America’s Nukes Aren’t Safe in Turkey Anymore

July 18, 2016
Jeffrey Lewis

The following in an excerpt from an article in Foreign Policy. 

The security situation in Turkey has been deteriorating for some time. Earlier this year, the Department of Defense evacuated military and civilian families from Incirlik, citing concerns about terrorist threats. Then, in April, two goons from a local right-wing group attempted to “sack” a U.S. airman on base. (Sacking is just that — throwing a sack over someone’s head, in this case retaliation for a perceived slight against Turkish soldiers.) This occurred about one kilometer from the weapons perimeter. And now an official in the Erdogan government insinuated that the United States may have played a role in the coup, largely on the basis that a cleric named Fethullah Gulen, who has a large number of followers in Turkey, resides in exile in the United States.

Given the general climate of instability, you might ask why U.S. nuclear weapons are even stored in Turkey in the first place. That’s especially relevant because one of the peculiar things about U.S. gravity bombs in Turkey is that there are no planes available to deliver them. In other NATO states with U.S. nuclear weapons, the host nation maintains so-called dual capable aircraft that, in theory, would be provided with U.S. nuclear weapons to use in a crisis. (Stop guffawing, it’s unseemly.) But unlike Belgium, Germany, Italy, or the Netherlands, there are no aircraft in Turkey certified to carry nuclear weapons. And the U.S. only rotates combat aircraft through Incirlik, so there are no U.S. aircraft certified to carry nuclear weapons there either. In other words, Incirlik is a glorified storage depot.

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