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Research Report

WMD Proliferation and Transatlantic Relations:: Is a Joint Western Strategy Possible?

Peter van Ham
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2004
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 40

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-3)
  3. (pp. 5-7)

    Over the past few years, transatlantic relations have remained in crisis. In February 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his fear that NATO was ‘breaking up,’ and Henry Kissinger concluded that the war over Iraq ‘produced the gravest crisis in the Atlantic Alliance since its creation five decades ago.’¹ In October 2003, US Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns even labeled ideas to set up an autonomous European military headquarters ‘the most serious threat to the future of NATO.’² One factor explaining the tensions in US-European relations after 9/11 is that the United States considers itself at war with...

  4. (pp. 9-20)

    The Bush administration has not invented counterproliferation. It was under President Clinton that a gradual policy shift towards counterproliferation was initiated, although it remained firmly embedded in a wider national security strategy predicated upon traditional non-proliferation thinking. President Clinton argued that the US needs to ‘worry more about chemical and biological weapons put in the hands of terrorist as well as rogue states.’⁷ As early as 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin declared that, having won the Cold War, Americans ‘face a bigger proliferation danger than we’ve ever faced before,’ implying ‘that a policy of prevention through denial won’t be...

  5. (pp. 21-27)

    In Europe, the Bush administration’s diplomatic non-proliferation record is widely criticized, most notably because of its reluctance to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and to ratify the CTBT, its passive acquiescence to Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapon capabilities, and its weak support for international organizations such as the UN and global norms in general. Most criticism has been directed at new American plans to develop (and, it is expected and feared, to ultimately deploy) low-yield nuclear weapons, which would lower the threshold for the use of all WMD. Washington’s decision in June 2002 to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic...

  6. (pp. 29-36)

    Given its historical and geopolitical background, the EU will remain mainly committed to non-proliferation, whereas the US will focus on counterproliferation for the foreseeable future. In order to guarantee fruitful and effective US-European cooperation, ways must therefore be found to capture the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of both approaches in a coherent transatlantic synthesis. The EU must realize that it has to rescind its treaty fetishism, whereas the US has to avoid damaging long-term nonproliferation goals by pursuing short-term counterproliferation objectives. This must be based on a transatlantic analysis (and, if possible, an emerging consensus) on the strengths and...

  7. (pp. 37-42)

    Current efforts for a joint US-EU approach to WMD proliferation are off to a good start, although cooperation remains ad hoc and patchy. Sustained and preferably institutionalized efforts are required in areas ranging from political cooperation to financial coordination and transportation security. There are indications on both sides of the Atlantic that a Transatlantic Homeland Security strategy, based upon close US-European cooperation, is both necessary and feasible. The CSI and PSI initiatives are important initiatives that illustrate what new and potentially valuable joint initiatives could look like.

    Although the EU mainly remains committed to non-proliferation, fruitful and effective US-European cooperation...

  8. (pp. 43-43)