NATO Nukes in Turkey
Turkey is unique among Near and Middle Eastern states because it alone has American nuclear weapons on its soil. According to the authors of U.S. Nuclear and Extended Deterrence, “Those who believe Ankara would find itself under pressure to acquire its own nuclear deterrent if Iran becomes a nuclear power argue that the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey counters such pressure by providing reassurance of a U.S. commitment.”
In 1952, Greece and Turkey joined NATO. The placement of nuclear missiles, artillery shells, and bombs in Turkey provided the forces required to prevent the USSR from overrunning the Near and Middle Eastern oil resources.
In 1963, the United States began the dispersal to Turkish airfields of nuclear weapons under United States custody for use with Turkish aircraft. In the 1980s there were around 500 US nuclear warheads in Turkey, out of which 300 were bombs carried by aircraft. These bombs (up to 200 kilotons) were intended for four Turkish F-4, F-104 and F-100 squadrons deployed in the following airbases: Erhac, Murted, Eskisehir and Balikesir.
The Incirlik Airbase, in southeast Turkey, houses NATO's largest nuclear-weapons storage facility, with 50 US thermonuclear weapons. There are approximately 100 other B-61’s stored at NATO bases in Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.
The bombs in Turkey are in storage, as Turkey neither maintains nuclear capable aircraft nor allows the U.S. to permanently deploy its own at the base. The stockpile is there for NATO in case the fundamental security of any of its members were to be threatened.
The B61 nuclear bombs are equipped with "permissive action links" or PALs, which prevent arming and using the weapon without an authorization code. They are kept on special racks, inside secure underground vaults, inside protected aircraft shelters, inside a heavily guarded area, surrounded by two layers of fencing, lighting, cameras and intrusion detection devices, on protected airbases.
US defense policy expert Kori Schake at the Hoover Institution told VOA 05 August 2016 that removing the weapons from Turkish soil would send the wrong signal to the American ally. "Countries that feel protected by the U.S. – Japan, South Korea, Turkey – have not developed nuclear weapons of their own," Schake said. Without that guarantee, she says, "the risk is that they might develop nuclear weapons of their own."
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