Nuclear sharing is a concept in NATO’s  policy of nuclear deterrence, which allows member countries without nuclear weapons of their own to participate in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO. In particular, it provides for the armed forces of those countries to be involved in delivering nuclear weapons in the event of their use.

As part of nuclear sharing, the participating countries carry out consultations and make common decisions on nuclear weapons policy, maintain technical equipment (notably nuclear-capable airplanes) required for the use of nuclear weapons and store nuclear weapons on their territory. In case of war, the United States has told NATO allies the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would no longer be in effect

Of the three nuclear powers in NATO (France, the United Kingdom and the United States), only the United States is known to have provided weapons for nuclear sharing. As of November 2009, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey are hosting U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO's nuclear sharing policy. In 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, reports appeared about the possible inclusion of Poland in the NATO nuclear sharing program. 

In peacetime, the nuclear weapons stored in non-nuclear countries are guarded by United States Air Force (USAF) personnel and previously, some nuclear artillery and missile systems were guarded by United States Army (USA) personnel; the Permissive Action Link codes required for arming them remain under American control. In case of war, the weapons are to be mounted on the participating countries' warplanes. The weapons are under custody and control of USAF Munitions Support Squadrons co-located on NATO main operating bases who work together with the host nation forces.

As of 2021, 100 tactical B61 nuclear bombs are believed to be deployed in Europe under the nuclear sharing arrangement. The weapons are stored within a vault in hardened aircraft shelters, using the USAF WS3 Weapon Storage and Security System. The delivery warplanes used are F-16s and Panavia Tornados


On 27 February 2022, shortly after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine,  Belarusians voted in a referendum to repeal the post-Soviet Constitutional prohibition on basing of nuclear weapons in Belarus.  At a meeting on 25 June 2022, Russian President Putin and President of Belarus Lukashenko agreed the deployment of Russian short-range nuclear-capable missiles. The deployment of nuclear warheads for nuclear sharing would require a further decision, possibly after a number of years, and might be tied to future NATO decisions. Russia will supply Belarus with nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile systems. Both conventional and nuclear versions of the missile would be provided to the Belarusians. Additionally, Putin said that he would facilitate the modifications necessary for Belarusian SU-25 bombers to carry nuclear missiles.

Both the Non-Aligned Movement and critics within NATO believe that NATO's nuclear sharing violates Articles I and II of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibit the transfer and the acceptance of direct or indirect control, respectively, over nuclear weapons.

The United States insists that its forces control the weapons and that no transfer of the nuclear bombs or control over them is intended "unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which the NPT would no longer be controlling", so there is no breach of the NPT. However, the pilots and other staff of the "non-nuclear" NATO countries practice handling and delivering the US nuclear bombs, and non-US warplanes have been adapted to deliver US nuclear bombs which involved the transfer of some technical nuclear weapons information. Even if the US argument is considered legally correct, some argue such peacetime operations appear to contravene both the objective and the spirit of the NPT. Essentially, all preparations for waging nuclear war have already been made by supposedly non-nuclear weapon states.

There are concerns that this arrangement undermines, and possibly contravenes, Articles I and II of the NPT. According to US lawyers, the transfer of control is legal because, on the outbreak of "general war", the NPT has failed in its purpose and can be regarded as no longer in controlling force. This arrangement was conceived in the early to mid-1960s to contain proliferation. It is arguable that several European nations including Germany were persuaded not to become nuclear states themselves because of the NATO nuclear umbrella. However, a nuclear sharing arrangement that may have had some logic in the pre-NPT and cold war world is now a source of weakening for the NPT, as it offers a rationale to other states to pursue a similar program. NATO's nuclear sharing program could now be used as an excuse by China, Pakistan or any other nuclear-armed nation to establish a similar arrangement. Imagine if China were to offer such an arrangement to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. Or if Pakistan were to undertake nuclear sharing with Saudi Arabia or Iran. Such developments would be perceived as a threat to security in North Asia or the Middle East, and even as a direct threat to NATO. Yet, while the NATO arrangements remain in place, NATO members would have few valid grounds for complaint. The Committee should recommend the immediate termination of NATO nuclear sharing arrangements.

At the time the NPT was being negotiated, the NATO nuclear sharing agreements were secret. These agreements were disclosed to some of the states, including the Soviet Union, negotiating the treaty along with the NATO arguments for not treating them as proliferation. Most of the states that signed the NPT in 1968 would not have known about these agreements and interpretations at that time.


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