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Tactical Nuclear Defense - The West German View

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The dilemma confronting us today is our search for a credible defense policy for Western Europe. On one hand, we are outnumbered in every conventional warfare category that counts tactical aircraft, tanks, artillery, and manpower. On the other hand, the one category of weaponry which could counter the Warsaw Pacts conventional superiority -- tactical nuclear weapons -- raises such a spectra of territorial destruction in the eyes of many West Europeans, that these weapons are welcomed solely as an additional deterrent and, should that fail, only in the forlorn hope that their use will quickly escalate the conflict to a U.S.-Soviet strategic exchange, thus sparing the Federal Republic of Germany further destruction. The possibility of unacceptable collateral damage resulting from friendly employment of tactical nuclear weapons in defense of Western Europe is one of the underlying considerations influencing West European political opinion on tactical nuclear defense. Three additional major considerations also emerge as influential in determining such opinion. First, who makes the initial decision to employ tactical nuclear weapons, and how is this decision made Second, how closely is the employment of strategic nuclear missiles by the United States coupled to hostilities between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe And third, what are the chances that tactical nuclear weapons can be used selectively and in a controlled manner without escalating to theater-wide nuclear violence in Europe These four political considerations are particularly sensitive within the Federal Republic which, because of its geographical location, promises to be the principal battleground in any East-West conflict. The purpose of this article, then, is to examine the Federal Republics views on the four political considerations, with the aim of obtaining insights that will enable us to alleviate their misgivings where possible.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Nuclear Warfare
  • Nuclear Weapons

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