Press Release No. 10/51e
22 November 2010


European churches disappointed about NATO’s new Strategic Concept not effectively contributing to nuclear disarmament


At the Lisbon Summit of 19-20 November, the NATO Heads of State and Government agreed on NATO’s new Strategic Concept. The document presents NATO’s vision for the next decade in a changing world. Regarding nuclear disarmament, however, the result is static and disappointing. The new Strategic Concept reiterates a commitment made at last years’ summit in Strasbourg/Kehl (April 2009) to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation but lacks concrete plans to translate this into reality. The Conference of European Churches (CEC) and its Church and Society Commission (CSC) see a missed opportunity here on the part of Europe’s NATO allies to depart from the Cold War and make their own contribution in supporting President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons. CEC/CSC appeals to all NATO Member States to use the review of NATO’s defence and deterrence posture that was also announced in Lisbon – though regrettably without any time-frame – to agree on more forward-looking concrete actions than were decided in Lisbon.


For over a year, CEC/CSC together with the World Council of Churches and the National Councils of Churches in the USA and Canada, have called upon NATO to withdraw the last remaining ca. 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from five NATO countries in Europe as a demonstration of their support for a world free of nuclear weapons. According to CEC/CSC, these former ‘battlefield nuclear weapons’ – with Europe being the battlefield – are remnants of Cold War strategies. Instead, NATO should rethink deterrence and security cooperation in today’s Europe and decrease reliance on nuclear weapons as a contribution to their eventual elimination. The churches also believe that keeping these nuclear weapons in Europe undermines the credibility of NATO’s non-proliferation policy and fails to discourage other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons with a similar deterrence rationale.


In its new Strategic Concept, NATO expresses a commitment to “the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons” but immediately adds that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.” The churches welcome that the Alliance reaffirms its intention to enhance international security by “contributing actively to arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament” but deplore that it refuses to endorse the policy goal of Germany, in various ways supported by other Member States, of withdrawing U.S. nuclear weapons. Instead, the Alliance repeats phrases from its previous Strategic Concept (1999) that it wants to “ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in nuclear planning, including peacetime basing of nuclear forces”, although it no longer explicitly adds that these must be based in Europe.


NATO links “any future reductions” to seeking Russian reciprocity, referring to increased transparency about Russia’s nuclear weapons in Europe and relocating them away from NATO territory. In earlier statements, the churches also expressed their concern about the large Russian arsenals, equally advocating for transparency and relocation, but argued that a direct link would lead to deadlock, given the complexity of the issue.


In statements addressed to the European Union on 12 March 2010 and to NATO on 23 July 2010, CEC/CSC asked for stronger European support for the new U.S. policy towards zero nuclear weapons. The removal of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe would reduce the number of countries in the world with nuclear weapons on their territory from the current 14 to 9 and thereby send a strong signal in support of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Such a step would also end all doubts about NATO’s compliance with the NPT, which prohibits any transfer of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon states. As was said in both statements, the churches’ support of the new policy towards zero is based on the conviction “that security should not rely on a readiness to destroy the world which God has entrusted to humankind.”


Read the 23 July 2010 CSC statement in preparation of NATO’s new Strategic Concept


Read the 12 March 2010 CSC statement with proposals for the EU policy to the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May 2010.




The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 125 Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, and of 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.


The Church and Society Commission of CEC provides a platform for the CEC membership to reflect on socio-ethical issues ecumenically and to involve them in common action and advocacy in relation to the European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations (in European matters). CSC operates as a forum for action, dialogue and ecumenical training in European affairs.


For more information, please contact:
Laurens Hogebrink
Church and Society Commission of CEC
Phone: +31 622 43 78 38