Maintaining a nuclear presence in Europe is essential for the NATO alliance, said Mark Gunzinger, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “Our posture in Europe is critical to coherence of the alliance [and] is a tangible sign of our commitment to the alliance,” he said during Tuesday’s panel on extended deterrence at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. Currently, the United States has a forward presence in Europe of tactical nukes and dual-role fighters capable of delivering them. Gunzinger said it’s “questionable at best” if relying on US strategic nukes based stateside would have the same deterrent effect for Europe. Further, it would be “very difficult” to regenerate that capability if it was withdrawn from Europe, he asserted. He also said the United States “might want to think about adopting the European model” of extended deterrence “to the Pacific.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.