Thursday, April 21, 2005


we want a nuclear free Europe, USA permitting

The Al-Awda Italia list has printed out an endless list of American military bases and facilities on Italian soil. One hundred and thirteen of them. One hundred and thirteen pieces of the USA, operating in complete sovereignty, are located on our soil. As Susanne wrote, this is how they liberated us. If that weren’t bad enough, The US stores its nuclear weapons here: we’re talking about Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not some Starbucks caffès.

A Belgian site, For Mother Earth, writes: The United States is currently the only country to store nuclear weapons on the territory of other nations. There are currently nuclear weapons stored in the following countries in Europe.
The Netherlands
United Kingdom

Until recently, US nuclear weapons were also stored in
Greece. The information on this page is based on the 1998 NRDC report Taking Stock.
The more recent report
U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe by Hans M. Kristensen of the Natural Resources Defence Council, uses a range of sources to create a catalogue of American nuclear weapons that are currently deployed in Europe through NATO.
There are 480 such weapons.

Paolo Cotta-Ramusino writes in Forgotten Nukes: American Nuclear Weapons in Europe,

So nuclear life goes on in Europe, despite the dramatic change of the political climate in the last 10 years. And nuclear life in Europe is not that easy. Keeping a nuclear infrastructure in 7 different NATO countries is costly for both the US and the host countries. Besides cost, there are also security problems and organizational complexities that require efforts that many would probably consider worthless, when confronted with the very limited number of weapons involved. Security problems do in fact arise, as shown by the following example.

The US performs regularly "Local Nuclear Surety Inspections" (LNSI) at all the nuclear sites. The overall rating of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) - Aviano (Italy) - in a LNSI made in January 1996 was "unsatisfactory" and, particularly, security was rated "unsatisfactory". The same Wing only "fared a little better" in the next inspection of Feb. 28, 1996.

It is easy to be convinced that the burden of keeping few tactical nuclear weapons dispersed in 7 European countries greatly outweighs any possible advantages. So it has been reported that officials in the US Dept. of Defense have stated or implied that the utility of the US tactical nuclear weapons located in Europe is totally marginal if not zero, and that these weapons cannot be removed only for political reasons or, in other words, since the other NATO countries want them.

I believe that there is a significant amount of truth in this point of view and I would like to elaborate on this subject by making few remarks on why NATO countries may be reluctant to eliminate nuclear weapons from their territories.

For the non-nuclear members of NATO that host US nuclear weapons, this is the only opportunity they have to be in direct contact with some significant aspects of nuclear operations. The Air Forces of the host countries are probably proud of sharing with the Americans, some concrete aspects of the training in nuclear bombardment, even if this sharing concerns only a handful of people.

Forty years of (often misleading) debate about the American nuclear umbrella, left many European politicians and military people convinced that the physical presence of even few nuclear weapons in their territories, gives a protection against attack with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

The structure that regulates the presence of American nuclear weapons in NATO countries is a complex one. First of all, there are "Agreement for co-operation on uses of atomic energy for mutual defense purposes" signed by the US and each individual country.. These are unclassified bilateral treaties (signed in the years 1955-1962) that set the framework for the classified bilateral agreements. These include a "program of co-operation" that defines the rules for the deployments of nuclear weapons in the territory of the host countries and for the training of the armed forces of the host countries in the field of nuclear operations, a "stockpile agreement" that deals with the location, the responsibilities and the cost-sharing for the nuclear deposits. The structure described above goes back to the early sixties and it is not known how much of it has been amended. But is obvious that any modification requires a multilateral consensus or a bilateral one if only one country, besides the US, is involved. This gives the system a low degree of flexibility.

In recent times the public opinion in Europe has shown very little concern for the risks and the political consequences deriving from the presence of American nuclear weapons. Government of NATO countries face very little opposition to the residual nuclear structure based in their territories. Most media simply ignore the fact that some nuclear bases still exist in Europe. And even when this fact is brought to the public attention, as in the discussion on the extension of NATO, it is quickly forgotten. For many, the end of the cold war simply implies that the risk of nuclear war is over.

We can collectively represent all the arguments above as political-bureaucratic inertia. This helps explaining why in front of a forty-fold reduction of American nuclear weapons deployed in Europe since the mid-sixties, we had no reduction at all of the number of countries that host the same weapons. This situation would be harmless - or "only" a waste of money - if no political consequence or no risk were associated to the existence of a residual American nuclear arsenal in NATO countries. Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

So, there are 480 (at the very least) American nuclear weapons sitting in many corners of Europe. That might sound like a lot, but take a look at this statistic from Nuclear Weapon Archive:
“Since the invention of nuclear weapons, the U.S. has built about 70,000 warheads, and dismantled about 58,000 of them with most of the nuclear materials being recycled into new weapons. The U.S. currently has about 12,500 weapons in existence, but only 8700 (approx.) are in active service. The remaining 3800 or so are retired weapons either awaiting dismantlement, making up part of the inactive reserve, or both. Some counts give somewhat lower numbers for operational weapons (e.g. 7200), but the weapons making up this differential are simply "in storage", have not been transferred to reserve status, and are in full operational condition. At its numeric peak in 1967, the U.S. arsenal had some 32,500 warheads.”

And this:

“The Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty was held at the United Nations in New York 11-13 November 2001. The United States of America did not send any representative, official or unofficial, to participate in the conference even though it is a signatory of the CTBT.”

They care a lot….


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