Haaretz & Balkan Insight & Stimson.org – 2016-08-19 19:10:51
Report: US Transfers Nukes From Turkish Airbase to Romania
(Aug 18, 2016) — The US has started transferring American nuclear weapons stationed at an airbase in southeastern Turkey to Romania, the independent Euractiv website reported on Thursday.
The reported move comes after a US-based think tank said on Monday that the stockpile at Incirlik airbase, which consists of some 50 nuclear bombs, was at risk of being captured by “terrorists or other hostile forces.”
“It’s not easy to move 20 plus nukes,” a source told Euractiv, adding that the transfer to the Romanian base of Deveselu has posed technical and political challenges. The report noted that the move has especially enraged Russia.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry strongly denied that any US nuclear weapons were transferred to Romania. While critics have long been alarmed about the nuclear stockpile at Incirlik airbase, the aftermath of the failed military coup in Turkey on July 15 has sparked renewed fear.
Incirlik, located just 110 kilometers (70 miles) from the border with Syria, is a major NATO base and a crucial launching pad for the US-led coalition battling ISIS. Incirlik hosts aircraft from the United States, Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar involved in the US-led air campaign against ISIS.
In an interview in July, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had appeared to suggest Ankara could open up Incirlik to Russia, a move that could raise concern among Turkey’s NATO partners already using the base.
“Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question,” said the Stimson Center report.
Romania Denies Accepting US Nuclear Weapons
Bucharest officials have denied media reports that US nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey are being transferred to Romania after the coup attempt against the Ankara government.
(August 18, 2016) — The Romanian foreign ministry, MAE on Thursday dismissed claims that the US has started transferring nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania amid tensions in relations between Washington and Ankara. “The MAE firmly rejects these pieces of information,” the ministry said in a press release, without elaborating.
Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc said that such media reports were just speculation and “so far there have not been any plans or discussions [among NATO members] on this topic”. The statements came after website Euractiv reported on Thursday morning that more than 20 B61 nuclear weapons were being moved from Turkey’s Incirlik air base to the Deveselu base in Romania.
According to one of the two anonymous sources quoted by Euractiv, “US-Turkey relations had deteriorated so much following the [recent attempted] coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara to host the weapons”.
US and Turkish officials made no immediate response to Euractiv’s request for a comment. NATO said however that US allies must ensure that “all components of NATO’s nuclear deterrent remain safe, secure, and effective”.
In Romania, analysts said they doubted whether the transfer would happen. “Such a transfer is very challenging in technical and political terms. I doubt the Alliance would run against its political commitments to cooperation with Moscow, based on the Founding Act of mutual relations and security between NATO and Russia,” said political analist Andrei Tarnea.
The Founding Act, signed in 1997, says NATO allies “have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members [such as Romania], nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy — and do not foresee any future need to do so”.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of non-proliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, said in a Twitter post that Romania does not have the capacity to store the weapons. “For one thing, there are no WS3 vaults at Deveselu — or anywhere in Romania — to store the B61s,” Lewis said.
In December 2015, the US Navy formally inaugurated its new missile defence base in Deveselu in southern Romania. The base became operational in mid-May this year.
It is one of two European land-based interceptor sites for a NATO missile shield, a scheme which is viewed with deep suspicion by Russia. Russia has warned Romania to abandon the anti-missile system that the US is installing at Deveselu.
Relations between Bucharest and Moscow are already rocky. Romania has been among the strongest regional backers of the package of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with the crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Romania also hosts another major US military base, at Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, near the Black Sea, which became operational in 2007.
US Nuclear Weapons in Turkey at Risk of Seizure
By Terrorists, Hostile Forces
Ending B61 Presence in Europe
Would Save 3.7 Billion Over Five Years
(August 15, 2016) — The continued presence of dozens of US nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey raises serious risks of their seizure by terrorists and other hostile forces, a new report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center finds.
The report titled B61 Life Extension Program: Costs and Policy Considerations, found that it was an “unanswerable question,” whether the US could have maintained control of the approximately 50 B61 nuclear weapons based at Incirlik during a protracted civil conflict in Turkey.
During the failed July 15 coup attempt, power to Incirlik Air Base was cut off and the Turkish government prohibited US aircraft from flying in or out. Eventually, the Incirlik base commander was arrested and implicated in the coup plot.
The report’s findings come exactly one month after the failed coup attempt and on the heels of a milestone earlier this month authorizing the production and engineering phase of the B61 Life Extension Program.
“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, just 70 miles from the Syrian border,” said report co-author Laicie Heeley, a fellow with the Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program at the Stimson Center. “These weapons have zero utility on the European battlefield and today are more of a liability than asset to our NATO allies.”
Over the next 30 years, the US will spend an estimated $1 trillion to modernize the nuclear triad — which includes the B61 Service Life Extension Program. The National Nuclear Security Administration plans to extend the service lives of an estimated 480 of the approximately 800 total B61 bombs at a projected total cost of more than $8 billion.
The United States first deployed tacÂ¬tical nuclear bombs in Europe during the Cold War in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to offset a buildup of Soviet tank armies deployed in Eastern Europe. Although most US tactical weapons were withdrawn from Europe during the early 1990s, 180 of the tactical versions of the B61s remain at six bases in Europe — in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Turkey.
The report recommends the immediate removal of all B61 nuclear weapons from Europe and cancelling the procurement of B61s that would be stored in Europe. Doing so, the report finds, would create savings of more than $6 billion over the lifetime of the program, and free up additional military assets that could be used to bolster US conventional forces.
“These bombs are ill-suited for modern warfare and incredibly costly,” said report co-author Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center. “The smart move would be to remove these weapons from Europe and double down to strengthen conventional forces that actually protect our NATO allies.”
Founded in 1989, the Stimson Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank devoted to addressing transnational challenges in order to enhance global peace and economic prosperity.
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