Monday, July 22, 2019

American Nuclear Weapons in Europe

In a classic case of "oops", a Belgian newspaper "De Morgan" picked up on a serious mistake by the Defense and Security Committee (DSC) of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly which released a document to the public that revealed one of the worst kept secrets in the world; America's inventory of nuclear weapons that are located in Europe.  The document dated April 16, 2019 was discussed during the plenary session of the NATO Parliament's Defense and Security Committee on June 1 in Bratislava, Slovakia.  While the presence of the weapons has long been known, it is only due to this erroneous release that the world now knows where the weapons are kept.

Der Morgan's report which is entitled "Finally in black and white: There are American nuclear weapons in Belgium" revealed the following page from the NATO affiliate body's draft report entitled "A new era for nuclear deterrence?  Modernization, arms control and allied nuclear forces":

We now know that the United States has forward deployed approximately 150 B61 gravity nuclear bombs at the following bases:

1.) Kleine Brogel in Belgium

2.) Buchel in Germany

3.) Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy

4.) Volkel in The Netherlands

5.) Incirlik in Turkey

The paper also notes that the B61 bombs can be delivered by either American or European aircraft and that:

"...the decision to maintain the non-strategic gravity nuclear bombs in Europe is principally due to Russia's maintenance of a large number of tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal."

What the report fails to note is that Russia's nuclear arsenal weapons are located at an estimated 48 permanent nuclear weapons storage sites of which more than half are on bases for operational forces (2009 data) as shown on this graphic:

These are all located on Russian soil not in bases that are adjacent to American soil.

Let's look at a quote from the Der Morgan report:

"This is not new to military observers, since it has long been a public secret that there are ten to twenty nuclear B61 bombs in Kleine Brogel. In 2015, for example, the Americans pumped more than a million dollars into a new nuclear weapons maintenance building and a new command post for the American unit that guards the underground bunkers.

But until now it has remained with indirect directions. Ever since they were drafted during the Cold War to deter Russia, the Belgian government and Defense have been following the "confirm nor deny" protocol. After all, our country signed the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which limits the possession of nuclear weapons. One is at odds with the other."

Since this breach, the DSC report has been re-released as shown here:

Joseph Day, the author of the report, just happens to be a Canadian Senator (one of those useless Canadian government bodies) and is the International Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.  In this edition, the page which contains the very specific information about the location of America's nuclear arsenal in Europe has been eliminated and has been replaced with this:

"Within the NATO context, 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. The European Allies often cited as operating such aircraft are Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey. Such capabilities ensure broad Allied involvement in NATO’s nuclear mission and as a concrete reminder of US nuclear commitment to the security of NATO’s European Allies (Lunn, 2019). The decision to maintain the non-strategic
gravity nuclear bombs in Europe is principally due to Russia’s maintenance of a large number of tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal."

The DSC report also notes the following about America's nuclear force modernization:

"The United States is engaged in an extensive modernisation of its entire nuclear force – from storage to delivery systems and warheads. The programme is slated to take until 2046 to complete and will cost an estimated USD1.2 trillion - USD494 billion of which to be allocated between 2017 and 2026 (Congressional Budget Office, 2019). Its renovation programme aims to upgrade its triad of nuclear delivery systems (ground-, air-, and sea-based), warheads, supporting infrastructures, as well as command and control systems (SIPRI, 2018). The United States is reducing its number of nuclear warhead types from ten to five and, via its Life Extension Programs (LEP), and is refurbishing the remaining warheads (the W76, W80, W87, W88 and the B61) (Arms Control Association, 2018). Likewise, delivery systems, such as the Minuteman III ICBM, the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), as well as the B-2 and B-52 bombers, are undergoing modernisation (SIPRI, 2018). The US Navy is also upgrading its SLBMs to the new Columbia-class, replacing the older Virginia-class.

In addition, Washington has launched the development of new systems to replace some of its bombers and ICBMs: the B-21 is scheduled to enter service in the mid-2020s to replace the B-1 and B-52 bombers, whereas the Ground Basic Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) should replace the Minuteman III in 2028 (Kristensen and Norris, 2018a). The United States also plans to modernise its non-strategic nuclear weapons through its NATO membership. While the US nuclear modernisation programme has so far consisted in upgrading or replacing existing capabilities, recent declarations by President Donald Trump have suggested the United States may also increase the size of its arsenal (Zala, 2019)."

Just in case you were curious, here is a video showing a test flight of the latest variant of the B61 bomb, the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb:

There goes any illusion of a nuclear weapons-free future.

Given that during the Second World War Russia lost approximately 9.75 million military personnel and 13.2 million civilians compared to the United States losses of 416,800 military personnel and 1700 civilians, is it any wonder that the Russians fear the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe?

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