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Policy brief | 11 February 2019

The demise of the INF Treaty: What are the consequences for NATO

With the collapse of the INF Treaty, a debate in NATO on whether to strengthen deterrence, including with new nuclear deployments, is inevitable.

In a newly published ELN Policy Brief, Simon Lunn and Nicholas Williams discuss NATO’s strategy and explore how to undertake a new major review of the NATO deterrence posture. Drawing on their vast experience of working at NATO, they examine the parallels between the current situation and the debates that underpinned the 1979 Dual Track decision.

The authors argue that NATO no longer has a policy framework within which to conduct a debate of such significance. NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept is ill-suited as a political framework for discussions. They make the case that the habits and methods of close consultation amongst allies on nuclear issues from the 1970s will have to be relearned.

Although important differences exist from 40 years ago – including NATO’s internal dynamics and attitudes to US leadership – the authors argue that lessons can be drawn to guide current actions

Their recommendations include:

  • A High Level Group of experts should be convened to address the implications of the breakdown of the INF Treaty and broader developments of the Russian posture, with the authority to make recommendations to NATO Ministers.
  • A NATO review cannot start with the assumption that a tit-for-tat deployment of new US missiles is necessary.
  • The US should lead but listen, and effective consultations should involve all Allies equally.
  • Alliance nuclear policy decisions must be based on a thorough review of current deterrence posture and its adequacy, and on consensus.
  • Arms control must be an integral part of Alliance approach despite current problems.
  • Attempts should continue to reinstate the INF Treaty regionally if not globally.
  • Public sensitivity to the deployment of new nuclear weapons in Europe will be even more acute than during the Cold War. Strategic deterrence needs should be balanced against public sensitivity.

Download the policy brief

The opinions articulated above also do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges.