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Tue Oct 22, 2019, 08:41 PM

Why Does the U.S. Have Nukes in Turkey, Anyway?

Why Does the U.S. Have Nukes in Turkey, Anyway?
The tangled Cold War history has made the crisis in Turkey much more dangerous.
By Fred Kaplan
Oct 22, 20195:21 PM

Senior officials are reportedly discussing whether and how to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, which raises two questions: Why did we put nukes in Turkey in the first place, and why—almost 30 years after the end of the Cold War—are they still there?


In 1987, Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned all U.S. and Soviet missiles with a range of 500 to 5,000 kilometers—resulting in the dismantlement of about 2,000 Soviet missiles facing Europe and 572 American missiles with the ability to strike the USSR from bases in Western Europe.

In 1991, with the implosion of the Soviet Union and the formal end of the Cold War, President George H.W. Bush unilaterally dismantled nearly all tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and South Korea—inviting Boris Yeltsin, the president of the new Russian Federation, to respond in kind (which he did, for a while). By this time, U.S. conventional defenses had greatly improved, and many military commanders viewed the tactical nukes as more of a hindrance to security than a help.

However, Bush retained the small arsenal of U.S. nuclear bombs—numbering about 180—at the handful of NATO air bases, including Incirlik. In fact, the bombs were “modernized.” The old B61 bombs had the explosive power of 1 megaton; the new ones have “dial-a-yield” options, ranging from 340 kilotons down to a fraction of a kiloton. (A kiloton has the blast power of 1,000 tons of TNT; a megaton has the blast power of 1 million tons.)

In 2010, President Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, intent on “reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national security policy,” as he put it in a high-profile speech. His NATO ambassador, Ivo Daalder, proposed cutting the number of B61s by half. No one any longer believed that these bombs had any military purpose, so the move would serve as a token of Obama’s sincerity—and perhaps inspire other nuclear powers to follow suit. However, Obama’s top security advisers quashed the idea. U.S. and Russian diplomats were negotiating an update to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which was about to expire, and Hillary Clinton—Obama’s former political opponent who was now his secretary of state—argued that unilateral cuts would diminish her bargaining leverage. She and others also feared that the move would upset NATO allies, who were still reeling from George W. Bush’s eight-year reign. The fact that the bombs had little, if any, military utility bolstered the case that they were needed to cement trans-Atlantic political ties. Daalder’s proposal was rejected at an interagency meeting of the National Security Council, with little discussion.

Now, almost 10 years later, some regret the casual dismissal, as tensions with Turkey are cresting, to the point where some are talking about expelling it from NATO.

A few years ago, a U.S. security team tested the locks on the bombs at Incirlik and deemed them satisfactory. But the Turks own the base, and if they kicked the Americans out, it’s not impossible that they could break the locks and declare the bombs to be theirs.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared this week that he wants to build his own nuclear arsenal. He is not the first Turkish leader to mull such ambitions, but as his sense of power and independence has grown—fueled by a blossoming alliance with Russia and a new bout of muscle-flexing in northern Syria, stemming from Trump’s abandonment of the area—the prospect of a Turkish bomb looms as a real possibility. At this point, if the U.S. took away the 50 B61s at Incirlik, one could imagine Erdogan rushing to build or buy his own bomb, almost out of spite. John Pike, director of the research firm GlobalSecurity.org, also notes that if Saudi Arabia or Iran were to go nuclear in the coming years, Turkey would certainly follow suit in short order.



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Reply Why Does the U.S. Have Nukes in Turkey, Anyway? (Original post)
babylonsister Oct 22 OP
Maru Kitteh Oct 22 #1
PoindexterOglethorpe Oct 22 #2
demosincebirth Oct 22 #3

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Tue Oct 22, 2019, 08:45 PM

1. Why, to give to the Russians, of course. nt

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Tue Oct 22, 2019, 09:48 PM

2. I'm going to be cynical and dismissive, and

say, it's because we have them. So of course we have them at many (most? all?) bases overseas.

The mindset that thinks we should have nukes at all is one that doesn't bear close scrutiny. It's a mindset that is oblivious to the real possibility that they might be used, and completely blind and deaf to the destruction such use would cause.

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Tue Oct 22, 2019, 09:52 PM

3. It used to be a very secular government. When religion started creeping into

government, the army would step in. Now, the government is riddled with religion, thanks to Edrogan

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