The NATO nations have never had enough conventional forces to deter the Soviets in Europe, and they have relied on NATO's nuclear forces — primarily those of the United States — for deterrence. As Soviet conventional and nuclear forces have grown, the credibility of using U.S. nuclear forces in response to Soviet aggression in Europe has eroded. This paper analyzes the elements of deterrence and examines the best ways to preserve this system; discusses the growing role of British, French, and Chinese nuclear forces in deterring the Soviet Union from aggression; and considers what steps the United States can take to encourage this evolution in a favorable direction.
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