NATO's nuclear forces

  • Last updated: 11 May. 2012 10:45

In the Strategic Concept adopted by Allies at the Lisbon Summit at the end of 2010, NATO committed to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

The Strategic Concept also reconfirmed that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.  Deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of NATO’s strategy, even though the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated are extremely remote. 

  • What does this mean in practice?

    What does this mean in practice?

    UK MOD - Crown Copyright 2012

    The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear of forces the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies.

    The Allies concerned ensure that all components of NATO’s nuclear deterrent are safe, secure and effective.

    The dramatic changes in the Euro-Atlantic strategic landscape brought about by the end of the Cold War have been reflected in the Alliance’s 1991, 1999 and 2010 Strategic Concepts.  The Alliance has continued to take far-reaching steps to adapt its overall policy and defence posture to the new security environment.

    NATO's reduced reliance on nuclear forces has been manifested in a steady and very significant reductions in the number of systems, overall weapon numbers and readiness levels since the end of the Cold War. NATO no longer has standing peacetime nuclear contingency plans, and NATO's nuclear forces do not target any country. 

  • Mechanisms

    Political oversight and control are the cornerstones of NATO's nuclear posture and are shared among member countries.  NATO members agreed to ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in collective defence planning on nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces, and in command, control and consultation arrangements. Within the NATO HQ structure, the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) provides a forum in which nuclear and non-nuclear Allies alike (except France, which has decided not to participate) engage in the development of the Alliance's nuclear policy, and in decisions on NATO's nuclear posture.  The NPG is composed of ministers of defence, and is presided over by NATO’s Secretary General.  It meets around once per year, but has subordinate and advisory groups which meet more frequently.

    New members are full members of the Alliance in all respects, including their commitment to the Alliance's policy on nuclear weapons, and the guarantees which that policy affords to all Allies.

  • Evolution

    NATO will review its posture to reflect the current strategic environment. As an example of this, NATO has been conducting a Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR), in which nuclear policy and posture have been examined as part of a review of NATO’s overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats to the Alliance. Alliance leaders are expected to agree to its final report at the Chicago summit.