View from USA: US nuclear weapons in Europe violate Treaty Law

11:54 02.05.2024 •

Photo: CounterPunch

The US Air Force practice of deploying nuclear weapons on military bases in other countries — and training foreign pilots to attack third countries with H-bombs — is called ‘nuclear sharing’ or ‘forward basing.’ The system has been repeatedly condemned in recent years by lawyer’s groups, international law experts, UN delegates, civil society, and foreign affairs offices from around the world, writes John LaForge, a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin.

The US currently stations around 100 of its B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Holland and Turkey. It may soon station more in England. All six plus the US have ratified the 1970 Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). International criticism was directed at Russia when it moved some of its H-bombs into Belarus in 2023. Little attention has been paid to the clear and authoritative condemnation of the transfer of US to Europe that has only increased in recent years.

Critiques of US nukes stationed in Europe are based on the nonproliferation treaty’s first two articles. The Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, explained the violation in a July 25, 2023 working paper, submitted to the UN’s 11th Review Conference for NPT:

“The incompatibility of nuclear sharing with the NPT is based on a straightforward application of NPT Articles I and II. Article I requires NPT nuclear-armed states ‘not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons … or control over such weapons directly, or indirectly.’ It further requires the nuclear-armed states ‘not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to… acquire nuclear weapons or control over such weapons.’ (emphasis added) Article II imposes the corollary obligation on NPT non-nuclear weapon states not to be the recipient of any such transfer or assistance.

“These provisions should be read in light of NPT Review Conference commitments made subsequent to the 1995 decision to indefinitely extend the NPT… The 2000 Final Document, ‘reaffirms that the strict observance of the provisions of the Treaty remains central to achieving the shared objectives of preventing, under any circumstances, the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and preserving the Treaty’s vital contribution to peace and security.”

The International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (German section) in an April 5, 2023 submission to the UN Human Rights Council said: “…the components of technical nuclear sharing together with Germany’s participation in operational planning in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group under Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, constitute a violation of the spirit and purpose of the NPT.”

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), in an August 2, 2023 statement to the United Nations in Geneva, said nuclear sharing: “Runs counter to the fundamental tenets of the treaty and is a threat to the entire regime….”


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