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Between the United States and Russia: Past and Present Perspectives on the creation of a separate European nuclear deterrent

Hosted by the United States Centre



Professor Wyn Bowen

Professor Lynn Eden

Professor Matthew Jones

Dr Helen Parr


Professor Peter Trubowitz

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 will use 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?

This event is co-hosted with the Department of International History.

Professor Wyn Bowen (@wqbowen) is Professor of Non Proliferation and International Security at the, School of Security Studies, Kings College London.

Professor Lynn Eden is Associate Director for Research/Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, at the Institute for International Studies, Stanford University.

Professor Matthew Jones is Professor and Head of Department at the Department of International History at the LSE.

Dr Helen Parr is a Senior Lecture in the School of Politics, Philosophy and International Relations at Keele University.

Professor Peter Trubowitz (@ptrubowitz) is Professor and Head of Department at the Department of International Relations at the LSE and Director of the LSE US Centre.


Header image: "Nuclear Airmen" by Airman Magazine is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0


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