As Washington and Moscow sign a new arms reduction treaty, skepticism arises in Turkey as to whether those cuts will include US atomic warheads stored in the country.
US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Prague on Thursday, which requires both sides to reduce their nuclear arsenals to 1,550, or about one-third below current levels.
This is while the Obama administration has revised US policy on atomic weapons, as part of a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that, among other things, is said to be aimed at reducing the US stockpile.
But silence over anticipated US plans to withdraw nuclear bombs deployed in the Incirlik Air Base in southern Anatolia, has left many speculating on whether Washington has any intentions to remove the weapons at all.
When asked about a possible US move to withdraw its nuclear weapons from five European countries, including Turkey, Turkey’s Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said that Ankara had no information about such plans.
“No information has been officially announced,” Gonul told reporters on Wednesday.
The US has positioned a total of 200 B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs in Turkey, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany since the Cold War. Turkey is believed to be hosting 90 bombs at Incirlik Air Base.
On April 2, The Times reported that the United States may remove tactical nuclear weapons deployed in five NATO member European countries, including Turkey.
However, the possibility of the White House seriously considering a decision to withdraw the B61 gravity bombs seems unlikely, as it has not consulted Ankara on the issue so far.
In the latest NPR, while the Obama Administration has reduced the threat of using nuclear weapons against signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has excluded NPT signatory Iran from threat reduction.
During the release of the current NPT today, the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “the NPR has a very strong message for both Iran and North Korea, because whether it’s in declaratory policy or in other elements of the NPR, we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with NPT.”
“Basically, all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category,” he elaborated.
Washington, which accuses Iran of having the “intention” of developing nuclear weapons, is leading a push for a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran at the United Nations Security Council in a bid to hinder the nation’s drive for a nuclear energy program.
Iran, as a signatory of NPT, insists that it neither believes in atomic weapons, nor, as a matter of religious principles, does it intend to acquire nuclear or other weapons of mass-destruction.