De-Escalation Can Start with Ending All Nuclear Weapons ‘Sharing’

Ukraine, the United States, and NATO have condemned what they correctly called Russian President Putin’s "dangerous and irresponsible" plan to soon deploy nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus.

On June 9, Mr. Putin announced that Moscow would deploy its nuclear weapons next month, reporting that work on new facilities for housing the weapons in Belarus would be complete by July 7-8.

Mr. Putin had said on March 25 that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s right: He says we’re your closest allies. Why do the Americans deploy their nuclear weapons to their allies, on their territory, train the crews, and pilots how to use this type of weapon if needed? We agreed that we will do the same.

Indeed, the United States has transferred more than 100 of its 50- and 170-kiloton nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s to bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey, where allied pilots rehearse nuclear weapons attacks using their allied fighter jets. Case in point, NATO’s "Air Defender 2023," a nine-day German-led, international war game involving 24 countries live-flying all across Germany, just began Monday June 12, in the midst of the hot war in Ukraine.

Point of information: The Associated Press keeps calling the nuclear weapons in question "tactical," so it must be recalled that the city-busting Hiroshima bomb was a 15-kiloton device far less destructive than today’s B61 "tactical" H-bombs.

Now Putin and Lukashenko intend to copy U.S. practice and violate the terms of the 1970 Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in the same way that the United States has. Any such transfer constitutes not just a violation of the NPT’s Articles I, II and VI, but a hair-raising escalation of the quagmire powder keg in Ukraine.

Last May 15, ICAN, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, confronted the increasingly globalized war in Ukraine by sending a set of four demands to the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the US, all of which are actively arming Ukraine – noting that every one of the them employ nuclear weapons "either as nuclear-armed states or as host or umbrella states." ICAN’s four demands included a clear denunciation of current nuclear sharing, as practiced by the US and NATO, noting:

"Following Russia announcing plans to place nuclear weapons in Belarus, the G7 leaders must agree an end to all nuclear-armed states stationing their weapons in other countries and engage Russia to cancel its plans to do so. Several G7 members are currently involved in nuclear sharing arrangements of their own, and can demonstrate their opposition to Russia’s recent deployment announcement by commencing negotiations of new Standing of Forces Agreements between the US and Germany and the US and Italy, to remove the weapons currently stationed in those countries."

This important call for an end to the stationing of US nuclear weapons in other countries, and its direct reference to the US and its allies, helps clear the air around Russia’s threatened escalation. The only practically workable way to move Putin to reverse his planned deployment, is to offer to reverse the Pentagon’s deployment. Call it a Cuban Missile Crisis Redux. That terrible confrontation was resolved when President Kennedy offered to, and then did, withdraw US nuclear-armed missiles from Turkey. De-escalation works, and it can lead to further breakthroughs.

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

Author: John LaForge

John LaForge works for Nukewatch and edits its quarterly newsletter.