The Threat and NATO Strategy

We and our NATO allies do not believe that war is imminent in Europe, but we must face the possibility that it could occur. The military power of the Warsaw Pact has grown over the decade and continues to increase. Postwar Europe has seen more than its share of crises, and new crises are possible. As the annex to the December communique pointed out:

In addition to a capability to deter and counter major deliberate aggression, Allied forces should be so structured and organized as to be capable of dealing also with aggressions and incursions with more limited objectives associated with intimidation or the creation of faits accomplis, or with those aggressions which might be the result of accident or miscalculation.

Our review examined three alternative strategies for dealing with these contingencies: reliance on conventional forces alone; early response with nuclear weapons; a flexible strategy that does not preclude or force either kind of response.

America's will to employ nuclear retaliation in defense of NATO, our analysis indicated, remains central and necessary to allied security. But in the conditions of today's new strategic equation, it can no longer be the sole basis for allied deterrence. Today nuclear destruction would be mutual. No NATO leader should be left with only the choice between capitulation and immediate resort to general nuclear war.

Sole reliance on conventional forces might lead an aggressor to conclude that we might accept the loss of vital territory without taking further action. Sole reliance on nuclear forces, on the other hand, might lead inevitably and unnecessarily to the very widespread devastation that we should be trying to prevent. Neither of these prospects enhances our security.

We and our allies therefore reaffirmed our consensus that we must have forces able to deter and defend below the threshold of general nuclear war, to give us full flexibility in responding to any outbreak of hostilities. This means a strong and credible deployment of modrmzed NATO conventional forces. These forces must be capable of rapid mobilization and reinforcement and of sustaining a successful initial forward defense against conventional attack.