• Soviet nuclear warheads under inspection. The US bombs in Europe are thought to date back to Cold War times (Photo: jenspie3)

Four European states host US nuclear bombs, WikiLeaks reveals

29.11.10 @ 19:33

  1. By Leigh Phillips

BRUSSELS - The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Turkey have US nuclear weapons situated on their soil, the WikiLeaks whistleblower files have revealed.

The four countries, along with Italy, had long been suspected of being home to a collection of American nuclear armaments, but neither the states nor Nato had ever officially confirmed or denied their presence.

For the first time, the confidential files released on Sunday evening (28 November) have acknowledged what was until now only conjecture, upending decades of careful diplomatic ambiguity.

In a confidential memo from US ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy, he casually mentions the possible withdrawal of the weapons from Germany and perhaps from the Netherlands and Belgium as well.

The memo also confirms the presence of US nuclear weapons in Turkey.

Italy is also believed to be a silent custodian of American weapons of mass destruction.

Asked by EUobserver whether the country will now reassess its ambivalent public position on the matter in the wake of the leaks, the Dutch foreign ministry continued to stick by its long-standing stance, saying that there would likely be no comment forthcoming on the issue of US nuclear weapons.

According to estimates found in a 2007 report using a variety of different sources to catalogue deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe from the Natural Resources Defence Council, an American environmental protection NGO, the continent is home to 480 such weapons.

The report estimated that the Kleine Brogel weapons base in northeastern Belgium near the city of Meeuwen housed 20 nuclear weapons.

The same document reckoned that another 20 are housed at Volkel Air Base near the town of Uden in southeast of the Netherlands. Nuclear weapons are thought to have been stored there since the 1960s and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Some 20 nuclear weapons are believed to be stored in an underground vault at the German Luftwaffe's Buchel Air Base near the Luxembourg border. Last October, the country's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, came close to admitting their existence when he called "for a country free of nuclear weapons."

However, he would not say where the weapons were located, or if they did indeed exist.

Italy is also thought to host a total of 90 such arms, with 50 at Aviane Air Base near Udine in the north of the country, and 40 at Ghedi Torre Air Base near Brescia on the Adriatic coast

Incirlik Air Base, east of Adana in Turkey on the northern Mediterranean coast, is believed to store 90 such weapons.

Beyond the undeclared European nuclear states, the UK, an admitted member of the nuclear club, is home to 110 US nuclear weapons, at RAF Lakenheath, about 30 kilometres northeast of the university town of Cambridge.

Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal described the leaks in general as "not conducive to communication," but also warned: "We mustn't get spastic over them."