February 16, 2018
The US plans to spend $10 billion upgrading 150 Cold War-era nuclear bombs stationed in Europe, even though the weapons may be more of a security liability than a strategic deterrent, according to a new report by arms experts.
Assumptions about the safety and security of US nuclear weapons stored in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Turkey have been undermined by “recent terrorist attacks and political instability,” the report, published by arms control advocacy group the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), claims.
A third of the B61 bombs in Europe under joint US-NATO control are believed to be stored at Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase – which was locked down and had its electricity cut during the 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish commanding officer of the base was later arrested for his alleged role in the plot.
Noting “just how quickly assumptions about the safety and security of US nuclear weapons stored abroad can change,” the report argues that “forward-deployed US nuclear weapons in Europe increase the risk of accidents, blunders, or catastrophic terrorism and invite pre-emption. Given these added risks, it is past time to revisit whether these forward-based weapons are essential for military deterrence and political reassurance.”
Titled ‘Building a Safe, Secure and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture,’ the report goes on to state that the arsenal of B61 gravity bombs may have little or no strategic value because the weapons would be delivered by NATO dual-capable aircraft (DCA), and cannot be used unilaterally by the United States.
“A number of former senior US officials and military leaders have made the point that US nuclear weapons based in Europe have virtually no military utility … The political complexities of the NATO decision-making process raise doubts that member states could reach…