Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behavior — and by “behavior” I mean his uncontrollable aggression in Ukraine — is giving a lot of people political cover for “I told you so” moments, especially about nukes. And now Brent Scowcroft, Steven Hadley, and Franklin Miller, three distinguished Wise Men (and I do not mean that sarcastically) from previous administrations have now weighed in on the importance of keeping NATO’s small tactical nuclear weapons.
These weapons were meant for battlefield use against an invading Soviet alliance, a massive military machine that no longer exists. The point was to link events in the theater of war to the use of nuclear arms, in order to reinforce the deterrent threat that invading Europe meant a central U.S.-Soviet nuclear war even if no one really wanted one. In other words, they were placed in harm’s way specifically to make them a “use or lose” weapon we’d have no choice but to employ.
Today, I don’t think anyone really has an idea what the mission of these weapons might be, other than as political symbols. Scowcroft and his co-authors admit this, but think we have to keep them anyway, precisely for that reason. I agree that Putin has made it impossible for President Obama to do anything with our European stockpile. (I also think the President’s political capital at this point is so non-existent that he couldn’t pass a resolution to be nice to our moms, but that’s another matter.) That doesn’t mean tactical nukes have any use, it just means we can’t remove them right now.
Read the whole thing here at The National Interest.