The rationale employed for this policy was that the Soviets at the time possessed conventional military superiority on the European continent and in the event of an armed conflict with the USSR the United States and its new NATO allies would resort to atomic attacks.
The Alliance's Defense Doctrine of November 1949 called for insuring “the ability to carry out strategic bombing including the prompt delivery of the atomic bomb. This is primarily a US responsibility assisted as practicable by other nations.”
The deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe was effected through what is known as "nuclear sharing," the basing of nuclear weapons on the territories of NATO non-nuclear weapon states.
By the mid-1950s the US had confirmed the deployment of nuclear arms in Britain and the Federal Republic of Germany.
The stationing of such weapons increased steadily so that by the early 1970s there were an estimated 7,300 US nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.
As to what use these weapons might be put to, US National Security Archive documents released five years ago provide a horrifying indication.
In a meeting of the National Security Council in 1973 chaired by the National Security Adviser (and Secretary of State) of the time Henry Kissinger, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Adm. John P. Weinel, seemingly without reservation or regret, announced this plan:
"Now our objective is (to destroy) 70 percent of the floor space of war-supporting industry. A better criterion would be the post-recovery rate plus hitting the Soviet Army to prevent it from overrunning Europe.
"Another choice is to go for people - a goal of 70 million Russians for example."
(Associated Press, November 24, 2004)
Although the bombs stored in Europe were American and under the control of the Pentagon, war plans called for their loading onto fellow NATO nation's bombers for use against the Soviet Union and its (non-nuclear) Eastern European allies.
The Alliance states hosting the weapons were Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey.
All except for Greece still house US nuclear arms on their territory.
With the dissolution of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in 1989 and of the Soviet Union itself two years later, NATO scaled back on nuclear weapons stationed in its member states but has retained several hundred to the present moment.
Several hundred tactical nuclear bombs and the advanced aircraft capable of delivering them are still in NATO's arsenal in a post-Cold War Europe in which Russia is the only potential target.
The Strategic Concept adopted by the Alliance in April of 1999 - when NATO proved to be what its opponents had always suspected it was intended to be, an alliance for waging war as it was at the time against Yugoslavia - reaffirmed its commitment to its nuclear posture:
"The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies.
"A credible Alliance nuclear posture and the demonstration of Alliance solidarity and common commitment to war prevention continue to require widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements. Nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance. The Alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe."
Although the Pentagon has never and still doesn't acknowledge the true figures, the Federation of American Scientists estimates there are between 200 and 350 warheads at bases in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey.
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