Updated: 25-Oct-2000 Ministerial Communiqus


April, 1979

Final Communiqué

Chairman: Mr. J. Luns.


Status of nuclear forces - Support for US efforts to conclude SALT negotiations - Concern over Soviet modernization of theatre nuclear force systems - Maintenance and modernization of NATO's theatre nuclear forces - Importance of arms control - Maritime theatre nuclear weapons - Soviet maritime capabilities.

The NATO Nuclear Planning Group, composed of Ministers of Defence of eight NATO countries, adjourned today after a two-day Conference at Homestead air force base, Florida. Attending this 25th half-yearly meeting of the Group were: Dr. Hans Apel, Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Attilio Ruffini, Italy; Mr. Willem Scholten, the Netherlands; Mr. Rolf Hansen, Norway; Mr. Fred Mulley, the United Kingdom; and Dr. Harold Brown, the United States. Canada and Turkey were represented by their Permanent Representatives to NATO, Mr. J.E. Ghislain Hardy and Mr. Osman Olcay. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Joseph M.A.H. Luns, Secretary General of NATO. Following past practice, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Herman F. Zeiner Gundersen; the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.; the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, Admiral Harry D. Train, and the Commander-in-Chief, Channel, Admiral Sir Henry Leach were invited and attended the full meeting.

Ministers began their meeting with a briefing by the United States Secretary of Defense on the status of nuclear forces. Their discussions covered elements of the nuclear threat and their relationship to the maintenance of stability in central systems and the recent developments in SALT. They expressed their continued support for United States efforts to conclude negotiations. They also discussed with continuing concern Soviet modernization of theatre nuclear force systems which is being undertaken on a scale well in excess of defensive requirements and unprovoked by any NATO developments.

In particular, Ministers took note of the extensive improvements the Soviets are making in their long-range theatre forces threatening NATO Europe, especially the SS-20 missile which affords improvements over previous systems in providing greater accuracy and more mobility and in having multiple warheads on each missile.

In their consideration of NATO's requirements, as part of the Long-Term Defence Programme, to modernize theatre nuclear forces, Ministers reaffirmed that NATO could not rely on conventional forces alone for credible deterrence in Europe; and that, without increasing dependence on nuclear weapons or prejudicing long-term defence improvements in conventional forces, it would be necessary to maintain and modernize theatre nuclear forces.

As a key element in this and taking into account developments in Soviet capabilities, Ministers continued their consideration of modernization of the longer range theatre-based element in support of the Alliance's strategy of forward defence and flexible response, for preserving a credible capability in that field. No decisions were taken at this stage. Ministers emphasized that consideration of a modernization effort would need to take full account of arms control possibilities and they noted with approval that these are being studied in further depth by a special group recently set up in NATO for this purpose.

Recalling the importance of maintaining sea lines of communication vital to the overall security of the Alliance, Ministers reviewed the politico-strategic aspects of the role of theatre nuclear weapons in the maritime sphere within the framework of the broader objectives of NATO's defensive strategy. They noted with concern the size of the maritime, including nuclear, capabilities maintained by the Soviet Union.

Ministers were invited by the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands to hold their next meeting in his country in Autumn 1979.

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