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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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