True, the possible need to resort to nuclear weapons to prevent a Soviet/Russian conventional victory in Europe no longer makes sense, if it ever did. And it is precisely because Nato now enjoys massive superiority in non- nuclear forces that Russia has reversed its previous NFU policy.
So, first question, what do we gain from extending an assurance to a country that will not reciprocate?
And why should Nato entirely rule out the threat of nuclear retaliation if a non-nuclear aggressor is considering subjecting us to germ warfare, especially if by so doing we increase the likelihood of him using biological weapons? Does anyone really believe that if a dictator armed with anthrax threatened London a nuclear NFU policy would mean anything or contribute to our security?
The nuclear weapon states have already pledged themselves never to use their nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, so long as these states are in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty and are not attacking us in collaboration with a nuclear-armed foe. That still stands, but would hardly still apply if such states had just used chemical and biological weapons.
It is difficult, therefore, to see what a NFU policy would achieve in practical terms, other than to give unwanted encouragement to those contemplating the use of disease and poison to achieve their military ambitions.
Dr STEPHEN PULLINGER
Department of Peace Studies
University of Bradford