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After the Coup
Update: Report on U.S. Moving Nukes from Turkey Suspect

UPDATE: Noted arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis is arguing that the story we referenced below was shoddily reported and sourced. Relevant tweets:

More doubts from other experts, via BalkanInsight:

“Such a transfer is very challenging in technical and political terms. I doubt the Alliance would run against its political commitments to cooperation with Moscow, based on the Founding Act of mutual relations and security between NATO and Russia,” said political analist Andrei Tarnea.

The Founding Act, signed in 1997, says NATO allies “have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members [such as Romania], nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy – and do not foresee any future need to do so”.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of non-proliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, said in a Twitter post that Romania does not have the capacity to store the weapons.

“For one thing, there are no WS3 vaults at Deveselu – or anywhere in Romania – to store the B61s,” Lewis said.

Was this a random rumor or Russian-originated propaganda that snookered the usually-reliable EurActiv? We’ll keep an eye on it, and see if the original author has a riposte. Our job here is to keep you posted about developments and, sometimes, non-developments that could shake our world. We filter our sources and consider the reputation and track records of the sources. Sometimes alarms turn out to be false, and when that happens we correct the record as quickly as possible. Thanks to Paul Ivan for the heads-up.

ORIGINAL POST:

The U.S. may be pulling its nukes out of Turkey. EurActiv reports:

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

According to one of the sources, the transfer has been very challenging in technical and political terms.

“It’s not easy to move 20+ nukes,” said the source, on conditions of anonymity.

According to a recent report by the Simson Center, since the Cold War, some 50 US tactical nuclear weapons have been stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, approximately 100 kilometres from the Syrian border.

During the failed coup in Turkey in July, Incirlik’s power was cut, and the Turkish government prohibited US aircraft from flying in or out. Eventually, the base commander was arrested and implicated in the coup. Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question, the report says.

Another source told EurActiv.com that the US-Turkey relations had deteriorated so much following the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara to host the weapons. The American weapons are being moved to the Deveselu air base in Romania, the source said.

For what it’s worth, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a strongly worded denial. However, as EurActiv notes, it’s not standard practice not to confirm reports on the location of nuclear weapons.

If this is true, it would be the first sign of serious, meaningful deterioration of NATO ties with Turkey since the coup. Yes, Erdogan has been playing footsie with Putin. But words are one thing; moving nukes is another. It would signal that the U.S. has serious doubts about either the stability or the direction of post-coup Turkey. Given the wrenching purge that Erdogan is putting the country through to remake it in his own image, those doubts make sense.

 

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  • WigWag

    How long before Incirlik becomes a base for Russian aircraft? What are the implications for an already crippled and exhausted NATO if the Russian and Turkish rapprochement continues to blossom?

    The world continues to change right before our eyes.

    • johngbarker

      Wag, must you ask such inconvenient questions; people will lose faith in their leaders

    • Fat_Man

      “How long before Incirlik becomes a base for Russian aircraft?”

      Smart would be selling it to the Russians.

  • Nevis07

    I think it’s a good idea to move them. How Russia reacts to them being moved to Romania (if true) should be interesting. I worry they may use it as an excuse to claim aggression on the US’s part, despite the fact that those nukes are outdated.

    It’s not impossible to see a circumstance where Turkey changes allegiances and with the removal of the nukes, it may even accelerate it.

  • Anthony

    On the other hand, the coup in Turkey has created what appears to be a massive rift between Turkey and the United States…. https://geopoliticalfutures.com/russia-ukraine-and-threats/

    • Fat_Man

      Or it has created an excuse for a massive rift. Or, Erdogan pulled it off with the intention of imprisoning his opponents, and a massive rift with the US is just a bonus.

      • Anthony

        That’s certainly a plausible viewpoint I’ve seen expressed by others.

  • Fat_Man

    I hope we are pulling our nukes out of Turkey. It is country run by a regime that is Islamist and anti-American, and that has a deteriorating human rights record. Turkey is of no econmomic or social signifigance to the United States. If it vanished from the space-time continuum, it would not change our lives a whit. During the cold war it was useful for containing Russia. The Cold war ended a generation ago. It is time to let Turkey loose.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Indeed. The possibility of Turkey becoming more radically Islamist is about 100%.

  • Josephbleau

    “It is not standard practice not to confirm the presence of”. Therefore it is standard practice to confirm the presence of? Please give a little thought to what you write.

  • Dima

    Perhaps the most appropriate response to this article would be; what on earth is NATO doing with nuclear weapons in Turkey in 2016 anyway? Or even better; what is NATO actually for in 2016?

    We must assume that the rationale for these weapons remains ‘deterrence’ against Russia – based on decades-old Cold War MAD logic. How any European country can still consider hosting such weapons is utterly beyond me. Does Turkey really feel in imminent threat of a Russian invasion – to the extent that it’s own very sizeable military would be unable to respond? The consequences of such an aggression in the 21st century would be economic suicide for Russia, with sanctions that make those over it’s limited actions in Ukraine look like a picnic. Why then would Turkey (or any other European nation) feel the need to assure itself of total annihilation by threatening to launch nukes in response to such an act.

    Of course the real answer is the continuing twin US policies of 1) ‘containing’ Russia (see nice infographic below) and 2) ensuring that if it does hit the nuclear fan, that it is someone else’s country that glows in the dark afterwards. These are the real reason these weapons are based in sucker host nations. If Erdogan has any sense (I’m not convinced at all on that score) he should get rid if the Incirlik nukes, if they haven’t gone already.
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