NATO’s Strategic Concept and the Emerging Nuclear Abolition Imperative

Tasneem Jamal Nuclear Weapons

Briefing 09-1

Ernie Regehr

Even as NATO’s official strategic doctrine continues to describe nuclear weapons as “essential to peace,” the world is undergoing an extraordinary reawakening to the unique threats posed by nuclear weapons and the need to finally eliminate them.

At the same time, the security community remains divided. While demands for an unambiguous commitment to nuclear abolition are growing, retentionist doctrines remain entrenched in core institutions, not least in NATO and its Strategic Concept.

All that could begin to change, though, with the 60th-Anniversary NATO Summit, which is expected to launch a process to review the Alliance’s current Strategic Concept. That review will be an important opportunity for NATO to rethink its nuclear doctrine in the light of the growing fears that the indefinite retention of nuclear weapons by some will lead inevitably to their spread and use.

This briefing a) reviews NATO’s current nuclear posture; b) reviews the growing calls among security professionals and political leaders for concrete measures in pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons; and c) suggests ways in which NATO’s Strategic Concept should be amended to bring it into sync with the emerging nuclear disarmament imperative and the obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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