U.S. and NATO officials are currently deciding what specific arms control measures they will seek regarding the remaining tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe. Although NATO officials have linked further reductions in the alliance's TNW to reciprocal Russian reductions, NATO governments have yet to propose any formal TNW negotiations with the Russian government. Specifically, they must determine what objectives to seek, what negotiating forum to use, and how to verify any agreement regarding these weapons.
When the U.S. Senate ratified the New START Treaty last December, it also enacted a resolution directing the Obama administration to begin negotiations with Russia on limiting the two countries' tactical nuclear weapons. At its November 2010 summit in Lisbon, NATO governments also confirmed the position adopted earlier that year that the alliance link any further reductions in its TNW stockpiles to changes in Russia's policies regarding its own much larger TNW arsenal. Specifically, the ministers called on Russia to eliminate many of these weapons, to relocate any remaining TNWs away from neighboring NATO countries and to make these holdings more transparent.
Unfortunately, Russian officials have not shown interest in negotiating formal limits on their TNW, which, Russian analysts argue, make valuable contributions to Russia's security. In addition to contributing to Russia's deterrent against nuclear strikes, Russia's TNWs help compensate for weaknesses in Russian conventional forces. In this respect, Russian TNW can help negate NATO's qualitative conventional advantages in the west as well as China's quantitative superiority in the east.