a bitter melon

US nukes in Turkey

According to EurActiv the US are moving nuclear weapons from the Incirlik airbase in Turkey to Romania:

EurActiv -- US moves nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania (Aug 18, 2016)

EXCLUSIVE/ Two independent sources told that the US has started transferring nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, against the background of worsening relations between Washington and Ankara.

Romania has issued a customary denial:

The Romanian foreign ministry strongly denied the information that the country has become home of US nukes. “In response to your request, Romanian MFA firmly dismisses the information you referred to,” a spokesperson wrote.

Eric Schlosser on the Incirlik base for The New Yorker, shortly after the failed Turkish coup in July:

The New Yorker -- The H-bombs in Turkey (Jul 17, 2016)

According to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, underground vaults at Incirlik hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than twenty-five per cent of the nuclear weapons in the nato stockpile.


Incirlik was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the Second World War; when Turkey joined NATO, in 1952, it became a crucial American base during the Cold War.


Although Incirlik probably has more nuclear weapons than any other NATO base, it does not have any American or Turkish aircraft equipped to deliver them. The bombs simply sit at the base, underground, waiting to be used or misused.

The base was implicated in the coup attempt with the commander of the base and a number of high ranking officers detained for their alleged involvement:

Wall Street Journal -- Turkey Arrests Incirlik Air Base Commander (Jul 17, 2016)

A senior Turkish official said Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, the base commander, as well as 11 other service members from the base and a police officer, were placed under arrest.

Towards the end of July, amid rumors of a second coup attempt, there were reports of the Incirlik base being "surrounded" by armed police and pro-Erdogan civilians:

RT -- 1,000s Turkish forces surround NATO’s Incirlik air base for ‘inspection’ amid rumors of coup attempt (Jul 31, 2016)

Some 7,000 armed police in heavy vehicles surrounded the Incirlik air base used by NATO forces in Adana in what a Turkish minister called a “security check.” With no official explanation, speculations have arisen about a new coup attempt or VIP visit.


Some supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reportedly flocked to the cordon surrounding the base. The scene, however, did not appear as massive and tense as the recent Adana protests demanding for the base to be shut down.

Erdogan has accused the West of taking sides with coups and Prime Minister Yildirim has taken a hard-line stance on the extradition of Gulen.

Russia has seized the opportunity to pry Turkish-US relations apart a bit further, suggesting that the US-built base at Incirlik would make a fine home for the Russian airforce:

Hurriyet Daily -- Russia says Turkey could provide İncirlik base for Moscow’s Syria campaign (Aug 18, 2016)

“Turkey could provide the İncirlik base to the Russian Aerospace Forces for its use in counterterrorism operations [in Syria]. This could become a logical continuation of Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s step toward Russia,” Senator Viktor Ozerov, member of the Russian Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti on Aug. 16.

Steve Andreasen in the LA Times draws a parallel with the Iranian Revolution in 1979:

LA Times -- Let's get our nuclear weapons out of Turkey (Aug 11, 2016)

What if anti-American Turkish protesters, believing the U.S. was behind the coup plot and that it was harboring the coup’s leader (ominously reminiscent of how Iranians felt about America and the shah 37 years ago) decided to march on Incirlik chanting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans (as has actually happened) and taken over the base?

Leaving aside the coup, what if Islamic State were to attack Incirlik? In March, the Pentagon reportedly ordered military families out of southern Turkey, primarily from Incirlik, due to terrorism-related security concerns.

The Stimson Center is in favor of just getting rid of all the nukes in Europe:

Stimson Center -- B61 Life extension program: Costs and Policy Considerations (Aug 2016)

We feel strongly, moreover, that there is a case to be made for the immediate removal of all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and freeing the squadrons designated to deliver them for use strictly in conventional roles.

A Congressional Research Service brief to Congress from August 2nd:

USNI News -- Document: Brief to Congress on U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey (Aug 12, 2016)

Most experts agree that the weapons at Incirlik are not, at this time, vulnerable to theft or loss of control. But many have questioned the wisdom of the continued deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, in general, and in Turkey, in particular.