Europeans have often been suspicious of American intentions, but nuclear weapons have long been one of the most important tools, and perhaps the most important one, by which the U.S. prevented a possible Soviet conventional or nuclear attack in Europe during the Cold War. Europe’s hesitations proved prescient when the U.S. urged its NATO allies to replace a ‘massive retaliation’ strategy with a ‘flexible response’ after Americans realized, with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, that the Soviet Union was able to strike U.S. territory.
The willingness of Americans to use strategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a Soviet Union or Russian attack has been vague since NATO’s earliest days and especially after the endorsement of a flexible response strategy. European allies, however, preferred to rely on the American nuclear umbrella within NATO to deter a possible Soviet threat because that has been the best, lowest cost, and most reliable security strategy. In addition to the strategic nuclear weapons (SNWs) located on American territory, the U.S. also deployed tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) in Europe, including in Türkiye, during the Cold War, although command and control of these weapons and the procedures under which they would be used remained vague.
The end of the Cold War opened a new era of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on non-proliferation, nuclear arms limitations, and nuclear arms reductions. Both sides agreed to reduce TNWs, which are not covered by any treaty, right after the end of the Cold War in the wake of discussions about the value and efficiency of these weapons in the new post-Cold War security environment.
Based on the paradigms of the