25 October 2017, Wednesday, 16:00-17:30, TW2.9.05, LSE
Department of International History and LSE United States Centre
Speakers: Professor Matthew Jones (LSE International History), Professor Wyn Bowen (KCL), Professor Lynn Eden (Stanford University), Dr Helen Parr (Keele University)
Chair: Professor Peter Trubowitz (LSE International Relations and LSE US Centre Director)
In the age of Trump and Brexit, does Europe need to rethink its security relationship with the US? Is it time for Europe to consider its own nuclear deterrent force?
Since the election of Donald Trump as US President there has been much discussion of the strained security relationship between the United States and its European NATO allies. Trump's assertions that the Europeans need to contribute more toward their own security, his position on several key international political issues (such as attitudes to Russian policy), and his past reluctance to offer all-out endorsement to America's Article 5 obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty, have contributed to the sense that transatlantic ties have loosened. Some commentators have spoken of the need for France and Germany, in a post-Brexit Europe, to rethink their security relationship and look more to their own defence needs, and even, with the US nuclear guarantee perhaps in doubt, to consider a separate European deterrent force.
We have, however, been here before. On several occasions in the 1960s and 1970s, when it looked as though the US nuclear guarantee to NATO in Western Europe was in doubt, ideas emerged for the creation of some kind of European-based nuclear force, whether it be an Anglo-French combination (mooted by Macmillan in 1961-62, and again by Harold Wilson in 1967), or perhaps Multilateral Force (under joint control, with US leadership and involvement), or perhaps on a Franco-German basis (the underlying fear of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations which helped make them push for an MLF).
This seminar used the recent occasion of the publication of the first two volumes of the official history of the UK strategic nuclear deterrent, to examine these past perspectives on a European nuclear deterrent force, positioned between the US and Soviet Union, and to make comparisons to the present. Why did such schemes emerge? What practical mechanics did they involve? What were the obstacles that lay in the path to their creation? Did the experience of the 1960s and 1970s hold any lessons for today?