Tactical nuclear weapons 'are an anachronism'
Tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are a Cold War anachronism and should be removed from combat bases, argues the group Global Zero in a new report.
Both Russia and Nato maintain such tactical weapons (which are smaller in scale than so-called strategic weapons) even though many experts say their military usefulness is unclear.
When they were deployed, the original targets for those weapons on the Nato side were states in eastern Europe - which are themselves now part of the European Union and Nato.
"This proposal - developed by national security experts - is grounded in the fact that these tactical nuclear weapons in Europe serve no meaningful purpose 20 years after the end of the Cold War, and represent nothing but a financial cost and a security risk," argues Matt Brown, co-founder of Global Zero.
The group (whose UK co-chair is the former Defence and Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind) also argues that removing them from combat bases would greatly increase early warning and decision time, and therefore reduce any remaining concern of a sudden nuclear attack.
There are thought to be about 200 Nato weapons at six combat bases in Europe (they were removed from RAF Lakenheath in the UK in the last decade).
The number of Russian weapons is less clear but there are thought to be perhaps 500-700 at combat bases.
Global Zero has mapped them using commercially available satellite imagery.
The call is to move these away from bases where they are co-located with delivery systems such as planes and missiles and instead place them in national storage facilities.
In the case of US weapons, this would involve taking them back to the continental US itself, to Kirtland in New Mexico and Nellis in Nevada, and in Russia to facilities like that at Belgorad.
Nato is currently undergoing a Deterrence and Defence Posture Review ahead of its summit in Chicago in May, and US President Barack Obama has committed himself to the goal of nuclear disarmament.
But moving the weapons is a challenging goal. It is election season in both the US and Russia this year.
In the past, European allies in Nato have wanted to maintain the weapons to reassure them of America's commitment to their defence.
Western European nations (where the weapons are housed) have moved away from that position, with some such as Germany calling for their removal - but newer members to the east continue to see them as a guarantee of US commitment to defend them.
Russia meanwhile has seen such weapons as compensating for relative weaknesses in conventional military force.
Global Zero, which campaigns for the elimination of nuclear weapons, argues there are other ways of providing reassurance. It says this proposal is one way of getting the US and Russia back to the negotiating table and getting a process for first bilateral and then multilateral disarmament back on track.
It also argues that it would improve security for the weapons and lower costs at a time when defence budgets are under strain.