The United States must urgently relocate its nuclear weapons in Turkey’s İncirlik air base, in light of the country’s growing strain of anti-Americanism and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to move closer toward Russia, retired Gen. Chuck Wald, who served as deputy commander of the U.S. European Command in the 2000s, told Bloomberg.
An estimated 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs are stored in Turkey’s İncirlik air base which stands about 100 miles from Turkey’s border with Syria, where Turkey launched a nine-day military offensive targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces on Oct. 9.
Erdoğan has routinely threatened to attack the U.S.’ Kurdish allies in Syria even while U.S. forces were still operating in those areas, raising serious questions about whether U.S. and NATO forces should remain at Incirlik, Wald said.
In fact, Under Erdogan, Turkey has been a thorn in the side of the United States for the last half decade, the retired general said, pointing to Ankara’s refusal to grant the United States permission to use Incirlik for U.S. military operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014, when the jihadist organisation was flexing its muscles across Syria and Iraq.
Then, two years later, Erdoğan ordered all U.S. assets grounded for several days while he accused the United States masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt to remove him from power, he added.
Turkey’s actions should be raising serious questions about whether U.S. and NATO forces should remain at Incirlik, Wald said,
The new home of NATO’s nukes at Incirlik air base should be on European soil, a move that should not be too difficult logistically, he wrote.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan in Sept. of this year for the first time hinted at Turkey’s own nuclear weapons procurement.
“They say we can’t have nuclear tipped missiles though some have them. This, I can’t accept,” the Turkish president said.
Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.
Erdoğan’s remarks were aimed at the tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) that the United States maintains in Turkey, Micha’el Tanchum wrote in the Turkey Analyst, a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center.
According to Tanchum, Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400s may make the B-61 TNW useless:
Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system may, in fact, render the B-61 bombs at Incirlik undeliverable in the case of an actual TNW mission. To deliver such weapons, a nuclear-certified strike package would need to be deployed in Turkey with the Turkish air force possibly providing fighter escorts or aerial refueling. The strike package’s complex operations cannot be conducted within the Turkish air space covered by the S-400 system. Under these circumstances, the U.S. has little incentive to modernize the B-61s based in Incirlik under the B-61 Life Extension Program.
Erdoğan’s tough talk signals a shift in Turkey’s nuclear policy sparked by the deficiency of strategic weapons system to deter Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel, he wrote.
Turkey’s new focus will likely be revealed in the advancement of its ballistic missile programme, the article said.