Ankara, Aug 15 (IANS) A US think tank has called for the withdrawal of nuclear arms from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, saying the country is in disorder and is too close to the Syria conflict zone.
The report prepared by the Stimson Centre non-profit think tank, titled ‘B61 Life Extension Program: Costs and Policy Considerations’, questions the safety of American nuclear weapons stored at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.
The failed military coup in Turkey on July 15 resulted in the base’s commander being arrested for alleged participation in the coup attempt.
Turkish authorities blocked off the Incirlik base completely, cutting the facility’s electric power and prohibiting any aircraft from flying in or out of the airfield.
“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,” RT online cited report co-author Laicie Heeley.
“These weapons have zero utility on the European battlefield and today are more of a liability than asset to our NATO allies,” said Heeley, a fellow with the Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defence program at the Stimson Centre.
The US brought tactical nuclear bombs to Europe and Turkey in the 1950s and 1960s, allegedly to deal with Soviet tank armies that it was feared would pour onto the European battlefield in the event of World War III.
Most of the American nuclear arsenals were retracted from Europe in the early 1990s after the fall of the USSR, yet an estimated 180 obsolete nuclear B61 drop bombs are still stored at European air bases in NATO member states Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.
The development of modern missile air defences have nullified the A-bomb’s potential, as no bomber would be allowed to approach, let alone fly over, enemy territory.
Still, the US National Nuclear Security Administration plans to spend $US8 billion to extend the service of an estimated 480 out of a total 800 B61 bombs the US still has in stock, the report says. This expenditure is planned within the framework of a 30-year, $1-trillion program, as Washington intends to modernize the American nuclear triad.
“These bombs are ill-suited for modern warfare and incredibly costly,” said Stimson Center co-founder and report co-author Barry Blechman.