No one in America can say if, where, how or to what extent American nuclear weapons would be employed to defend Europe.
Charles de Gaulle ( 1963)
The raison d'être for this study is the fear that Charles de Gaulle may have been right. De Gaulle's underlying concern was that a United States vulnerable to Soviet nuclear attack might not be willing to risk its own destruction for the sake of its North Atlantic Treaty commitments. It is axiomatic that the security of NATO Europe is inextricably linked to the capability and willingness of the United States to carry out its nuclear guarantees to the Western Europeans. It is further acknowledged that American vulnerability to a growing Soviet intercontinental nuclear capability has complicated seriously the calculation of American resolve to defend Western Europe should that involve the use of strategic nuclear weapons.
The transition to a strategic environment incorporating strategic and theater missile defenses holds inherent significance for Western European security. If doubts concerning the efficacy of U.S. nuclear guarantees are the result of America's vulnerability to Soviet nuclear attack, it follows that lessening the vulnerability of the United States through strategic defense might help restore the basis for extended deterrence and thus enhance Western European security.
The erosion of confidence in the U.S. nuclear umbrella is not a recent phenomenon; it can be traced back to the mid-1950s. Although the United