The situation in our region, in this case, the tense relations between Washington and Ankara, creates strange scenarios – the Turkish government has asked the US to deploy Patriot air defense batteries in Turkey’s southern border following tensions in Idlib province in northern Syria. This has caused many experts to raise eyebrows trying to understand the meaning of this request. The puzzlement stems from the fact that Turkey has deployed the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems and plans to purchase additional systems. The purchase of the S-400 has angered Washington, which in response canceled the sale of the F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.
By Arie Egozi
An Israeli expert said that the US has been put in an almost impossible situation: “The Turkish government spat in the face of the US by buying the Russian-made missiles. The retaliation was fast. But the reality these days is very complicated, a fact that forces Washington to take two steps backward. When you have nuclear weapons on Turkish soil, a request for Patriot missiles cannot be turned down.”
The Israeli expert added that the “crazy” situation in which Turkey is a NATO member while buying Russian-made systems and further looking for Chinese-made ones is now forcing the US to ease its attitude towards Ankara. Tal Inbar, an Israeli defense analyst, said that the S-300 and S-400 have never been proved in real action. “In addition, the S-400 in Turkey are not operational, so Ankara asked for the Patriots.”
The number of US nuclear bombs currently stored in Europe under NATO auspices is estimated at between 160 and 240, of which 50 to 90 are stored in the Inchirlik base in Turkey. No American nuclear weapons were stored in Britain and France, though they are members of NATO, because both countries have their own nuclear arsenals. Nuclear sharing began in the 1960s for two main reasons – to prove the US commitment to the European NATO member countries and to stop any local plan to develop such weapons.
The American nuclear weapons currently stored in Europe and Turkey are B61 bombs. Their explosive yield can be adjusted between 0.3 and 340 kilotons, so they can be used both tactically and strategically. However, according to NATO’s current deterrent strategy, they are intended only for tactical use. “In contrast to past years, when some American nuclear weapons in Europe were installed as warheads on ballistic missiles, the B61 bombs are intended to be carried only by aircraft,” the researcher says.
The responsibility for maintenance and guarding of US nuclear bombs stored in Europe during peacetime rests with the US Air Force, and the Permissive Action Link codes are under American control. In an emergency or upon the outbreak of war, this arsenal is to be installed on aircraft of the countries in which it is stored, but it will remain under the command and control of the US Air Force in coordination with NATO.
Last month, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded more support from his NATO and European Union allies over the war in Syria as fighting rages in Idlib, and a refugee crisis unfolds at the Turkish-Greek border.
Erdogan flew to Brussels for talks with EU and NATO leaders after tensions rose over the fate of tens of thousands of refugees trying to enter EU-member Greece since Ankara said last month it would no longer try to keep them on its soil. So it seems that the US has found itself in a situation that in spite of the tension, it will be forced to deploy Patriot PAC- 3 in Turkey in close proximity to the Russian made S-400.