Jeffrey LewisNATO Nuclear Weapons

With the Bush Administration proposing a gradual withdrawal of some 70,000 US troops from Europe to “help us fight and win these wars of the 21st century,” why did NATO recently reaffim support for keeping US nuclear weapons forward deployed in Europe?

While the President claims that “The world has changed a great deal and our posture must change with it,” the United States maintains about 150 B61 nuclear gravity bombs at ten airbases in seven NATO countries:

  • Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium
  • Buchel Air Base, Germany
  • Ramstein Air Base, Germany
  • Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany
  • Araxos Air Base, Greece*
  • Ghedi-Torre Air Base, Italy
  • Aviano Air Base, Italy
  • Vokel Air Base, Netherlands
  • Incirlik Air Base, Turkey
  • Lakenheath Air Base, United Kingdom

[Note: In 2001, unidentified sources were quoted as saying that the US military withdrew 11-25 nuclear gravity bombs from Araxos Air Base, but neither the US nor Greek government would comment on the report. See: “US military takes nuclear bombs back from Greece: sources,” Agence France Presse (17 January 2001) and “No Greek comment on reports U.S. nuclear bombs moved,” Associated Press (17 January 2001).]

NATO nuclear sharing is anachronistic–can you imagine a scenario where we turn over the keys for a B61 nuclear bomb to a Turkish pilot? Even the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, not exactly a blueprint toward disarmament, suggested DOD review nuclear sharing “to assess whether any modifications to the current posture are appropriate to adapt to the changing threat environment.”

Reducing the number of troops, but not nuclear weapons, will place greater emphasis on nuclear weapons as a signal of our commitment to Europe. That/’s a bad idea if we want to (1) reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international security (the Bush Administration says it does) or (2) build alliances that have strong public support in Europe (you have to wonder about their commitment to that one).

Did I mention it might violate the NPT?

(Fighter pilot Yuzbasi Volkan, Turkey/’s Top Gun, is comic book character created by Ali Recan in 1971. He would pick up just as many girls without the NATO nuclear weapons sitting a couple hundred feet away.)