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«The Art of War»

The Nuclear Great Game in Europe

Should the Trump Administration respect the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it would withdraw its nuclear missiles, illegally stationed in Europe and would end its confrontation with Russia. Yet, EU member states opting to continue with the previous policy that they are already familiar with, rallied round the US “government of continuity” during the Munich Conference on Security. Thus, in the name of “self-preservation”, they seriously envisage subsidizing the French atomic bomb.

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The New York Times launched the torpedo: the charge that Moscow has violated the Treaty on Medium Range Nuclear Weapons (“INF” by its English acronym) [1]. And this [torpedo] has struck its target: intensifying tensions in relations between the United States and Russia, slowing down or blocking negotiations of the deal that Trump alluded to even during his electoral campaign. The torpedo is etched with Obama’s signature. For it was he who in July 2014 (immediately after the Maidan Square Putsch and the ensuing crisis with Russia) accused Putin of testing a nuclear cruise missile called SSC-X-8 and thus violating the INF Treaty of 1987 that prohibits the lining up of land missiles even within a range between 500 and 5,500 km.

According to declarations made by anonymous officials in the US intelligence community, two Russian battalions have already been armed, each one equipped with four mobile launchers and 24 missiles with nuclear heads.

Before leaving his office as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe last year, General Philip Breedlove warned that lining up this new Russian missile “cannot be left unresponded to”. However he remained silent on the fact that Nato has lined up in Europe around 700 US, French and British nuclear heads against Russia; virtually each one ready to launch 24/7. And gradually extending to the East, to include [parts of] the former USSR, Nato has drawn its nuclear forces gradually closer to Russia.

It is in the context of such a strategy that the Obama administration took the decision to replace the 180 B-61 nuclear bombs – installed in Italy (50 at Aviano and 20 at Ghedi-Torre), Germany, Belgium, Holland and Turkey– with the B61-12. The latter are the new nuclear weapons, each with four power options that you can choose from depending on the target to strike. They have the capacity to penetrate the terrain to destroy the command centres’ bunkers. A 10 billion dollar programme given that each B61-12 will cost more than its weight in gold.

At the same time, the US has built the first land missile battalion in Romania for “anti-missile defense”. This will be followed by another one in Poland, composed of the Aegis missiles, already installed on board four US warships stationed in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. This is the so-called “shield”, which serves to attack rather than defend: if they were to be able to realize it, the US and Nato would keep Russia under the threat of a nuclear first strike, confident that its “shield” would be able to neutralize the reprisal. What is more, Lockheed Martin’s system of vertical launch (Mk 41), installed on the ships and in the base in Romania, is capable of launching (according to specific techniques provided by that construction company), “missiles for every mission”, including those to “attack land targets with Tomahawk cruise missiles”, that can also be armed with nuclear heads.

Moscow has warned that these battalions, which are also capable of launching nuclear missiles, constitute a violation of the INF treaty.

What will the European Union do in this scenario? While it harps on about its commitment for nuclear disarmament, in its political circles it is conceiving what the New York Times defines as “an idea that before had been unthinkable: a EU nuclear arms programme”. Under such a plan, the French nuclear arsenal would be “reprogrammed to protect the rest of Europe and placed under a common European command”, that would be funded through a common fund. This would be the case, “if Europe was no longer able to count on protection from the US”. In other words: if Trump sides with Putin and decides not to store any longer the B61-12 in Europe, the EU would consider pursuing a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

Anoosha Boralessa

Il Manifesto (Italy)

[1] “Russia Has Deployed Missile Barred by Treaty, U.S. General Tells Lawmakers”, Michael Gordon, New York Times, March 9, 2017.

Manlio Dinucci

Manlio Dinucci Geographer and geopolitical scientist. His latest books are Laboratorio di geografia, Zanichelli 2014 ; Diario di viaggio, Zanichelli 2017 ; L’arte della guerra / Annali della strategia Usa/Nato 1990-2016, Zambon 2016.

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