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Us (Nuclear) Go home?

(B2) The slogan is a bit sixties. But it corresponds to a reality in the flat Belgian country. There is a political consensus that the time has come to remove American nuclear weapons from European soil. Belgium is, in fact, primarily concerned. Some of them are stored in Kleine Brogel, near the Dutch border.

Sacred Union in Belgium

It started with a column published on Friday in several newspapers across the country (Le Soir, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad) by four “heavyweights” of Belgian politics. Four modern-day musketeers. Two former prime ministers — Jean-Luc Dehaene (Flemish Christian Democrat) and Guy Verhofstadt (Flemish Liberal) — and two former foreign ministers — Louis Michel (French-speaking Liberal) and Willy Claes (Flemish socialist), former secretary general of the NATO. The current Prime Minister, Yves Leterme (CD&V, Flemish Christian Democrat) immediately took action. “ Belgium is in favor of a world without nuclear weapons he wrote in a statement, published on the Prime Minister's website. To see any consultation there would be totally fortuitous. .

Five countries at the forefront

This subject should now be debated at NATO, says the Prime Minister. “ Belgium will take an initiative in this directionwith Germany (*), the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway as part of NATO's Strategic Concept Review this year”. Yves Leterme acknowledges, however, that " Concrete progress will only be possible through serious consultation with NATO partners and taking into account progress in the ongoing negotiations in the field of disarmament. » The debate has begun. And its authors do not lack arguments…

The terrorist risk

The signatories of the platform want, in fact, to take the appeal launched by the American President literally. " L'engagement of Barack Obama's quest to eliminate all nuclear weapons deserves urgent support » they emphasize. And they have no shortage of arguments. “ The Cold War is over. It is time to adapt our nuclear policy to the new circumstances » they write. The risk today lies elsewhere: “ Whereas in the past nuclear weapons may have been seen as a stabilizing factor, today both the continuing spread of nuclear weapons and the growing risk of a terrorist attack require a radical response. (...)

Proliferation is on the rise

“Countries like Pakistan, India and North Korea have recently joined the nuclear club. There is a real likelihood that Iran and other countries in the region will follow them, which will lead to unprecedented destabilization in this already so volatile region.. “The situation will quickly become inextricable, underline the Four Musketeers. " It is impossible to deny other states the acquisition of nuclear weapons, as long as we ourselves have them. The choice is therefore clear: a world in which more and more states are accepted to produce nuclear weapons, or a world in which the current nine nuclear powers fundamentally renounce their emphasis on nuclear weapons and take the issue seriously. aim to eliminate them. "" No serious argument condemns the feasibility of this objective. they add.

The role of exemplarity

This appeal is addressed primarily to Russia. " Ideally, this should be done in negotiation with Russia, in order to achieve a proportionate reduction in Russian arms. Nevertheless, sometimes you have to have the audacity to lead by example, in the hope that others will be inspired by it. » they note. But the Belgians are careful not to mix up this question with that of the anti-missile shield. " The withdrawal of nuclear weapons should not be confused with the debate on the anti-missile shield. If what is at stake is to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction, then real progress towards general disarmament is more effective than the option of linking our security to random technology, which is moreover perceived as a factor of destabilization by the great powers which do not have the means to dispose of it. A new arms race must be avoided at all costs. »


(*) Germany is already advocating within NATO for a rapid withdrawal of nuclear weapons

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).