Europeans remain unwilling to renew their thinking on nuclear deterrence, despite growing strategic instability. Their stated goal of “strategic autonomy” will remain an empty phrase until they engage seriously on this matter.
This intellectual under-investment looks set to continue despite: a revived debate “German bomb” debate; a new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; and the collapse of the INF treaty.
Attitudes to nuclear deterrence differ radically from country to country – something which any new engagement on the nuclear dimension will have to contend with. And, while many governments and their voting publics are aligned in attitudes, in some crucial players like Germany the government and public are at loggerheads.
No European initiative to declare strategic nuclear autonomy is yet practicable but a strategy to hedge for future uncertainties is available.
As a first step, the UK and France should convert the idea of a European deterrent from mere notion into credible offer, by thickening their bilateral nuclear cooperation and sending growing signals that indicate their readiness to protect others.
LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD
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