A published – and later amended – draft report, prepared by a member of a NATO-affiliated body, went into a bit of extra detail about NATO’s nuclear deterrent, revealing the locations and number of US nukes in Europe.
While the data has been a de facto open secret, it has never been laid bare in a NATO-linked document.
“A new era for nuclear deterrence? Modernization, arms control and allied nuclear forces,” a document authored by Canadian Sen. Joseph Day, was not issued by the Alliance itself, but it is only a step removed. Day sits on the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, a consultative inter-parliamentary body to the military bloc. The original draft was discussed at the assembly’s session in Bratislava, Slovakia, on June 1, to be further revised and eventually adopted at its annual session in London in October.
Belgian Green Party MP Wouter De Vriendt, who attended the session, provided the copy of the draft to De Morgen daily. According to the draft, NATO stores some 150 nuclear B61 bombs in six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy, Volken in the Netherlands and İncirlik in Turkey. While the draft does not say how many bombs each of the bases houses, the information is readily available online, albeit with varying degrees of accuracy.
It has been reported that Volkel airbase stores up to 20 bombs, while Kleine Brogel Air Base is said to house from 10 to 20 gravity warheads.
Italy, which is the only country on the list with two nuclear bases, is estimated to keep the largest stash of US nuclear bombs – from 60 to 70.
According to open source estimates, the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey could store a haul of 50 B61 bombs – in spite of the mounting concerns over their safety following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Büchel Air Base in Germany is said to be home to up to 20 bombs.
It may have been an open secret before, but the NATO Parliamentary Assembly chose to amend the report anyway. Its current version, uploaded on July 11, does not specify the location of the nukes anymore and refers to “open sources” while stating the quantity of the bombs in Europe. “According to open sources, the United States forward-deploys approximately 150 nuclear weapons, specifically B61 gravity bombs, to Europe for use on both US and Allied dual-capable aircraft,” it now reads.
The report provides figurative ammunition for those in Europe unhappy to be hosting American nukes on their soil, worried that bases might serve as prime targets for terrorist and conventional attacks and place Europe in the crosshairs of any potential nuclear conflict.
Russia has long been sounding the alarm about NATO’s US-led encroachment on its borders – worriers now also reinforced by the leaked draft report. Concern was spurred on earlier this year when the US quit the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, a cornerstone of European security in the post-cold-war period. Russia has suspended its own participation in the pact in return.