mutual threat by the United States and Russia, nations like ours — Sweden and Poland — could have stronger reason to be concerned with the large number of these tactical nuclear weapons.

Most of the active sub-strategic nuclear weapons in the world today seem to be deployed in Europe in theoretical preparation for conflict in our part of the world.

The actual numbers are obviously closely held secrets. A recent report by the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament indicates that the United States possesses approximately 500 active warheads — of which approximately 200 are said to be stored in Western Europe; Russia holds around 2,000 warheads, the vast majority in the western part of the country.

Although this is a sharp decline from the height of the Cold War — when the United States held approximately 8,000 tactical nuclear warheads, and the Russians approximately 23,000 — the numbers are still substantial. The focus now must be on deep reductions and their eventual elimination. One also has to keep in mind that according to other sources current stockpiles of tactical nuclear arms are even greater.

As part of efforts to further reduce nuclear weapons in general, as well as to build confidence in a better order of security in Europe, we today call on the leaders of the United States and Russia to commit themselves to early measures to greatly reduce so-called tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. These measures could be the result of negotiations, but there is also room for substantial unilateral confidence building efforts.

We understand that Russia is a European power, but we urge Moscow to make a commitment to the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from areas adjacent to European Union member states. We are thinking of areas like the Kaliningrad region and the Kola Peninsula, where there are still substantial numbers of these weapons. Such a withdrawal could be accompanied by the destruction of relevant storage facilities.

But these measures should only be seen as steps toward the total elimination of these types of weapons. The need for deterrence against rogue nations could amply be fulfilled with existing U.S. and Russian strategic assets.

With some exceptions, tactical nuclear weapons were designed for outdated, large-scale war on the European continent. Their use would have brought destruction to Europe on a scale beyond comprehension and would in all probability have lead also to the destruction of Russia and the United States in a strategic nuclear duel.

One thing is absolutely clear: The time has come to cover sub-strategic nuclear weapons with an arms control regime, which would look like the one that was established long ago for strategic arms.

We still face security challenges in the Europe of today and tomorrow, but from whichever angle you look, there is no role for the use of nuclear weapons in resolving these challenges.

Such weapons are dangerous remnants of a dangerous past — and they should not be allowed to endanger our common future.

Source: International Herald Tribune

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