The Heritage Foundation

Executive Memorandum #232 on Europe

May 1, 1989

May 1, 1989 | Executive Memorandum on Europe

Rebuffing Bonn's Unilateral Attempt to Torpedo NATO Policy

(Archived document, may contain errors)

5/1/89 232


West German Defense Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher fl ew suddenly into Washington on an early morning last week to inform George Bush that Bonn now is pushing hard for immediate East-West negotiations to eliminate short- range nuclear missiles and nuclear artillery from Europe. The German emissaries delivere d their message and left no room for discussion or negotiation. By nightfall they were gone, having broken ranks with the United States and NATO, both of whom officially reject such negotiations until progress has been made in the talks now underway in Vie n na to reduce the Soviet conventional (non-nuclear) threat to Western Europe. Tearing Up the Compromise. On Bush's behalf, Secretary of State James Baker rightly rebuffed the West German Ministers, reiterating U.S. support for NATO's stand against - immedi a te negotiations on short-range nuclear missiles and artillery. Only days before the blitz visit, the NATO defense ministers summit in Brussels -reluctantly had acceded to a West German demand to postpone a NATO decision on modernizing the short-range (90 m iles) 4 nuclear Lance missile. Now, it seemed, Bonn had torn up the compromise even before the ink had dried. It is no wonder that Bush last week had to resist Bonn's unilateral assault on NATO nuclear policy. He should hold his ground even at risk of a p u blic breach with West Germany on this matter at the NATO summit later this month. While Bush was right to postpone a formal decision on Lance modernization until after the 1990 West German elections, he should continue to back the position of NATO's Supre m e Allied Commander General John R. Galvin that a modernized Lance and nuclear artillery must remain in NATO's nuclear modernization plans for the 1990s. Bush also should deliver a straightforward public message to Bonn that he will be unable to justify th e continued stationing of a quarter-million U.S. forces in West Germany if the West German government unilaterally rejects the-nuclear - weapons that U.S. commanders require to defend the GIs and respond effectively to a Soviet attack. Risking Survival of U .S. Troops. West Germans rely for their security on a U.S. guarantee to retaliate with its own nuclear weapons against a Soviet nuclear or overwhelming conventional attack on West Germany. This guarantee is backed up -by 325,000 U.S. troops permanently st a tioned in Western Europe, 250,000 of them in West Germany. By agreeing to help defend West Germany with nuclear weapons, the U.S. risks the survival of its troops in Europe and ultimately millions of American civilians subject to Soviet nuclear retaliatio n . In return for this risk, the U.S. rightly has required that its forces stationed in West Germany and elsewhere in Europe be equipped with modern nuclear weapons. Ibis concept has been accepted by NATO and Bonn for decades. According to U.S. and NATO doc trine, these

forces must be capable of a range of attack options against the Soviet Union and Soviet military targets in Europe. The nuclear modernization plan approved in 1985 by NATO includes: 1) replacing old U.S. nuclear artillery shells with new and safer ones; 2) replacing the nearly obsolescent Lance missile with a new, longer range and more accurate missile, and; 3) deploying a roughly 250-mile-range tactical air-to surface missile (TASM) that would be launched from aircraft such as the F-15E Sty i ke Eagle and would be able to destroy such targets as rail yards and command posts in Soviet territory. In recent months, the West German government, led on this issue by Foreign Minister Genscher, has mounted a frontal assault on the NATO nuclear moderni z ation plan, first refusing a firm decision on modernizing NATO's short-range nuclear forces and now advocating negotiations that could eliminate a follow-on to the Lance missile and nuclear artillery as well. Ile West German position on the tactical air-t o -surface missile (TASM) is unclear, but The Heritage Foundation has been told privately by a West German official that TASM deployment also may be in jeopardy. Longest Peace in Centuries. Genscher and other West German officials justify their position by c laiming that nuclear artillery and short-range missiles "single out" Germany since they would explode primarily on German territory, East or West. While this is true, it always has been true. U.S. nuclear weapons, including very short range artillery, hav e been on German soil for decades. These weapons have contributed to the deterrence that has given Germany its longest period of peace in centuries. These weapons, moreover, "single out" Germany no more than do the tens of thousands of Soviet tanks which, f or decades, have been poised to overrun Germany. In all these decades, the U.S. has been-willing to station great numbers of U.S. troops between those tanks and their German targets - and Washington never once talked about the GIs being "singled out." Mod e rnizing NATO's nuclear force has nothing to do with "singling out"' Gehnany foi nuclear attack, and Genscher surely realizes this. Ile modernization of nuclear artillery and Lance are considered essential by U.S. (and British) political and military leade r s to protect U.S. troops in Europe and to provide nuclear options below the level of an all-out nuclear war that would destroy the U.S. This is why Bush has told the West Germangthat he cannot agree to eliminate these weapons, even through negotiations wi t h the Soviet Union, until Moscow agrees to reduce its conventional military threat to Western Europe- and the U.S. troops stationed there. By rebuffing Stoltenberg and Genscher, Bush took an important step toward ensuring that the Alliance continues to de t er Soviet attack. Next he should: * * Assert publicly that he cannot justify the presence of U.S. troops in West G&rnany if Bonn proceeds unilaterally down the path of a nuclear weapons-free West Germany. * * Reaffirm the official NATO position opposing i m mediate negotiations on short-range nuclear forces, even if it means an open split between the U.S. and West Germans at the upcoming NATO summit. * * Continue to support NATO nuclear modernization, including nuclear artillery, a follow-on to Lance, and th e tactical air-to-surface missile, while giving Bonn until after its 1990 election to make a firm deployment decision on Lance. Jay P. Kosminsky Policy Analyst


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