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NATO and the INF controversy : nuclear weapons, deterrence, and the Atlantic Alliance Sens, Allen Gregory


The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) controversy was one of the most intense intra-Alliance debates experienced by NATO. The depth of the dispute, especially between the US and the European NATO members, threatened the very unity and cohesion of the Alliance itself. The INF controversy was the result of two factors: first, the establishment of strategic parity by the Soviet Union which brought into question the credibility of the US security guarantee to Europe; and second, the widening gap in the political and strategic interests of the US and its European allies. These factors combined to produce the two central--and conflicting--forces at work during the INF debate. The Europeans sought strategic reassurance, in the form of theatre-nuclear systems, to restore the integrity of the seamless web of deterrence. The divergence of political and strategic interests between the US and Europe, however, meant conflict over the posture and character of any new force. In the interests of preserving the unity of the Alliance, these problems were "solved" in typical Alliance fashion; through compromising to a consensus. The December 12 decision was based on erroneous and outdated conceptions of the significance of nuclear weapons for deterrence in Europe. What NATO planners, and many western analysts, have failed to recognize is the diminishing effectiveness of US nuclear weapons in maintaining effective deterrence in Western Europe. Deterrence in Europe is not primarily dependent on US nuclear forces and the threat of deliberate nuclear escalation they imply. Rather, deterrence in Europe should be understood as a compound product of many risk factors. Henceforth, thinking about NATO's deterrent requirements must recognize the limited utility of successive deployments of US nuclear forces as a deterrent. Greater reliance must be placed on the deterrent value of other risk factors which exist in the European theatre, most notably the increasingly powerful and discriminating capabilities of the French and British nuclear forces.

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