Last week the Pentagon pretty much called off the Defender-Europe 20 war games which involved 30,000 US troops landing in continental Europe – exercises which I described recently as the US practising an invasion of Europe. Covid-19 has forced the Pentagon to cut the exercises right back. As of March 13, they announced, all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe has ceased, in the interests of the health and safety of their personnel and family members. Some training events will continue but most of the US forces already deployed to Europe will return to the US.
Many on the continent have breathed a collective sigh of relief, but anti-NATO activists in Italy have now raised concerns about US preparations for nuclear conflict. In their view, the kind of mass troop-based military conflict that Defender-Europe 20 was designed to prepare for, would never occur because an armed clash between NATO and Russia would inevitably be nuclear.
That sounds like a very worst-case scenario, so on what do they base this assessment?
On February 25, 2020, during a hearing in the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, General Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, declared: ” Nuclear forces are the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies, and underwrite every US military operation in Europe.” This means surely that Defender-Europe 20 is not only an exercise of conventional forces, but also of nuclear forces.
Is there evidence of this?
On March 18, it was reported that two US nuclear attack bombers B-2 Spirit, part of the task force that arrived from the US on March 9, had flown over Iceland and the North Atlantic. They were escorted by three Norwegian F-35 fighter jets.
These aircraft are designed to use the new B61-12 nuclear bombs, which the US will soon deploy in Italy and other European countries replacing the current B-61s.
In the Senate hearing, General Wolters made clear what role US nuclear forces play in Europe. When he was asked what he thought of ‘no first-use’ of nuclear weapons, the General replied: “I am a supporter of a flexible first-use policy.” So the man who is responsible for US/NATO nuclear weapons in Europe officially declared that he is a supporter of their first use – a surprise nuclear attack on a ‘flexible’ basis.
We’ve written recently about Trump’s backing for so-called ‘low yield’ nuclear weapons and their ongoing deployment on US submarines. In the same Senate hearing, General Wolters underlined these points: ‘Since 2015 the Alliance placed increased emphasis on the role of nuclear capabilities’ and ‘the European Command of the United States fully supports the recommendations contained in the Nuclear Posture Review 2018 to deploy the W76-2 low-power ballistic missile.’
As Manlio Dinucci, writing in Il Manifesto on 24th March warns, this is particularly dangerous. “Less powerful nuclear weapons – even authoritative US experts warn – increase the temptation to use them first… it would seem like throwing a lit match in a powder keg”.
I couldn’t agree more. NATO policy is heading in an exceptionally dangerous direction, and notwithstanding the enormous challenges we face as a global community with Covid-19, such military developments must not go unreported or unopposed.