Meeting of NATO Defense Ministers: Time for the Red Telephone

NATO’s nuclear exercises in Western Europe send the wrong signal. President Joe Biden should personally attempt to deescalate the situation as soon as possible.

Next week, nuclear drills will take place in the center of Europe. Heavily armed NATO troops will practice removing B61 hydrogen bombs and dropping them from fighter jets above the North Sea at the Belgian nuclear weapons site Kleine Brogel and likely also in the German municipality of Büchel in the Eifel region.

According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, that is completely normal. “Steadfast Noon,” as the exercise is called, is a routine nuclear deterrence activity that has been planned for a long time, he claimed. At the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defense in Brussels, Stoltenberg said that nobody needs to worry.

But people are worried and rightly so. The situation is not normal; it is deadly serious. Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, while President Joe Biden has warned of a nuclear Armageddon. According to Biden, the situation is reminiscent of the Cuban missile crisis when nuclear war was narrowly averted.

If that is the case — and no one doubted it at the NATO meeting — then the U.S. and its allies are sending the wrong signal with “Steadfast Noon.” Right now, they should not be demonstrating that they are capable of conducting a nuclear war, but doing everything in their power to avert the threat of nuclear escalation. Biden must pick up the “red telephone” as soon as possible and come to an agreement with Putin on steps toward deescalation. Sixty years ago, the direct line between Washington and Moscow resulted in a solution to the crisis. Why is that not also possible today?

A 1-to-1 Discussion Is Not Ruled Out

Putin has made it clear that he is willing to talk, at least. He allowed his foreign minister to state that he could meet with Biden at the Group of 20 summit in Bali. Evidently, the U.S. president is also not categorically ruling out a one-to-one discussion anymore.

But the U.S. only wants to negotiate from a position of power. That is why the pressure on Putin was raised again in Brussels. The 30 NATO allies are sending the message that they will not allow themselves to be blackmailed by nuclear threats. This message is right, but also highly dangerous. If Putin’s threats are being used to prepare NATO for a nuclear war, then no end to the escalation is in sight. And if the U.S. threatens to directly intervene, it will add fuel to the fire.

The Americans did the right thing on their own during the Cuban missile crisis. This time, it seems Biden will need to be carried to the “red telephone.” Why aren’t the Europeans lending a hand? After all, if nuclear war breaks out, it would do so in Europe, not in the U.S. It is in our own interests as Europeans to end this escalation before it is too late.

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About Kirsty Low 72 Articles
I am a German to English translator from Scotland with a passion for all things related to language and translation. I have experience translating texts from diverse fields and enjoy taking on new challenges.

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