When Allies Go Nuclear
The year is 2030. Seismic monitors have just detected an unforeseen underground atomic explosion, signaling that yet another country has joined the growing club of nuclear-armed states. There are now 20 such countries, more than double the number in 2021.
To the surprise of many, the proliferation has come not from rogue states bent on committing nuclear blackmail but from a group of countries usually seen as cautious and rule abiding: U.S. allies.
Even though they had forsworn acquiring nuclear capabilities decades earlier when they signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), these allies changed their minds and withdrew from the agreement, a move that triggered yet more defections as nations across the world raced to acquire the bomb.
And so the number of nuclear decision-makers multiplied, raising the odds of a terrifying possibility: that one of these powerful weapons might go off.
Far-fetched? Perhaps, but this scenario is more plausible now than many think. Although the threat of nuclear proliferation in recent decades has been concentrated in the Middle East and Asia, that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s, Washington worried about its Asian and European allies going nuclear. U.S.
intelligence officials projected that by the mid-1970s, there could be 10 to 15 nuclear powers in the world, including Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.
The NPT was designed to prevent this possibility, and since it was signed, in 1968, only four countries (India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) have acquired and retained operational nuclear forces. This success was due in large part to the United States’ concerted efforts to extend its nuclear umbrella to allied territory.
Reassured that they would be protected from nuclear attack and intimidation, U.S. allies in Asia and Europe decided not to develop their own nuclear capabilities.
But now they may be rethinking that decision. In both Asia and Europe, U.S. allies face a growing military threat from nuclear-armed powers, as China and Russia each become more aggressive and modernize their nuclear forces.
And in the United States, allies see a government that has walked away from long-standing arms control agreements and a population that no longer seems committed to global engagement. All of this has left U.S.
allies wondering whether they can still rely on Washington for their defense and security—or whether it might be time to think about getting the bomb.
In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden pledged, “We will repair our alliances.
” But after the Trump administration did so much to sow mistrust, it will take more than words to reassure allies of the United States’ commitments and erase any thoughts of joining the nuclear club.
It will also take active steps to bolster confidence in the United States’ nuclear guarantee, reinvigorated defense cooperation with allies, and a complete rethinking of arms control. This is a big agenda. But it is doable.
Most of the discussions in allied capitals about the U.S. nuclear umbrella have played out beyond public view, but signs of disquiet are beginning to emerge. In Germany, doubts about the United States’ reliability have arisen within official circles, and a growing chorus of voices outside government has suggested possible alternatives to the U.S. nuclear guarantee.
Some have proposed relying instead on a European nuclear umbrella composed of some combination of French and British capabilities, perhaps supported financially by Germany and other nonnuclear European countries. France, for its part, has invited fellow European states to engage in a “strategic dialogue” on its nuclear deterrent and possibly participate in nuclear exercises.
In Poland, there have been calls to bolster Europe’s nuclear deterrence, with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the country’s governing party, welcoming the idea of the EU as a nuclear power with an arsenal equal to that of Russia’s.
Turkey, too, has shown an interest in the bomb, with its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggesting that he is open to the possibility of acquiring it. “Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But we can’t have them,” he said.
“This I cannot accept.”
In both Asia and Europe, U.S. allies face a growing military threat from nuclear-armed powers.
Similar sentiments are emerging in Asia. Japan, the only country in history to have suffered a nuclear attack, is concerned about the continued reliability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, especially as its nuclear-armed neighbors become more aggressive. Doubts about U.S.
reliability are nothing new in Japan: in the 1970s, the country delayed ratifying the NPT for more than five years, worried that the treaty would enshrine its nuclear inferiority and that the U.S. umbrella might prove insufficient to ensure Japan’s security.
Today, such sentiment has been compounded by China’s newfound assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear advances.
And although Japanese officials are not openly raising the possibility that their country will acquire a nuclear arsenal of its own, Japan continues to maintain the material and know-how to do so rapidly should it decide to.
South Korea has also been questioning its lack of a nuclear arsenal. North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, and in the years since, it has built dozens of weapons and hundreds of missiles, some of which could reach the continental United States.
Adding to South Korea’s feelings of insecurity, in 2019, the Trump administration canceled joint military exercises with the country and demanded that it quintuple the amount it pays for the privilege of keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula.
Although few South Koreans have advocated a national nuclear deterrent, more and more of them want greater reassurance from the United States.
Many have called for Washington to reintroduce the tactical nuclear weapons—short-range and low-yield—that it withdrew after the Cold War.
In Australia, finally, growing concern about China has led to what the Australian government has called “the most consequential strategic realignment” of its defense policy since World War II: a clear focus on defending its national security in an Indo-Pacific region marked by great-power competition and a rising chance of conflict.
Although Australia is not yet rethinking its nuclear abstinence, it has decided to acquire long-range strike capabilities to enhance the credibility of its defense and deterrence posture. If doubts about U.S.
reliability were to prove more than a temporary phenomenon, the same logic could lead to a renewed debate about Australia’s nonnuclear policy.
Reassuring allies starts with a return to fundamentals: the Biden administration must unequivocally reaffirm the cornerstones of U.S. security commitments.
That means affirming the United States’ treaty commitments to collective defense, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to remove U.S.
troops from Germany and elsewhere, and negotiating long-term cost-sharing arrangements with the countries that host U.S. troops in Asia and Europe.
To erase doubts about the U.S. umbrella, the Biden administration should raise the salience of nuclear issues with allies. It should bring NATO and Asian allies into the nuclear planning process from the outset, closely consulting them as the administration conducts its next Nuclear Posture Review.
The administration should plan more exercises with U.S. allies that include a nuclear dimension and regularly involve allied political leaders in them. Finally, it should seek to bolster the defense and deterrence capabilities of its alliances in Asia and Europe. That may entail increasing the number of U.S.
troops in both regions or, at the very least, pledging to maintain their current levels. It may also entail deploying additional missile defense capabilities and reviewing the U.S. nuclear posture in both regions to ensure that existing capabilities are enough to maintain the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Whatever the decisions, they should be taken only in close consultation with, and at the invitation of, U.S. allies.
Allies will have to do their part. Europe, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, must “take on more responsibility, both in military and diplomatic terms.
” But it should do so by building up real military capacity—improved warfighting capabilities, enhanced readiness—not just more procedures or headquarters. Europe will also need to build up the nuclear dimension of its defense efforts.
European allies that currently participate in NATO nuclear missions by deploying aircraft and hosting U.S. weapons should retain and modernize these forces.
Western Europe’s two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, should not only deepen their long-standing nuclear cooperation but also offer to extend their nuclear deterrents to their European allies. The result would be a European nuclear umbrella, something that would complement rather than replace the U.S.
nuclear guarantee yet still strengthen NATO and bolster European security. Indeed, that is the point of greater European capabilities, and the United States should make clear that it welcomes any efforts to strengthen defense cooperation within Europe.
The region’s ability to act autonomously poses no threat to the United States or NATO; to the contrary, it makes Europe a stronger military partner.
Arms control must move beyond the U.S.-Russian framework that has dominated for decades.
Restoring confidence among U.S. allies in Asia will be trickier, because the region lacks its own version of NATO and relies instead on bilateral security arrangements.
To compensate, Washington should encourage greater cooperation among its Asian allies and reestablish trilateral security cooperation with Japan and South Korea, which was halted in recent years because of disputes between the two Asian powers.
Washington should also establish an Asian equivalent to NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, a body that would bring Australia, Japan, and South Korea into the U.S. nuclear planning process and offer them a platform for discussing regional deterrence.
Finally, the United States and the three other countries in the Asia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Australia, India, and Japan) may need to consider eventually including South Korea in the group if Seoul expresses interest in joining.
The biggest nuclear unknown in the coming decade concerns China’s arsenal, which, although shrouded in secrecy, is believed to be undergoing rapid modernization and could double in size within a few years.
The United States and its allies have a powerful incentive to penetrate China’s nuclear opacity and get greater insight into its capabilities.
Arms control agreements can play a role in this effort, providing greater transparency about capabilities, an exchange of views on intentions, and stability in the overall nuclear relationship.
Indeed, the United States needs to overhaul its approach to arms control globally.
Biden took a wise first step when he agreed to extend the New START treaty with Russia, which covers only long-range strategic weapons; the next step should be a new bilateral agreement that would seek to cover all U.
S. and Russian nuclear warheads, including those in storage, as well as novel nuclear delivery systems, such as hypersonic weapons.
That said, arms control must move beyond the U.S.-Russian framework that has dominated for decades. A logical grouping for expanded discussions would be the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
These five countries should start a dialogue that addresses nuclear issues, and over time, they could negotiate measures that would pull back the curtain on their arsenals, convince one another of the defensive nature of those arsenals, and open up the possibility of mutual limitations.
As a first step, the United States and Russia could invite the other three members to observe the inspections that Washington and Moscow conduct as part of their existing arms control obligations, thus demonstrating the value of transparency without revealing critical secrets about weapons designs.
Subsequently, all five countries could agree to exchange information about their nuclear capabilities, notify each other of forthcoming missile and other tests, and take other steps to enhance transparency. Eventually, each country could commit to limiting its nuclear forces to the lowest possible level.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
For more than 50 years, the United States’ alliances have helped stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But faced with worsening regional threats and growing uncertainty about U.S. staying power, U.S. allies are beginning to reassess their security arrangements—including their nuclear dimensions.
Biden has made rebuilding U.S. alliances a fundamental priority from the moment he took office. The president was right to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO in a call with the alliance’s secretary-general and key European allies, and he was right to do the same regarding Australia, Japan, and South Korea in calls to those countries’ leaders.
Now, however, comes the hard work of transforming relationships in more fundamental ways—bolstering deterrence and defense capabilities all around, bringing Asian and European allies into the U.S.
nuclear planning process, and broadening arms control efforts beyond Russia. This is hardly an impossible agenda, but it could hardly be more urgent.
At stake is nothing less than a decades-long success: preventing the spread of the world’s deadliest weapons.
Charles Timothy Hagel (b. October 4, 1946, in North Platte, Neb.) is a former United States Secretary of Defense. Hagel submitted his resignation notice to President Barack Obama on November 24, 2014, though he agreed to stay in office until his successor was appointed. Administration officials claimed Obama requested his resignation under the belief that the conflict with ISIS would need a different skill set than Hagel brought to the office.
Some believed forcing Hagel out was the president's response to publicly perceived weakness in the face of national security issues the Ebola outbreak and the ISIS threat. Hagel stepped down on February 15, 2015.
Hagel was confirmed by the Senate on February 26, 2013. He was the first enlisted combat veteran to hold the position of Secretary of Defense. Hagel previously served as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration under the Reagan administration and was a member of the U.S. Senate representing Nebraska from 1996 to 2009.
Hagel attended St. Bonaventure High School in Nebraska. After high school, he enrolled at the Brown Institute for Radio and Television in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1966. He dropped school to serve in the army during the Vietnam War where he fought alongside his brother, Tom, in 1968. He and Tom ended up saving each others' lives on different occasions and earned five Purple Hearts between them.  Following his term of service in the Army, Hagel graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He continued his public service by joining Representative John McCollister's staff until becoming a lobbyist for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1977. President Ronald Reagan then appointed Hagel to the position of deputy administrator for the Veterans Administration, a position he used to help those who had been affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam. Following his term in 1982, he worked as president and director of a number of private sector businesses, including Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc. until his 1996 election to the United States Senate.  After his second term, Hagel retired and taught national governance at Georgetown University before accepting President Barack Obama's nomination to be Secretary of Defense.
Below is an abbreviated outline of Hagel's academic, professional, and political career:
- 1966-1967: Attended Brown Institute for Radio and Television
- 1967-1969: Served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam
- 1971: Graduated from University of Nebraska at Omaha
- 1971-1977: Served on the staff of Nebraska Representative John McCollister
- 1977-1980: Lobbyist for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
- 1981-1982: Appointed to Deputy Administrator for the Veterans Administration
- 1982-1985: President and Co-founder of Collins, Hagel and Clarke, Inc.
- 1982: Deputy Commissioner General for the World's Fair, Knoxville, Tenn.
- 1984-1987: Director and Executive Vice President of Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc.
- 1987-1990: President and CEO of World United Service Organizations
- 1990-1992: President and CEO of Private Sector Council of Washington, D.C.
- 1992-1996: President of McCarthy and Co.
- 1997-2009: United States Senator from Nebraska
- 2009-2013: Professor of National Governance in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
- 2013-2015: United States Secretary of Defense
Republican senators successfully filibustered debate on Hagel, blocking a confirmation vote on February 14, 2013. The filibuster was done in an effort to force the Obama administration to release more information on the Benghazi attack in 2012.
The vote to close debate received only 58 of the 60 necessary votes, with Sen. Harry Reid notably voting against for the reason of having the ability to bring the vote up again at a later date. Hagel was confirmed as the U.S.
Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013, by a vote of 58-41 after the vote to close debate on the nomination finally passed. All votes against his confirmation were cast by Republicans. Four Republicans supported Hagel's confirmation: Thad Cochran (R-Miss.
), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
|Party||Votes for a||Votes against d||Total votes|
ISIS insurgency in Iraq and Syria
See also: ISIS insurgency in Iraq and Syria
The goal of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was to create an Islamic state for Sunni muslims where Sharia law can be enforced, uniting parts of Iraq and Syria where the Sunni minorities live.
The Soufan Group, a political risk consultant firm, stated, “ISIS has become indisputably the most effective and ruthless terrorist organization in the world.” As a precautionary measure, Hagel ordered an aircraft carrier be moved to the Persian Gulf for added flexibility, if President Barack Obama chose to act. While the administration insisted no U.S.
combat soldiers would be put on the ground in Iraq, about 1,000 military advisers were sent in an effort to secure key U.S. diplomats and help train and guide Iraqi forces. Airstrikes were authorized to begin on August 7, 2014. On August 21, 2014, Hagel claimed ISIS was more than “just a terrorist group,” and warned that they posed a serious threat.
He explained, “[ISIL] is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded.”
On February 24, 2014, Hagel released a budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Defense suggesting the size of the American armed forces be dropped to pre-World War II levels.
“You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can't carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war,” said one senior Pentagon official. The U.S. Army would be dropped to 440,000-450,000 in the coming years, down from the peak of 570,000 after September 11, 2001.
President Barack Obama's proposal coming into office would have dropped the Army down to 490,000, but Hagel deemed more cuts necessary in light of both the political and economic landscape in the federal government.
On February 5, 2014, Hagel ordered in-depth investigations into multiple ethics violations in the armed services. Drug use in the Air Force, bribery and cheating allegations in the Navy and fraudulent payments and kickbacks in the Army and National Guard sparked the ethics crackdown by Hagel.
A spokesperson of the secretary said, “And he’s concerned about the depth of it.
I don’t think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and that’s what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn’t have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it.”
Military sexual assault cases
On August 15, 2013, Hagel announced reforms to the handling of sexual assault accusations in the U.S. military. Per a Pentagon survey, sexual assault cases rose to 26,000 in 2012 from 19,000 in 2010. The Department of Defense felt pressure from President Barack Obama to enact the reforms, which included improved legal support for victims, transfers for accused to eliminate future contact and required follow-up actions throughout the chain of command.
See also: Bowe Bergdahl exchange
The Obama administration exchanged five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31, 2014. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and held captive just across the border in Pakistan. Bergdahl was accused of deserting his unit before being captured, leading to more controversy over whether or not the administration should have made a deal with the Taliban.
Critics claimed the action showed American weakness by setting the precedent that the United States would make deals with terrorists. The House Armed Services committee chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.
) went further and insisted that President Obama violated the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act by not giving Congress at least 30 days notice before engaging in talks to get Bergdahl back.
Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the exchange was rushed due to Bergdahl's “deteriorating” health. Hagel also defended the exchange and hoped it would create “a new opening” in future talks with the Taliban. When asked the reasoning behind the negotiations on June 3, 2014, Obama said, “Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.
” He also stated that the administration had been consulting with Congress prior to the swap, a statement House Intelligence committee chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) disputed, stating, “In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back.
We hadn't heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange.” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reported that he was told of the exchange but only “the day before or the day of.”
- Note: 2015 represents the department's budget request, not an enacted budget.
On November 5, 2002, Chuck Hagel won re-election to the United States Senate. He defeated Charlie A. Matulka (D), Phil Chase (I) and John J. Graziano (L) in the general election.
|Democratic||Charlie A. Matulka||14.6%||70,290|
|Libertarian||John J. Graziano||1.5%||7,423|
On November 5, 1996, Chuck Hagel won election to the United States Senate. He defeated Ben Nelson (D) in the general election.
Note: Please contact us if the personal information below requires an update.
Hagel and his wife, Lilibet, have two children.
This section links to a Google news search for the term Chuck + Hagel + Secretary + Defense
- ↑ The Washington Post, “AP Sources: Hagel resigning as Defense secretary,” November 24, 2014
- ↑ New York Times, “Hagel Said to Be Stepping Down as Defense Chief Under Pressure,” November 24, 2014
- ↑ NBC Nebraska, “Chuck Hagel Issues Goodbye as He Steps Down as Secretary of Defense,” accessed February 18, 2015
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 CNN, “Chuck Hagel Fast Facts,” accessed March 11, 2013
- ↑ U.S. Department of Defense, “Chuck Hagel,” accessed May 29, 2013
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Cite error: Invalid tag;no text was provided for refs named DODbio
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Biography.com, “Chuck Hagel biography,” accessed May 29, 2013
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Fox News, “Senate Republicans blog Hagel nomination – for now,” February 14, 2013
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Politico, “Chuck Hagel confirmed for secretary of defense in 58-41 Senate vote,” February 26, 2013
- ↑ CNN, “ISIS: The first terror group to build an Islamic state?” June 12, 2014
- ↑ Politico, “Chuck Hagel orders U.S. aircraft carrier to Persian Gulf,” June 14, 2014
- ↑ The Hill, “Obama orders more than 100 advisers to Iraq,” August 12, 2014
- ↑ Abc News, “Airstrikes in Iraq,” August 8, 2014
- ↑ The Hill, “Hagel: ISIS 'beyond anything we've seen',” August 21, 2014
- ↑ New York Times, “Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level,” February 24, 2014
- ↑ Politico, “Hagel ramps up ethics push,” February 5, 2014
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 The Guardian, “Hagel announces new measures to try to stamp out sex assaults in the military,” August 15, 2013
- ↑ Department of Defense, “Hagel Announces New Anti-Sexual Assault Initiatives,” August 15, 2013
- ↑ CBS News, “Bowe Bergdahl, a Taliban captive since 2009, has been freed,” May 31, 2014
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 Politico, “Criticism of Bergdahl deal mounts,” June 6, 2014
- ↑ Politico, “President Obama defends Bowe Bergdahl deal,” June 3, 2014
- ↑ U.S. Department of Defense, “UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FISCAL YEAR 2015 BUDGET REQUEST,” accessed February 18, 2015
- ↑ U.S. Congress House Clerk, “Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 5, 2002,” accessed March 28, 2013
- ↑ U.S. Congress House Clerk, “Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 5, 1996,” accessed March 28, 2013