Rose Gottemoeller, the chief U.S. negotiator of New START, visited Poland, Ukraine and the three Baltic states in recent days to hear how these countries view the issue of tactical weapons. She said she has heard concerns across the region about Russian threats to build up its stockpile of tactical weapons in Kaliningrad, a Russian territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania. "There is a generalized concern about Kaliningrad and Russian propensity to, every time a concern is aroused in Moscow, to say, well, 'time to bring something else to Kaliningrad,'" said Gottemoeller, who is assistant secretary of state for arms control. "I would say it's a generalized concern among the countries of the region that I have visited this week." Russia has not said whether it has nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, but officials in neighboring countries are convinced they are there. Lithuanian Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene said this week that it's "no secret" that Russia has tactical weaponry in Kaliningrad.
Poland has expressed concerns in the past over threats by Russia to place missiles in Kaliningrad in reaction to a U.S. plan for a missile defense system in the region. Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski joined the debate on New START last year with a much-cited op-ed piece hailing the treaty as important to Europe's security. He called it a "necessary stepping stone" to future reductions in tactical nuclear arsenals. "While we in Poland do not perceive an immediate military threat from Russia, most of the world's active tactical or sub-strategic nuclear weapons today seem to be deployed just east of Poland's borders, in speculative preparation for conflict in Europe," Sikorski argued. "The cataclysmic potential of such a conflict makes it essential to limit and eventually eliminate this leftover from the Cold War."
Some experts, however, note that it will be extremely difficult to persuade Russia to cut its stockpiles of tactical missiles. Russia believes that its large stock of tactical nuclear weapons balances NATO's superiority in conventional weapons, according to Jacek Durkalec, an analyst with the Polish Institute of International Affairs. "The United States possesses limited means of inducing Russian to take part in negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons," Durkalec wrote in an analytical paper published Wednesday. Gottemoeller said she disagrees with that argument and believes Russia could gain much from an arms control agreement on tactical nuclear weapons.
The U.K. and Turkey are negotiating a military pact that would see the two European powers take part in joint exercises and share expertise, a person familiar with the matter said. The agreement underscores how the U.K., Europe's most active military, is eager to work more closely with allied militaries amid budget cuts. In October, the British government announced cuts to the military budget of 7.5% over the next four years. An accompanying Security and Defense Strategy Review placed great emphasis on alliances and partnerships to "enhance capability."
Britain hopes to have completed its memorandum of understanding with Turkey by July, this person said. Much of the deal will hinge on joint exercises. For instance, the U.K. could train helicopter pilots in Turkey, whose hot and mountainous terrain replicates Afghanistan. Further down the line, the two countries are looking at cooperating on equipment programs. One "possibility" is that the Turks would help build Britain's Type 26 Frigate, a type of naval ship due to enter service in the early 2020s. Britain also wants to offer more places to train Turkish officers at its Royal College of Defence Studies and the Turks will invite British personnel to their training courses.
A spokesman for the Turkish defense ministry couldn't be reached for comment Sunday. Turkey has one of the largest militaries in the world, with around 517,100 people across all its, mainly conscript-based, armed services, according to Jane's International Defense Review. The U.K. currently has around 178,370, ahead of expected cuts of around 17,000 jobs. Britain has already signed a more far reaching agreement with France to form a joint expeditionary force and cooperate on developing new military technology. The country is also talking to Northern European countries, such as Norway and the Baltic states, about closer military ties.
The person familiar with the matter said such deals show how the U.K. can cooperate with European armies without going through a supranational body like the European Union. The deal also highlights a desire by the U.K. to court Turkey. Senior Conservative party officials such as Defense Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary William Hague have long championed the country's ambition to enter the European Union. Mr. Fox said he believes that Europe risks alienating a friendly secular Muslim country that is a key ally in Middle Eastern politics.