by Brian Cloughley, via Strategic Culture
Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the world’s five “nuclear weapons states”, a description officially recognised in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which lays down that “each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices…”
It is apparent that the word ‘transfer’ involves ownership and not location, because the United States has transferred many nuclear weapons to countries which, although members of the US-NATO military alliance, are not nuclear weapons states. An analysis by the Nuclear Threat Initiative indicates that the US has positioned 160-200 B-61 nuclear warheads «at six bases in five NATO countries: Belgium (10-20), Germany (10-20), Italy (60-70), Netherlands (10-20), and Turkey (60-70)».
According to a NATO statement of December 2015, «A number of NATO member countries contribute a dual-capable aircraft (DCA) capability to the Alliance. These aircraft are available for nuclear roles at various levels of readiness – the highest level of readiness is measured in weeks. In their nuclear role, the aircraft are equipped to carry nuclear bombs and personnel are trained accordingly».
The claim that the readiness level is measured in weeks is intriguing, because, as indicated in the US-NATO Readiness Action Plan of October 2015, the entire alliance is gearing up for war against Russia and, among other blatantly provocative initiatives, is «Raising the readiness and capabilities of the Multinational Corps Northeast Headquarters in Szczecin, Poland and enhancing its role as a hub for regional cooperation».
NATO’s policy of confrontation with Russia is causing some disquiet in western Europe, whose citizens are kept in the dark about the depth and demands of the military alliance to which their countries are committed, such as their aircraft being «equipped to carry nuclear bombs». It is policy that the US B-61 nuclear weapons stored in Europe are delivered to targets by aircraft of the Belgian, Dutch, German and Italian air forces.
NATO declares that «Nuclear weapons are a core component of the Alliance’s overall capabilities for deterrence and defence alongside conventional and missile defence forces». This strategy was approved at its 2012 Summit in Chicago, but had been evident for many years and had been continued in spite of the ending of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, a quarter of a century ago. Since then NATO has maintained a firm nuclear posture, but the question that was never asked in the post-Cold War years of NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders was «against whom are your nuclear weapons directed?»
There could be only one target country. What nation other than Russia could possibly interest the US-NATO military alliance? It is unlikely that the Brussels headquarters of NATO, the regional office of the Pentagon, is considering using nuclear weapons against any other country in the world. Even in the course of its catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Libya it couldn’t have possibly considered a nuclear option.
Large numbers of US nuclear weapons systems were withdrawn from Europe at the end of the Cold War, but many remain, in the embrace of NATO, which Brussels uncompromisingly states will «remain a nuclear alliance» for «as long as nuclear weapons exist».
At the manifestly anti-Russian NATO Summit in Warsaw in July it was noted by Arms Control that «Leaders of the 28 member countries of NATO strongly criticized Russian nuclear behaviour and reaffirmed the security role played by US nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. The sections of the alliance statement, or communiqué, devoted to nuclear weapons are nearly three times as long as those issued at the 2014 summit in the United Kingdom». It is not surprising that Russia was criticised — but it is NATO that has been performing nuclear antics.
For many years before the 2016 Warsaw summit, NATO had been deploying aircraft all round Europe that were capable of delivering nuclear weapons against Russia. The only difference in recent times is that NATO, as recorded by Arms Control in June 2016, «is beefing up its nuclear posture. Polish F-16s participated for the first time on the sidelines of a NATO nuclear strike exercise at the end of 2014. As a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, four B-52 bombers flew a nuclear strike mission over the North Pole and the North Sea in a bomber exercise in April 2015. Although these planes did not have nuclear weapons on board, they were equipped to carry 80 nuclear air-launched cruise missiles».
It goes further than that, because NATO’s most recent nuclear-associated deployments to the Baltic have involved aircraft from Belgium’s 10th Tactical Wing which is based at Kleine Brogel Air Base and flies US-supplied F-16 nuclear-capable strike aircraft. NATO reported that four of them are currently conducting missions from Ämari Air Base in Estonia, in order «to guard the Baltic skies against unauthorised overflights» and that their duties included «intercepting Russian aircraft flying in international airspace at the Baltic borders».
According to NATO, the Mission of the 10th Tactical Wing is «to generate air power effects in the full operational spectrum by putting into action the best combat ready people and equipment to execute or support both conventional and nuclear operations in a joint, national or multinational environment, anytime and anywhere, in the most proficient, safe and efficient manner». So it sends four of 10 Wing’s nuclear-capable F-16s, flown by nuclear-delivery trained pilots to Estonia to guard the Baltic skies.
In Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia the Alliance has established «NATO Force Integration Units» which are advanced military headquarters whose Mission is «to improve cooperation and coordination between NATO and national forces, and prepare and support exercises and any deployments needed». The relentless expansion of US-NATO forces right up to Russia’s borders continues apace, with formation of a «new standing Joint Logistic Support Group Headquarters, to support deployed forces».
NATO is on a war footing, and has made it clear that «nuclear weapons are a core component of the Alliance’s overall capabilities». The Belgian F-16 deployments, deliberately and provocatively in a most sensitive area on Russia’s borders, together with creation of advanced military control organisations in eight countries, have been authorised and greeted with approval by western governments whose citizens have little understanding that the west’s policy of confrontation is increasing tension day by day.
Russia has no intention of invading any of the Baltic nations, or, indeed, any other country. It has no interest whatever in becoming engaged in conflict that could result only in vast expenditure, no territorial gain of any value, and destruction of much-valued trade and other commercial arrangements.
Yet NATO’s nuclear capabilities are to be boosted by an $8 billion upgrade to the B-61 nuclear bombs held in the US and five other NATO nations. This escalation in nuclear capabilities is consistent with NATO’s deployment of nuclear-capable aircraft to countries on Russia’s borders, and it can be hoped only that next year Washington will call a halt to the escalating confrontation caused by a military organisation that the President-elect perceptively called “obsolete”.