Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

NATO'S Strategy Of Flexible Response And The Twenty-First Century CSC 1986 SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues NATO'S STRATEGY OF FLEXIBLE RESPONSE AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I. Purpose: To review the evolution of NATO's strategy and to determine if the current strategy of flexible response will be a credible or "hollow" strategy for the twenty-first century. II. Thesis: A major study and re-examination of flexible response should be undertaken by NATO to ascertain if the strategy will continue to be as viable and credible a concept in the twenty-first century as it was in 1967. III. Discussion: NATO's initial strategy to defend itself against a Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact (WP) attack depended upon a conventional defense. Because of economic and political unwillingness in the 1950's to build up and maintain a conventional force, NATO changed its strategy to one of massive retaliation. This entailed the almost exclusive use of nuclear weapons to defeat an aggressor, regardless of the form of attack by the aggressor. Because of WP improvements in forces and weapons systems, particularly nuclear weapons, massive retaliation gave way to the strategy of flexible response. Flexible response relied on a "triad" of conventional, tactical nuclear, and strategic nuclear weapons to deter an attack against NATO. If attacked, NATO could call upon any or all of the "triad" to force an aggressor to cease his attack and withdraw from NATO territory. Flexible response was adopted as NATO strategy in 1967. Since then, the WP threat has continued to grow and expand its forces, while NATO has done little to review and change its forces and strategy to continue to counter the threat. Continued "lip service" to such things as defense spending and standardization of equipment may have left NATO with a "hollow" strategy that is no longer credible to deter an attack by the beginning of the next century. IV. Conclusion: NATO must take a strategic review of its goals, reevaluate the threat's intentions and goals for the twenty-first century, and compare the current strategy to current and future threats.. As of now, NATO's forces barely meet the threat. If flexible response is to be retained, NATO must show more resolve than it has in the past to fund for monies to improve its force structure. Additionally, NATO must work harder to standardize equipment and hardware, modernize its nuclear forces, and to take advantage of using the new technologies to build weapon systems. If NATO decides that flexible response will not be adequate for the next century, a new strategy needs to be considered to be adopted. NATO'S STRATEGY OF FLEXIBLE RESPONSE AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Outline Thesis: A major study and re-examination of flexible response should be undertaken by NATO to ascertain if the strategy will continue to be as viable and credible a concept in the twenty- first century as it was in 1967. I. Initial NATO strategy - 1949 A. NATO conventional forces B. World developments 1. US hydrogen bomb 2. Soviet hydrogen bomb 3. US nuclear weapons in Europe C. US strategy of massive retaliation II. NATO massive retaliation strategy - 1956 A. Expenses of conventional forces B. Military Committee Document 14/2 (MC 14/2) C. "Trip-wire" effect D. World developments 1. Soviet force improvements 2. Role of tactical nuclear weapons III. Flexible response - 1967 A. US lead B. Deter aggression 1. Appropriate response 2. Political options C. Three elements 1. Direct defense 2. Deliberate escalation 3. General nuclear response D. Ambiguity of strategy 1. US views 2. European views 3. Aggressor calculations IV. Soviet forces A. Conventional capabilities B. Nuclear capabilities 1. Tactical forces 2. Strategic forces C. Operational developments V. NATO forces A. Conventional forces 1. Standardized equipment 2. National interests B. Nuclear forces 1. Tactical forces 2. Unilateral withdrawal C. Operational ideas VI. NATO - Warsaw Pact differences A. Qualitative differences B. Quantitative differences C. NATO modernization requirements VII. NATO action A. Reappraise goals 1. Soviet goals 2. Global outlook B. Review flexible response C. Fiscal requirement D. Standardization E. Use of new technology F. Nuclear modernization G. Consider new strategy 1. NATO goals 2. Agressor considerations H. The future LIST OF FIGURES Figure Page 1. NATO - Warsaw Pact Force Comparison 8 2. Relative Trends in Main Battle Tanks and Artillery 9 3. NATO - Warsaw Pact Combat Aircraft Quanti- tative Comparisons 10 4. Short and Intermediate Range Delivery Systems Range Comparisons 11 5. Short and Intermediate Range Delivery Systems Modernisation Comparison 12 6. Strategic Nuclear Force - Modernisation Comparison Introduction of Selected Systems by Year 13 7. Total Strategic Missiles and Bombers 14 NATO'S STRATEGY OF FLEXIBLE RESPONSE AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY For almost forty years, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (also referred to as the Alliance) has embraced various strategies to ensure the collective defense of all the member nations against, primarily, the Soviet/Warsaw Pact (WP) threat. The current NATO strategy, which has been the defense foundation for almost twenty years, is that of flexible response. The world has changed greatly since flexible response was adopted in 1967, and yet the strategy -- one that relies on both conventional and nuclear capabilities to ensure deterrence --has not changed, despite major changes and advances in new technologies and force developments by NATO and the WP. A major study and re-examination of flexible response should be undertaken by NATO to ascertain if the strategy will continue to be as viable and credible a concept in the twenty-first century as it was in 1967. In order to better understand flexible response, a short review of the evolution of NATO strategy from 1949 to the present is necessary. Since its inception in 1949, NATO has been a defensive alliance of democratic nations. Starting in early 1950, NATO initially relied "on a strategic concept based on the maintenance of a substantial conventional force structure capable of providing an effective defense against an attack by the Soviet Union."1 In order to achieve this strategy, the Alliance in 1952 in Lisbon, Portugal, agreed to field almost 100 divisions within two years. By 1954, however, "it was clear that the Alliance had neither the economic strength nor the political will"2 to achieve this goal. During this same period (1949 - 1954), other events were taking place that would impact upon NATO strategy. The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic weapon in late 1949, thereby negating the atomic monopoly held by the United States (US). In 1952, the US detonated the first hyrogen bomb, followed immediately by the Soviet Union which tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1953. In late 1953, the US unilaterally began to deploy nuclear weapons to Europe: these weapons were to be used in a tactical vice strategic capacity. Conventional forces would be used in a role to halt or delay any enemy attack in Europe until nuclear weapons could be used against the attacker. Finally, in early 1954 the US adopted a new formal defense policy of massive retaliation. In short, the US would have a policy of nuclear deterrence, whereby it (the US) would hope to prevent Soviet attacks by relying on the use of nuclear weapons in response to any form of aggression. By the end of 1954, the Alliance was starting to consider adopting the strategy of massive retaliation, primarily because maintaining high levels of conventional forces was viewed as being both economically and politically unfeasible. It was not until late 1956 that NATO formally revised its original strategy and adopted the doctrine of massive retaliation by agreeing to Military Committee Document 14/2 (MC 14/2). Under MC 14/2. NATO's conventional forces would act as a "trip-wire" by requiring an attacker to mobilize his forces. This enemy mobilization would give NATO an indication or warning that an attack was imminent. When and if the attack occurred, NATO's conventional forces would keep the attacker as far forward as possible on Alliance territory until a nuclear strike by NATO could take place to defeat the attacker. Even as MC 14/2 was being approved, the credibility of massive retaliation itself was being questioned. The Soviet Union was rapidly expanding its forces to include building nuclear-capable long-range bombers and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. By the late 1950's, the Soviet Union was well on its way to having an intercontinental ballistic missile capability that could strike the US. The implications of these Soviet nuclear delivery capabilities further brought into question the validity and feasibility of massive retaliation, particularly if a conflict was initiated at lower levels of the spectrum. Another development that arose during the 1950's concerned the role of tactical (or theater nuclear weapons. NATO military commanders viewed these weapons as an offset to Soviet manpower advantages and were to be used as a substitute for NATO manpower weaknesses. NATO commanders even felt that the use of tactical nuclear weapons could achieve victory if the WP attacked. Several factors were emerging in the late 1950's and early 1960's that set the stage for another look at NATO strategy. There continued to be Alliance concern on how to counter the expanding Soviet military buildup: especialy in its nuclear arsenal. Other concerns and fears were growing in Europe over the possibility of large-scale use and employment of tactical nuclear weapons on European soil in the event of war. Simultaneously, there was a general reluctance in NATO to spend money to improve conventional forces. Finally, the US began to question and reevaluate its own defense policies in view of the Soviet nuclear force improvements. In view of all these factors, it was becoming evident that a new NATO strategy was requried, and the US "took the lead." It would take almost ten years of discussion and review before a new NATO strategy was approved. Beginning in the early 1960's under the Kennedy Administration, the US came up with specific ideas and proposals that ultimately led to a change in NATO strategy. Expressed in 1962, the strategy of flexible response was finally adopted by NATO in 1967 when MC 14/3 was approved. "The strategy set out in MC 14/3 seeks to deter aggression by the maintenance of conventional, theater nuclear, and strategic nuclear forces that would enable the Alliance to respond to any attack at an appropriate level.3 Flexible response was viewed as a means to provide NATO political authorities with various military options to choose from in order to counter any form of aggression against the Alliance. Flexible response embraces three elements: direct defense, deliberate escalation, and general nuclear response. Direct defense seeks to defeat an aggressor and prevent him from achieving his goals at his level of conflict. This is generally considered to be at the conventional level. Should direct defense fail to deter or stop an attacker, NATO retains the option of deliberate escalation. With this option, NATO can escalate the conflict, to include the use of nuclear weapons, to cause the attacker to cease the conflict and withdraw from NATO territory. The intent of deliberate escalation is to create uncertainty for the attacker and to make the costs of attaining his goals and objectives unacceptable. If all else fails or in the event that a major nuclear attack is initiated by an attacker, NATO retains the option to use general nuclear response by using both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons against the attacker. As described, the strategy of flexible response did "not specify the precise nature of NATO's reaction to a particular attack. It [had] been argued that the ambiguity enhance[d] deterrence by complicating Warsaw Pact planning."4 Ambiguity was also needed in strategy so that the US and Europeans could interpret the strategy to suit their own views. This difference of views within NATO was concentrated primarily on the employment of tactical nuclear weapons. In general, US strategist saw a deliberate and prolonged conventional defense in Europe. Further, they saw the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a way to keep a conflict from becoming a strategic nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, European strategists desired to see a brief conventional defense phase and viewed the use of tactical "nukes" as a means of coupling US strategic nuclear weapons to the defense of Europe. This coupling would preclude only Europe from becoming a nuclear battlefield. As previously stated the intent of flexible response is to create uncertainty in an aggressor's calculation of a successful attack against NATO. Herein lies the question of whether flexible response will be a valid or a "hollow" strategy in the twenty-first century: Will NATO's future force structure be capable of deterring an atack across the spectrum of conflict and preventing an aggressor from calculating that the gains achieved in attacking NATO outweigh the costs? In order to formulate a response, a review of current and projected force structures within the WP and NATO is required. NATO's primary threat comes from the WP. Over the last four decades, the WP has progressively improved its conventional tactical nuclear, and strategic nuclear forces. Conventionally, the WP has always maintained a quantitative lead in terms of manpower, tanks, artillery, aircraft, and other military hardware. The WP has also made qualitative improvements to its forces. For example, new generations of tanks and aircraft have evolved and continue to be modified by incorporating the latest technological enhancements into the hardware. Refer to Figures 1, 2, and 3.5 (Many of the improvements and enhancements in Soviet equipment, particularly in the last decade, have used advanced Western technologies which the WP had acquired by both legal and illegal means. This loss of Western technology has saved the WP millions of dollars in research efforts, while weakening the overall defensive posture of NATO.6 In some cases, the WP has benefited from Western technology almost as fast as the West has.) From the nuclear perspective, the WP has also greatly improved its capabilities. Soviet nuclear weapons systems, both tactical and strategic, have evolved with improvements in range, accuracy, payload, and mobility. Figures 4 and 5 compare NATO and WP tactical nuclear weapons systems (short and intermediate range systems referred to in the figure equate to tactical nuclear systems for the purpose of this paper). Comparisons between NATO and WP strategic nuclear forces are made in Figures 6 and 7.7 Click here to view image In order to operationally integrate its force structure outlined in the previous paragraphs, the WP has improved its offensive capability and has modified or changed its tactics to counter the NATO strategy. Mobility and firepower of WP ground forces have been greatly strengthened. "Fast, new fighter/attack aircraft can carry almost twice the payload of predecessors to targets three times more distant."8 Use of airborne, air assault, and special purpose forces by the WP to disrupt the NATO rear areas, where logistic and command and control installations are located, is planned to create additional confusion. The emergence of Operational Maneuver Groups (OMGs), highly mobile armored forces deployed to strike deep in the enemy's rear, is of great concern to NATO. "The sole OMG mission is to abet main body breakthrough by raiding rear areas continuously, without regard for tactical boundaries, until attrition cripples them or advancing Soviet armies link up."9 Because of its defensive nature, NATO has always felt that it does not have to match men and equipment on a one-for-one basis with the WP. Nonetheless, NATO must possess the means and the strategy that will prevent war or the threat of war while safeguarding the freedoms of its member nations. NATO must be capable of, and be perceived as being capable of, defending itself across the spectrum of conflict scenarios. Unlike the WP from a conventional standpoint, NATO has "plodded" along and has maintained relatively the same number of military vehicles and aircraft, particularly over the last decade decade. Refer to Figures 2 and 3. Attempts have been made to standardize equipment and material, but generally have met with little success. The end result has been a conglomeration of military hardare, a duplication of research and development efforts, and a waste of limited financial resources within the NATO nations. If flexible response is to remain a credible strategy, NATO must actively demonstrate a cohesive unity of effort to standardize equipment. Standardization will benefit NATO in several ways. One area would be financial, where infrastructure funds are always short in supply. Standardized research, development, and procurement procedures would preclude a duplication of effort and money would not have to be funded for these efforts or money could be channeled into other areas vital for the defense. Secondly, standardized equipment would preclude a logistical nightmare in time of war. While there have been some successes in NATO to have commonality of equipment, the overall tendency has been for individual national interests to develop and produce equipment for that country's own forces and possibly sell that equipment to other NATO countries. These national interests have overidden the goal of the common defense for the entire Alliance. In the past, NATO has been in a position of superiority in nuclear weapons over the WP and has viewed nuclear weapons as a means to support deterrence. Today, this superiority no longer exists. Over the last six years and during the next several years, NATO has or will unilaterally withdraw 2,400 nuclear weapons from Europe, with no corresponding reduction by the WP. During this same period, NATO has indentified and will undertake improvements for both nuclear capable delivery systems and the remaining nuclear weapons to ensure these items are survivable, effective, and responsive. NATO has also improved its nuclear capability over the last several years by deploying US ground- launched cruise missiles and Pershing II missiles to counter the increased Soviet nuclear capability, particularly the SS-20 missile deployments (the NATO deployments were conducted in the absence of any arms control agreement. At the operational level, NATO has approved the concept of follow-on Forces Attack (FOFA). FOFA is a defensive concept consistent with NATO policy. The concept defend[s] forward, but strike[s] deep to slow the arrival of enemy reinforcements... [and] to reduce aircraft and missile threats, especially those of a nuclear nature... FOFA hopes to extend a large part of its power much farther against delayed payoff targets, such as major assembly areas, distant airfields, medium-and long-range theater nuclear missile sites, and strategic choke points....10 Major shifts in politics-military relationships between NATO and the WP have occured over the last twenty years. Because of these shifts, whether or not NATO's strategy of flexible response is a "hollow" strategy for the twenty-first century comes into question. In order to prevent miscalculation by an aggressor and to maintain peace, NATO must strive to keep a balance of power vis-a-vis the WP: NATO credibility to successfully defend itself must not be questioned. Historically, however, NATO as a whole has lacked political and economic resolve to ensure its defense capabilities are not questioned. Defense of the member nations that form NATO is an intangible entity that is hard to quantify when compared to an individual nation's interests in general and budget concerns in particular. As a result over the years, the WP has greaty improved its forces quantitatively and qualitatively, while NATO's overall efforts have been in leaps and bounds. A force differential is steadily growing between the two alliances and in favor of the WP, therby creating firmer calculations and planning factors for WP leadership. If NATO, for whatever reason, fails to continue to improve and modernize its forces, it should not rely on flexible response. By not modernizing its forces, NATO can not fully defend itself across the spectrum of attack scenarios that is envisioned by flexible response. In simple terms, if the strategy can not do now what it was designed to do, one of two things must happen: Either correct the deficiencies that now make flexible response a "hollow" strategy for the twenty-first century or adopt a new stategy to counter the threat. To correct the current deficiencies that make flexible response "hollow" for the year 2000 and beyond will require much resolve on the whole of NATO. First and foremost, NATO leadership must reappraise what the strategic objectives of the Alliance should encompass in the future, especially in view of current and projected WP power. NATO must reevaluate and determine what the future goals of the WP are so as to be able to counter them. Finally, NATO has to look at the entire global picture since world-wide interdependence on trade and raw materials exists today and will continue to an even greater degree in the future. After a review and reassessment of goals are accomplished, NATO planners can next focus on providing defense guidance for the next century. Based on this guidance, NATO forces structure can be better tailored and developed to meet the threat. As importantly, the strategic policy review and reassessment will also help to establish defense priorities in terms of defense spending and budgetary requirements. If the review finds the basic concept of flexible rewponse still valid for the next century, there will remain the requirement to improve and build up NATO's forces. This will require money, which will require individual member nation resolve to fund monies for these improvements to train and equip its forces. Next, NATO as a whole must ensure that enough fiscal resources are funded within the NATO infrastructure to build common NATO facilities such as command and control, bunkers, weapons storage sites, and aircraft shelters. More cooperation must occur within the Alliance on weapons and equipment collaboration to preclude duplication of research, development, and procurement efforts previously mentioned. National interests and differences must be eventually overcome if the common goal of Alliance defense is ever to be accomplished. As stated earlier in the paper, the multitude of weapons systems and equipment and the requirements for spare parts and the like would create a logistical nightmare in the event of war. Incorporation of new technology to improve the NATO defense posture must also be expanded. For example, studies have indicated that improved conventional munitions, using high technology components, can augment on supplement nuclear weapons or be used where nuclear weapons could not be employed because of collateral damage constraints. Areas where the emerging high technologies can be applied include developing a multitude of "smart" weapons with improved accuracy and lethality, making command, control, and communications facilities and equipment more reliable and survivable, enhancing surveillance and target acquisition systems, and completing various electronic warfare improvements, just to name a few areas. From the nuclear standpoint, NATO must implement the nuclear modernization and restructuring effort it embarked upon in late 1983. NATO relies almost exclusively upon the US for both the tactical and strategic nuclear portion of flexible response. If the US fails to modernize and improve its nuclear arsenal, two-thirds of the "triad" that makes up flexible response will come into question, once again making planning factors for the WP more definable and less ambiguous. Should the strategic policy review decide that flexible response can not counter the future threat in the twenty-first century or should NATO lack the resolve to improve its force structure to make flexible response a credible deterrent, a new strategy should be adopted. Obviously, this idea is fraught with danger. Developing and adopting a new strategy could be inferred by an aggressor that NATO is now weak and could be "ripe" for attack by calculating (or miscalculating) that it is better to attack now before a different NATO strategy is approved. On the other hand, if an aggressor does not attack, he may feel that he has to further stockpile and improve arms and equipment in order to "defend" himself against a new NATO strategy. These potential changes by an adversary could further complicate NATO's decision on what a new strategy should look like. Notwithstanding the impact of what a change in NATO's current strategy could do to an aggressor, what would it do to NATO itself? A change of strategy would involve much politico- military, as well as socio-economic and fiscal, discussions, studies, and probable turmoil. Many difficult questions would have to be asked and answered. Based on the strategic review, what should a new strategy look like? What changes in force structure would be required. Would it rely on conventional weapons, nuclear weapons, or some combination? Will the new emerging technologies "create" new defense measures suitable to counter the threat in the next century, i.e., a NATO version of the US Strategic Defense Initiative? How will the nations divide up the requirements to research and develop new systems to make a new strategy work? Or, will NATO put the whole question of reviewing and developing strategic requirements and guidance for the next century in the "Too Hard" box? NATO has always resisted change: witness the time spent to adopt current strategy. However distasteful if may be politically, militarily, and economically, the NATO leadership must nevertheless undertake the initiative to look at and review Alliance strategy for the next century to ensure NATO's continued freedoms. As a wise old Gunny once said, "The ultimate test of a man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for furture generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.11 Footnotes 1J. Michael Legge. Theater Nuclear Weapons and the NATO Strategy of Flexible Response (Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 1983), p.3 2Ibid., p.3 3Ibid., p.9 4Ibid., p.9 5NATO and the Warsaw Pact Force Comparisons (Brussels, Belgium: NATO Information Service, 1984, pp. 8,9, and 11. 6For more detailed discussions of US/NATO and Soviet/WP force comparisons, see the latest edition of Soviet Military Power (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office) and John M. Collins, US- Soviet Military Balance 1980-1985 (Mc Lean, VA: Pergamon-Brassey's International Defense Publishers, 1985). 7NATO/WP Force Comparisons, pp. 31,33,37, and 38. 8John M. Collins, US-Soviet Military Balance 1980-1985 (McLean, VA: Pergamon-Brassey's International Defense Publishers 1985, p. 131. 9Ibid., p. 131 10Ibid., p. 129 11"Thought of the Day," Henderson Hall News, May 24, 1985, p.3. Bibliography Brown, Douglas, LtCol, USAF, Nuclear/Chemical Division, J-5, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Interview about NATO policy. The Pentagon Washington, D.C., 26 March, 1986. Collins, John M. US Soviet Military Balance 1980-1985, McLean, VA: Pergamon-Brassey's International Defense Publishers, 1985. Correl, John T. "Restoring NATO's Flexible Response." Airforce Magazine, 88 (April 1983), 76-79. Dean Jonathan. "Beyond First Use." Foreign Policy, 48 (Fall 1982), 37-58. Facer, Roger L.L. Conventional Forces and the NATO Strategy of Flexible Response. Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 1985. Fulton, Larry, Maj., USMC, Nuclear/Chemical Division, J-5 Organization of the Joint Chief of Staff. Interview about NATO policy. 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