BRUSSELS – Five members of NATO are pressing the case for the removal of the United States nuclear weapons from European soil. In a letter to the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Â Rasmussen, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway called for a "major debate" over the NATO stance on nuclear weapons on the European Continent.
The debate on NATO's nuclear policy will take place at the next foreign ministers’ meeting in Tallinn, Estonia on April 22. TheNATO Secretary General has urged member states to be pragmatic on the issue and to seek the balance between nuclear disarmament and nuclear deterrence.
Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands hold some of the about 200 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs that remained in Europe. At the height of tensions with the then Soviet Union, the United States fielded thousands of such armaments on the continent.
Germany was the first country to make known its intention to call for the withdrawal of American nuclear warheads from its territory. For months, the German foreign minister has been calling for the removal of the remaining American medium-range nuclear missiles from Germany. He looks ready to spark new tension in trans-Atlantic relations in his campaign to get the U.S. to withdraw their nuclear weapons that are currently stationed in Germany. Westerwelle and his counterparts say that the alliance should discuss how it can get closer to its goal of a world without nuclear weapons at the upcoming NATO conference.
The United States shows little enthusiasm, say the least, for Mr. Westerwelle's proposal. The Americans are concerned that countries like Turkey may consider obtaining their own nuclear weapons if United States missiles were withdrawn from Europe. Furthermore, The United States does not want to make reductions in its arsenal without reciprocal steps from the Russians. In any case, The German say, that the American nuclear weapons on their territory do not fulfill any military or political function and are therefore superfluous.