The Politics of Modernizing Short-Range Nuclear Forces in West Germany

by Ronald D. Asmus

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The future of NATO nuclear modernization plans has again become a topic of controversy within the alliance. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Federal Republic of Germany, where the bulk of the remaining short-range nuclear forces (SNF) are stationed — forces whose support is essential for current NATO modernization plans. This report examines the origins of changing West German attitudes toward nuclear modernization in the wake of the treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces signed in December 1987. It analyzes the factors shaping West German attitudes toward NATO's planned modernization of SNF. The author concludes that the last-minute compromise reached at the May 1989 Brussels summit may have temporarily defused, but has not resolved, the underlying pressures that transformed the SNF modernization issue into a divisive dispute. He suggests that, while reconfirming its support for the principles of a possible restructuring of nuclear deterrence and the current strategy of flexible response, the United States should lay out the parameters and principles of a possible restructuring of the alliance's theater nuclear posture. The goal would be to create a new structure that would simultaneously satisfy German political needs and make military and strategic sense.

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