Report calls for end to ‘Cold War autopilot’ plan
by Donna Cassata, Associated Press
April 03, 2013 01:25 PM | 592 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dwindling military budgets and the diminished threat of a nuclear war in Europe dictate that the United States and Russia shed their lingering Cold War mentality and gradually take some of their nuclear weapons off ready to launch status, according to a new independent report released Wednesday.

The study, titled “Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region,” questioned the billion-dollar redundancy of the United States, Russia and European nations building new nuclear-armed submarines and weapons when they are facing deep budget cuts and tough austerity measures.

The report, citing the current political cooperation between the countries, recommended that the nations work together on missile defense, reducing tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and creating a new strategy.

“Outdated Cold War-era security concepts and their associated weapons and military postures (in particular, mutual assured destruction and nuclear forces on prompt-launch status), continue as if the Berlin Wall had never fallen, producing a dangerous asymmetry between military capabilities and true political partnership,” the report said.

The document, which makes 19 recommendations, is the work of an international group of 30 political, military and security experts over the past year.

Leading the group are former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., best known for his work with former Sen. Richard Lugar in 1991 in creating the program to help the former Soviet states destroy and secure their weapons of mass destruction; former British defense minister Des Browne; former German deputy foreign minister Wolfgang Ischinger and former Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov.

In contrast to the saber-rattling from North Korea, the report highlights improved relations among the U.S., European nations and Russia, which is unlikely to be propelled into a conventional or nuclear war.

Against that backdrop, the group argued for the U.S. and Russia to take the lead in systematically moving nuclear weapons off high alert status, a template for France and Britain to follow.

The report also suggested that the U.S. and NATO back a 50 percent reduction in U.S. tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe, with Russia adopting a reciprocal cut. The move would be phased in over time.

Currently, the U.S. and Russia have about 5,000 nuclear weapons each, either deployed or in reserve. Both countries are on track to reduce the deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 by 2018, the number set in the New START treaty that the Senate ratified in December 2010.

The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia has approximately 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads and the United States has 500.

“A five-year target for completing consolidation of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the United States, combined with a process of mutual reductions with Russia, could give a greater sense of direction and pace to nuclear risk reduction in Europe,” the report said.

The report also calls for greater cooperation between the countries on missile defense, including sharing date and joint exercises.

The 30 experts, including several former retired U.S. generals, insisted that high-level talks involving leaders of the nations were imperative to establish a new strategy far from one that largely is on “Cold War autopilot.”

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