Peace in a nuclear free Europe

Background - 27 November, 2006
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was established in 1949 following the end of WWII and is the world's largest military nuclear alliance.

Greenpeace activists attempt a citizens' inspection of NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The NATO nuclear weapons states (US, France and the UK) possess a combined force of over ten thousand nuclear weapons. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty commits each member-state to respond with "whatever action is necessary" in the case of an armed attack on any other party; this includes the use of nuclear weapons.

Consequently, nuclear weapons belonging to the US have been deployed on European soil since 1954. Until recently it was thought that fewer than 200 NATO American nuclear weapons remained in Europe, but in February 2005 an independent report published by the Natural Resources Defence Council and authored by Hans Kristensen revealed that approximately 480 US nuclear weapons are still deployed at American bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UK.

There is growing political and public unease amongst a number of European countries about the US nuclear bombs they host, with Belgium and Germany registering the strongest concern through their Parliaments and Ministers. Some countries have already been able to say no to the US and NATO coercion; Denmark, Norway and Spain have made a conscious decision to not allow the deployment of NATO nuclear weapons on their territories, and Greece has successfully requested the removal of the nuclear arms in its territory.

It is time to remove all these weapons from Europe. A costly legacy from the cold war, US NATO nuclear weapons are an invitation for threat or attack rather than protection and are a contribution to proliferation rather than prevention measure. The credibility of efforts by European countries to stop and reverse the nuclear shadow that is spreading over other areas of the worldtoday are undermined by the existence of nuclear weapons in Europe.

Our aim is a Nuclear Free NATO; turning NATO into a non-nuclear alliance and the removal of the 480 nuclear weapons from Europe back to US for dismantlement. This is a major step towards making Europe a NuclearFree Zone.

France and the UK however are also bona fide, signed up members to the nuclear club, identified as nuclear weapon states under the NPT with 550 nuclear weapons between them. They contribute to the very proliferation that they so hypocritically denounce in other parts of the world.

In the UK, we oppose the development and use of nuclear weapons, including plans to build a whole new generation of them. And we are also working to eliminate the 350 nuclear weapons in neighbouring France.

European countries must deal with the danger on their own doorstep by ensuring that the nuclear weapon states, France and the UK, take steps to disarm as required under the NPT and by removing and dismantling the US NATO nuclear weapons. By becoming a nuclear weapons free zone Europe can make a concrete contribution to international disarmament.

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