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A Nuclear Alliance

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The NATO Alliance not only features nuclear weapon states among its members but is also a nuclear Alliance itself. Decisions on nuclear policy and posture are the product of Alliance consultations, and the nuclear sharing arrangements involve different European Allies in theatre-level deterrence in a way that is unique. This chapter reviews how the nuclear Alliance came into being and evolved over its 75-year history. Relying on declassified NATO archival materials and more recent public documents, it argues that this history features three enduring themes, namely the primacy of nuclear deterrence in avoiding war, the foundational importance of nuclear weapons in making Alliance security indivisible, and the constant interplay between the nuclear and conventional components of NATO’s overall deterrence. The Russian attempts at nuclear coercion in the Ukraine war and China’s rise as a second nuclear peer are driving forward the adaptation of NATO’s nuclear posture.


This article was first published in the book “Routledge Handbook of NATO” .


(Photo credit: Routledge)