Turkey’s Nukes: A Sum of All Fears

Exclusive: The post-coup chaos in Turkey is a reminder about the risk of leaving nuclear weapons in unstable regions where they serve no clear strategic purpose but present a clear and present danger, explains Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

The national security priesthood in Washington has always used claims of superior wisdom and insider knowledge to silence dissent about nuclear policy. But not even they can explain any longer why U.S. nuclear bombs are being stored in politically unstable Turkey as it grows increasingly Islamist and anti-American.

The Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey — from which U.S. pilots launch bombing raids on ISIS forces in Syria — is home to about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs. That makes it NATO’s largest nuclear storage facility, with about a quarter of all theater nuclear weapons in the alliance’s stockpiles.

The U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion codenamed Bravo on March 1, 1954.

The U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion codenamed Bravo on March 1, 1954.

Each bomb has a yield of up to 170 kilotons, nearly a dozen times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima. The bombs are stored in underground vaults within aircraft shelters that in turn are protected by a base security perimeter.

But Eric Schlosser, author of a 2014 book on the perils of nuclear accidents, observed recently, “With a few hours and the right tools and training, you could open one of NATO’s nuclear-weapons storage vaults, remove a weapon, and bypass the [protective switches] inside it. Within seconds, you could place an explosive device on top of a storage vault, destroy the weapon, and release a lethal radioactive cloud.”

In addition, the security of the bombs is premised on them being defended by loyal NATO forces. In the case of Incirlik, that loyalty proved uncertain at best. Power to the base was cut after mutinous troops used a tanker plane from the base to refuel F-16s that menaced Ankara and Istanbul.

After the coup, the Turkish commander of Incirlik was arrested for complicity and marched off in handcuffs. One can easily imagine a clique of Islamist officers in a future coup seizing the nukes as a bargaining chip with Ankara and Washington — or, worse yet, to support radical insurgents in the region.

Getting Attention

After years of inattention to NATO’s nuclear deployment policy, the recent failed coup in Turkey is finally setting off alarm bells. Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, asked rhetorically, “Does it seem like a good idea to station American nuclear weapons at an air base commanded by someone who may have just helped bomb his own country’s parliament?”

F-15 Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, taxi to the runway during the final day of Anatolian Eagle June 18, 2015, at 3rd Main Jet Base, Turkey. The 493rd FS recently received the 2014 Raytheon Trophy as the U.S. Air Force's top fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks)

F-15 Eagles taxi to the runway at 3rd Main Jet Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks)

Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists, declared that “the security situation in Turkey and in the base area no longer meet the safety requirements that the United States should have for storage of nuclear weapons. You only get so many warnings before something goes terribly wrong. It’s time to withdraw the weapons.”

Most tellingly, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis wrote — being careful not to publicly confirm any classified information — that if NATO really does house tactical nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base, “this poses a very dangerous problem, and Washington will need Ankara’s full cooperation to ensure that all U.S. military equipment and forces are fully protected.”

The questioning should go beyond the obvious security risks of loose nukes falling into unfriendly hands, however. No one has ever explained what enemy the hydrogen bombs stored in Turkey might be used against, a quarter century after the fall of the Soviet Union. No doubt there are plenty of neocons in Washington who would delight in dropping them on Iran, as advocated by Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson, but one hopes that most Americans do not share his fondness for gambling outside of casinos.

Nor has anyone explained how the bombs might be used if an appropriate enemy were found, since NATO has no nuclear-certified aircraft stationed in Turkey. But in Washington and in Brussels, the inability to answer such basic questions is rarely cause to rethink old policies. After all, how many priests give up their incantations just because the chants don’t work?

Although Turkey offers an egregious case of nuclear risks, questions about nuclear weapons deployment should go well beyond that country. Security is also notoriously lax at NATO bases in Belgium and the Netherlands where nuclear weapons are stored.

As Schlosser recalls, “In 2010, peace activists climbed over a fence at the Kleine Brogel Airbase, in Belgium, cut through a second fence, entered a hardened shelter containing nuclear-weapon vaults, placed anti-nuclear stickers on the walls, wandered the base for an hour, and posted a video of the intrusion on YouTube. The video showed that the Belgian soldier who finally confronted them was carrying an unloaded rifle.”

Brandishing Nuclear Bombs

As I have argued before, the threat of terrorism is only one of several reasons to rethink the presence of theater nuclear weapons on NATO soil. Those weapons actually decrease the security of Western Europe by raising the risks of catastrophic escalation in the case of an inadvertent conflict with Russia. The weapons are also utterly unnecessary for deterrence, given the nuclear arsenals available to the United States, Great Britain and France.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Despite these risks, influential voices in the alliance are calling for more brandishing of nuclear weapons, not less. A recent article in NATO Review declared, “The forces involved in the nuclear mission should be exercised openly and regularly, without undermining their specific nature. Such exercises should involve not only nuclear-weapon states, but other non-nuclear allies.”

Last December, Poland’s deputy defense minister proposed putting U.S. nuclear weapons on Polish soil. That proposal came a year after Polish F-16 jets took part in a NATO nuclear exercise.

And the Obama administration, for now at least, remains bent on upgrading its hydrogen bombs and building a new class of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, both of which would be deployed in Europe.

Yet the observation of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier remains as true today as when he said it in 2009: “From the military point of view, those (theater) weapons are absolutely senseless today.”

The question he asked then is the one that all thinking people should be asking in the wake of Turkey’s recent debacle: “Isn’t it time to include substrategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the nuclear disarmament process, in order to [eliminate] once and for all the leftovers of the Cold War on the territory of Russia and Europe?”

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

36 comments for “Turkey’s Nukes: A Sum of All Fears

  1. July 21, 2016 at 10:32

    Thank you…important article with content that few have appreciated, at least to date. I posted an article from the German press yesterday that said the number of nukes at Incirlek is 80 – you give a different figure, so I am just curious to know if there is any way to verify the numbers. Regardless.

    With a friend, I do a monthly radio program for one hour on the Middle East. Might you be willing to be interviewed on that program (KGNU – Hemispheres, Tuesday, 6-7pm Mountain Standard Time). If so please send email to me: [email protected]

  2. Manfred
    July 20, 2016 at 22:41

    Can someone please tell me what is a “theater nuclear bomb” as mentioned by the author?

    • Jonathan Marshall
      July 21, 2016 at 14:11

      These are shorter range nuclear weapons designed to be used in the “theater” where warfare takes place–e.g. Europe–rather than “strategic” weapons that travel very long distances (e.g. between continents). One consequence of the shorter range is there is less warning time of an attack, thus more incentive to use the weapons rather than lose them (“use it or lose it”). As a result, a conventional (non-nuclear) conflict can escalate quickly to a nuclear conflict.
      Also, theater nuclear weapons tend to be smaller than strategic weapons. Some nuclear strategists think that makes them more useful in deterring a large-scale conventional attack (say of Russian forces against Eastern Europe or Germany). Most sane people realize that once nuclear weapons are introduced in a conflict by one side, the other side will respond in kind and escalation may well get out of hand, leading to all-out nuclear war.

      • Jaime
        July 22, 2016 at 00:17

        “Theater nuclear weapons tend to be smaller than strategic weapons”… not the B61. It has a dial-a-yield of up to 340 kt., which is the same as our strategic missile force of Minutemans and Tridents. In fact, many of our missiles are armed with (Trident) 100kt warheads and (Minuteman III) 170kt warheads, both of which have lesser yields than the B61’s “dialed” for maximum yield.

        We don’t want terrorists playing with that “dial”!

    • Evangelista
      July 21, 2016 at 20:32

      “Theatre” nuclear weapons, for use within a given “theatre of war”, include, in addition to “small” nuclear bombs, so-called “strategic nuclear weapons”, a designation that includes what are euphemistically called “Depleted Uranium” [DU] ‘projectiles’, ’rounds’, ‘shells’, ‘penetrators’. The most common forms of these are so-called “silver-bullets”, saboted (‘shoe’ enclosed) rounds fired from rifled guns and cannons, from .50 cal. up through ship’s guns. They can also, however, be fired as rockets, e.g., grenade-launch, bazooka and other rocket propelled field artillery.

      Correctly, DU projectiles are “kinetic penetrators”, also “pyrotic penetrators”, because they penetrate by burning, instead of breaching, their way through; pyrotic action, or the round being ‘kinetic’, active itself, instead of passive, only transferring the energy imparted by propellant. The ‘pyrotechnics’, or kinesis, is provided by nuclear combustion. a matrix, or small bits of matrix, composed of nuclearly fissile material mixed with ‘fissioned-out’ uranium (‘cold’ nuclear-waste), mixed in a defined proportion, and in some cases attached to additional depleted uranium (a bullet) provides a “controlled-combustion” capable projectile which, upon striking a metal (combustible) target material will erupt in micro-size nuclear explosions which vaporize the target metal, and the inert component of the DU matrix, exposing additional fissile nuclear material, which continues the fission combustion of the target material, so that the projectile ‘burns’ its way through. The combustion is similar to power-plant nuclear fission, where the amount of fission combustion is controlled by the amount of fissile material exposed for fission.

      All combustion is essentially the same, the combustion process being one that changes matter from one form to another (atomically or chemically), releasing energy in the change process. All combustion is also the same in that the completeness of a combustion change depends on the freedom of the combustion process to complete its combusting. The more controlled a combustion, the less complete the combustion, and the more not-fully-reduced by-product the combustion produces. This is the same whether you are burning wood, gas, oil, or nuclear materials. To make a nuclear bomb produce more nuclear fallout you reduce the temperature of the nuclear combustion. For the necessity of reducing the temperature of power-plant combustions power-plant nuclear combustion produces more byproduct (nuclear waste), which ,in atmosphere would be fallout.

      Because small size (strategic) nuclear weapons produce small combustions, they produce colder combustions, and leave more not-fully-converted by-product. The micro-combustions of so-called DU, kinetic penetrator weapons produce phenomenal amounts of byproduct, and byproduct of high remaining volatility (high level nuclear waste). The amount of nuclear material in a pentrator, however, is quite small, which is perceived an acceptable trade-off

      Radiation poisoning is a “recognized” (the quotes mean recognized but not admitted or acknowledged) byproduct of field use of DU projectiles, especially in the immediate vicinity of penetrated metal targets. The materials, before combustion are recognized to provide “no more risk than lead-based house-paint.”, lead being what the rounds are shielded with (inside their sabots, which they must have to prevent them initiating combustion in the gun barrels they are fired from)

      DU penetrators were used extensively against armor in the 1991 Iraq “war”, or “pre-war”, which was in large part a field-test for DU penetrators. A lot of them were fired, a lot of metal armor was burned, a lot of radiation poisoning sickness and death occurred, but not a lot was recorded, or admitted (and Geiger counters were prohibited after, to prevent measuring). Admissions were mostly in complaints that American personnel dealing with destroyed armor and souvenir-hunting were refusing to wear protective gear in the hot climate, mostly because explanation why they should was prohibited, to avoid admission the weapons were nuclear, and in tables at the backs of reports on ‘prize’ Iraqi armor returned to the U.S. for evaluation and testing, where numbers of the units having to be destroyed for being too ‘hot’, and so too dangerous, were provided.

      The trouble, for the military, is that the penetrators work ‘too well’. The reason they are called “silver-bullets”. The military does not want to give them up, or have them restricted for being designated nuclear weapons. Thus, they are not recognized nuclear, even though they are, and are not controlled, and cannot be controlled as nuclear.

      Thus, everybody needs them, because the others (especially the unpredictable and unreliable U.S.) has them and might use them. Thus, especially nations publicly designated enemies by the U.S. have to have them to shoot back with, and so the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, to produce nuclear wastes that could be processed to penetrator-grade (lower than bomb grade) fissionable material (e.g.,reactor-grade plutonium).

      Another aspect of “theatre” “strategic” nuclear weapons, which derives from their high productions of fallout/radiation byproduct, for their ‘dirty’ combustions, is that byproduct making them weapons one does not want to use at home, or have used in one’s home territory. The seeming ‘optimum’ is use elsewhere, far away, where you, the user, don’t give a damn about the people, who will live with waste and radiation product sicknesses, birth defects and so on for many generations, like Iraq was perceived by the U.S. military/government, who were too stupid to recognize the Pandora’s box aspect of introducing the stuff, or to recognize that what you shoot that misses can be picked up and shot back, or that the stuff is ideal for terror, to carry through borders and use against infrastructure.

      It is almost certain that if NATO initiates a war on its Eastern side Russia will respond with strategic nuclear weapons, to knock out NATO armor, and will make its best effort to assure the stuff irradiates Poland, Estonia, Latvia and the rest of “Eastern Europe”, instead of its own territories. A reason the EU belligerence Eastward is probably more popular the further West one goes, at least among those with intelligence enough to recognize what starting a war will produce, and how long the effects will continue effecting the war-zone populations.

      • Anon
        July 22, 2016 at 07:54

        There are facts here that need correction.

        Depleted uranium munitions are not nuclear weapons, they are ordinary munitions using DU projectiles because it is denser than lead, so it works a little better.. Strategic weapons do not include these.

        Strategic nuclear weapons are not theater weapons, they are intended as a deterrent, not a battlefield tactical weapon.

        Fission is not a form of combustion. There is no fission during combustion.

        • Anon
          July 23, 2016 at 01:35

          If I was wrong, Evangelista, I apologize for my ignorance, but you seemed to be making errors here on DU weapons. I concede that I have no expertise here, and that you may be correct.

        • Evangelsista
          July 25, 2016 at 21:00


          The depleted uranium that may be component in any of what are called ‘depleted uranium (or DU) projectiles’ is not nuclear. The nuclear component is the active (hot) nuclear isotopes that are matrixed in the projectiles, the component that ignites, producing, by small-scale nuclear fissioning, temperatures high enough to ignite the metallic material of the target object (which may be depleted uranium, too), and sustain a burn at plasma temperature, vaporizing the target metal. The ignition is effected by the passive kinetic energy given the projectile by its launching process (a stationary or on-board propellant charge). The projectiles require a combustible target material of sufficient hardness to initiate initial impact ignition, and to burn at temperature sufficient to vaporize the inert (combustion controlling) component of the projectile composition matrix, to continue exposing fissile component to fission and continue the combustion. For these characteristics concrete and wood can be (and are) used to shield metal (armor) from ‘DU penetrator’ penetration: Concrete does not burn, and so is only spalled by the initial ignitions of the ‘DU penetrator’, and wood, being soft, provides insufficient impact shock to initiate fission ignition. Kevlar and like materials able to catch-stop projectiles would work the same way, all provided there is sufficient thickness to slow the projectile to below its fissile component’s ignition impact rate.

          Thus, ‘Depleted uranium munitions’ are nuclear devices. They are not “nuclear weapons” because they have not been classified as such. Compare ‘tear-gas’, which is chemical, and may be used as a weapon, but which is not a “chemical weapon”, because it has been classified as ‘not a chemical weapon’.

          Depleted Uranium is denser than lead, by a slight amount. Uranium decays to lead. Uranium, when fully decayed, when it has fully decomposed, when all extra isotopic elements have been cast away, when it no longer has additional isotopic elements and is elementally stable, is lead. Lead is the heaviest stable element. The extra weight of depleted uranium is provided by the additional elements that provide depleted uranium with its slight instability, which causes it to continue to cast off isotopes, which isotopes are low-level radio-active discharges, which trigger Geiger-counters. Natural state uranium ore, doing the same thing, decomposing toward becoming lead ore, does the same, for which Geiger-counters are useful for finding deposits.

          Lead, as is commonly known, is a soft, heavy metal. Depleted uranium, in final decay toward becoming lead, is a soft, heavy metal. Depleted uranium, because it is soft and heavy, provides very high resistance to penetration: It deforms in an area of impact, but absorbs the impact locally, which keeps the impact effect local, preventing its spread, or shock-transmission to other areas. It is for this depleted uranium is used for armor. many tank turrets, for example, are made from, or incorporate, depleted uranium for shock absorption.

          As a projectile lead, and depleted uranium, too, carry maximal kinetic energy from their launchings. Both are excellent passive carriers of imparted kinetic energy.. Both being soft, however, both deform readily upon impacting a target object, and expend the kinetic energy imparted to them in deforming. For this lead, and its ‘younger’ form, depleted uranium, are essentially worthless as penetrators. Cannon-balls, for example, intended to breach (penetrate) the wooden sides of ships, were, for this, made of iron, not lead. And, today, passive-kinetic penetrators, intended to breach armor, are not made of lead, or depleted uranium, but of tungsten. Tungsten is a very hard metal of sufficient weight to carry as much passively imparted kinetic energy as is possible to impart, and of sufficient hardness to resist deforming, to assure the maximum penetration the imparted energy can induce.

          As you can see, the “Depleted uranium munitions…are ordinary munitions [that] because…denser than lead…works a little better.” mantra is false-on-its-face propaganda. Asserted with bravadura confidence as “fact”, the assertion sounds plausible enough to be assumed acceptable, without analysis. And so the propaganda assertion works, even though most who accept, if they stopped for only a minute to consider the association of depleted uranium to lead, and the well-known characteristic of lead munitions to ‘mushroom’, would recognize they were hearing bullshit.

          “Combustion” is a general term used to designate any material (matter) conversion that produces energy as a product (or byproduct). “Oxidation” is a term for combustion that references oxygen induced combustion. Oxidation is chemical combustion. The combustion of oxidation includes the whole range from extremely rapid, e.g., what we call “explosion”, to corroding, as in rusting. Decomposition and composting are also oxidations, chemical combustions. They are also among the banes of “climate science”, since they produce oxidized (‘-oxide’) byproducts, like ‘carbon-dioxide’, which “climate-scientists” classify as a ‘pollutant’. Chemical combustions are characterized by changes in the molecular structures of what is combusted.

          “Solar combustion” is a term assigned to the “fusion-combustion” process characteristic of suns. Fusion combustion produces heat (“Too much heat!!” the adherents to the “Climate-Science” religion complain in hysterical alarm) through heat-induced breaking apart of light elements, hydrogen, to begin with, which then reform, not molecularly, but atomically, to make heavier elements, helium, for example, which with high enough temperatures (which means atomic component movement, meaning energy-activity) may tear apart, in turn, and reform in heavier elements. Each heavier element is more difficult to break apart, and requires more energy activity, producing higher temperatures (more activity), and producing progressively more complex, and more stable, material (matter) elements. Fusion combustion is called fusion for this fusing of heavier and more complex matter elements, step by step, from primary hydrogen.

          “Fission combustion” is atomic combustion, producing heat (energy activity), through breaking apart of matter elements that are too heavy to be stable, such as uranium, plutonium and so on. Fission combustion occurs naturally at a variety of rates, which we define as “decay”. To make fission combustions rapid enough to be destructive man has concentrated radio-active ores to nucleuses of unstable nuclear elements. Balled together and given enough of a shock to initiate chain-reactioning man has produced atomic-combustion bombs, and nuclear power-plant fuels. Nuclear power-plant fuels, for the nuclear combustion being controlled and so cooler, not producing temperatures high enough to fully combust all component, produce larger amounts of byproduct, and more volatile byproduct elements.(the same as happens in chemical combustions when the combustion process is choked to slow it, in wood-burning stoves ‘creosote’ will be produced, instead of burned and will build up volatile deposits in chimneys. These sometimes catch fire and burn houses down. Plutonium is an atomically volatile byproduct of slowed nuclear power-plant combustion, sort of counterpart to ‘creosote’).

          making what are called “depleted uranium munitions” is a way to ‘recycle’ plutonium waste produced by nuclear power-plants. For being recycling, we might say that there is a “green” and “responsible” element in making and deploying “depleted uranium munition” nuclear-reaction-utilizing-but-not-nuclear-weapons.

  3. Realist
    July 20, 2016 at 21:59

    The thinking of our American leaders is quite transparent but insane. They want to keep those nuclear bombs as close to Russia as possible, even if it means storing them in unstable countries like Turkey or fanatical Russophobic countries like Ukraine and Poland. Why? What’s the point of endlessly threatening Russia? Think of Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb,” dissipating natural resources, and runaway pollution. Then think of all that pristine undeveloped land in Siberia, which will be warming to the point of livability, agriculture and resource development as a consequence of climate change. It’s the same attitude as “American oil” somehow lying buried deep beneath the sands of the Middle East. American oligarchs like to consider that whatever resources remain on this planet belong to them because “might makes right.”

    • Francis Xavier DuCharme
      July 21, 2016 at 22:44

      What’s the point of endlessly threatening Russia?

      I’m gonna step out on a limb here and guess that its not in the best interest of the US to threaten Russia (although that is what we are doing). My guess is that teeing off Russian is more likely beneficial to other parties, goes to somebody else’s benefit. Who that might be is anyone’s guess.

  4. Abe
    July 20, 2016 at 20:46

    “Thanks largely to stockpile reductions during the Administrations of President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush, the United States now has about a hundred and eighty nuclear weapons deployed with NATO, all of them B-61 bombs. In addition to Incirlik, the weapons are stored at bases in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy. Today, the symbolism of these bombs is far more important than their military utility; missiles carrying nuclear warheads reach targets much faster, more reliably, and with much greater accuracy. The advocates of retaining nuclear weapons in NATO argue that the B-61 bombs demonstrate America’s enduring commitment to the alliance, intimidate Russia, and discourage NATO members from developing their own hydrogen bombs. Opponents of the weapons, like Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, consider them “absolutely senseless”—and an inviting target for terrorists.”

    The H-Bombs in Turkey
    By Eric Schlosser

  5. Tronald Drumpf
    July 20, 2016 at 19:58

    This is vital information to the American voting public, which is why 99.999% of them will never hear about it.

  6. elvis
    July 20, 2016 at 19:42

    I dont think the nukes should be anywhere near the mideast. One overthrow of that territory will put nukes into terrorists hands. That is insane to allow the bombs to fall into ISIS hands who would surely detonate a few in the USA. Most likely our CIC wants that to happen.

  7. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    July 20, 2016 at 18:40

    Who exactly was behind the coup?! See what James Corbett and Sibel Edmonds are saying


  8. Joe Tedesky
    July 20, 2016 at 16:35

    I’ll probably sound stupid asking this question, but besides the nukes being stored in Turkey, was there any means stationed there to fire the nuclear warhead missiles?

    It would also appear, that by the U.S. housing so many nukes in so many places, that this could turn out to be America’s greatest weakness. Unless, there are only nuclear bombs, but without any mechanism to deploy these terrible weapons, then possibly this could make sense. Then again could this distribution of these nuclear weapons turnout to be America’s biggest blunder?

    Here we are in the 21st century in a world which has shrunk to be even smaller than it was just a few years ago. Instead of diplomacy ruling the international discourse, we use military instead. It’s high time we disarm all weapons of war. If we start now, then maybe by the end of this century the world could be free of war. Why can’t we just buy each others natural resources, and be done with it?

    • Joe B
      July 20, 2016 at 20:14

      The warheads at Incirlik are said to be not usable by any aircraft stationed there, which is hard to believe, but perhaps it is better to keep the launch vehicles separated. They are also said to require special knowledge or tools to remove them from storage or activate them, so perhaps they self-destruct if tampered. But if captured they could perhaps be studied and re-used eventually. Probably they are just anchoring rhetoric and odd strategic scenarios. I imagine that plans to remove them are under consideration.

      But the US has long had nuclear-armed missiles in Turkey due to its proximity to Russia. There was a story that putting them in Turkey caused the USSR to move ICBMs to Cuba before the missile crisis. I don’t know what remains.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 20, 2016 at 23:26

        Thanks Joe B. I will admit my knowledge of how all this ordinance relates to each other, is not something I would call my strong point.

        I realize that there is a fundamental reality that requires us to have a strong defense. Although scattering nukes all around the world seems to me to be a lot of overkill, and that is an intentional pund. I guess I have become a rather bigger than life peacenik in my older years, but what in the world are we preparing for? You would think that since in modern years the only villains we have to defend ourselves against are rag tag mercenaries who don’t even have an Air Force, or have any real centralized location to bomb for that matter, yet here we house 90 nukes. To use on who? I will go to bed tonight believing that somewhere inside the White House is hidden the essential code or key, and without that the bombs are neutered and harmless.

        Why do I have an urge to watch Dr. Strangelove?

        • Jaime
          July 22, 2016 at 00:01

          I just did – after 40 years! The ending left me stupefied since I did not remember it (too long ago). Actually, I’m quite puzzled by it, even considering this is a comedic drama…in Stanley Kubrick’s way. What a riot!

  9. J.
    July 20, 2016 at 16:26

    The hibakusha or survivors of nuclear bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have led a call for abolishing all nuclear weapons since the bombs were dropped on Japan. They are the most authoritative witnesses to the barbarism and cruelty of nuclear war but the few of them left in the world are growing old and won’t be around much longer. I shudder to think what will happen then. The insanity that Jonathan Marshal so well describes should be front and center in the news but the political charade here has become immune to insanity.

    In two weeks, commemorations of the atomic bombings will take place in the Washington DC area and elsewhere on the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you can, please find and attend one of these events which might help keep alive the awareness of what nuclear weapons mean

  10. Zachary Smith
    July 20, 2016 at 16:15

    It’s difficult to improve on what the German guy said:

    “From the military point of view, those (theater) weapons are absolutely senseless today.”

    • Dube
      July 22, 2016 at 09:10

      What is “absolutely senseless today” is the entire Western leadership.

  11. onno
    July 20, 2016 at 14:18

    I wonder whether Washington knows EXACTLY how many nukes they’ve stored in their more than 900 military bases overseas. But this Turkey experience will also be a good lesson since it proves that USA has NO control over their weapon arsenal overseas which become even more dangerous in countries without a stable government or like in Turkey through a COUP. Both scenarios are dangerous especially in times of Muslim extremists trying to get a hold on nuclear bombs.

    • Jaime
      July 21, 2016 at 23:51

      The Pentagon should retrieve the nukes stored in Turkey post haste! Erdogan is consolidating his power very quickly with his false flag “coup”. It is well know he wants to steer Turkey into a more religious society.

      • Kiza
        July 22, 2016 at 08:50

        Some months ago, after (supposedly) Turkey (but actually CIA) shot down a Russian bomber over Syria, I laughed at one commenter from Turkey for claiming that Turkey had nuclear weapons. I even joked that those US nuclear bombs in Turkey must be some kind of “communal” nuclear weapons, that anyone can use according to need.

        I am not laughing any more. Even a false coup illustrated how the nuclear weapons could be relatively easily appropriated by any force, including the Muslim extremists, if determined enough and intelligent enough. Would the bomb activation codes provide sufficient protection? Well, I wrote “determined enough and intelligent enough”. Maybe kidnapping also the family of a US nuclear officer stationed in Turkey would do the trick.

        What would Russia do if ISIS exploded a thermonuclear bomb from the US arsenal in Turkey near the Russian Khmeimim base or in Southern Russia? Would they blame US and hit back? I also note that Russia does not store its nuclear weapons in any allied country, why US still does?

        • Jon Camp
          July 22, 2016 at 14:24


          RE: comments on Turkey,
          Please tell me, where did you get “the CIA” shot down a Russian plane, (a passenger plane if I recall correctly). I’d really like to check out this “source”.
          I’m not POSITIVE about them storing weapons out of country today, but I’d sure be willing to put a cup of coffee on it…….I think you should check the period of Russia’s (recent) hard times, and desertion of soldiers due to lack of pay AND rations. Recent meaning 60’s, and 70’s. Putin is a VERY smart man, so that practice may not be in effect today.
          When the U.S. first started stockpiling nukes they were VERY careful, now thanks to our slacker leadership, I Dunno. The way these idiots in the current administration operate, they may be using a few of those pay by the month storage outfits.

          • Kiza
            July 23, 2016 at 13:18

            You may not like my description but there is a blog of a Russian guy who has been suspected to have contacts with the Russian intelligence. This blog posited one day after the shootdown that Erdogan and Davutoglu had no idea of the shootdown before the event. Then, a former US marine published in his blog how the whole action was done. It was a classical ambush. A Turkish airforce general “educated” in the US was coopted. He sent two F16s and not from Incirlik which the Russians have been monitoring with ELINT. These two fighters were loitering below the cruising altitude and below the horizont of the Russian radar at Khmeimim airport, which means they were using a lot of fuel and needed in-air refuelling by Turkish tankers. Two AWACS planes hundreds of miles away, one Saudi Arabian and the other US were monitoring the sorties over Syria. On top, the Russians have supplied general data of their sorties to the US, as part of flight coordination with the US. Therefore, the Russian bombers were expected in Northern Syria just not known exactly when. When the two Russian bombers arrived (and bombers do not have fight radar like the fighter jets have), the AWACS planes sent their flight data (exact location) via satellite data link to the loitering Turkish F16s, which jumped up shot one or two air-to-air missiles, ducked down and rushed back to the home base in central Turkey.
            A few questions for you:
            1) if you had hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade, oil and gas deals with someone would you shootdown their jet even if it were breaching your airspace?
            2) if you are a (mucho) leader of a country, would you admit to your own nation and to the World that you are not in control of your own airforce?
            3) Why is it so hard to get the consumers of US MSM to consider Cui Bono? Is there something in the US media which always explains events by Government dictat – switch off your brain and accept the explanation delivered to you through the MSM by the authority?

        • President True Man
          July 25, 2016 at 09:59

          Someone else has already asked you, and now I am asking you:

          Do you have any *links* or anything at all to justify your claim that “the CIA” shot down the Russian jet. Anything at all?

          Just saying “there is a blog of a Russian guy …. This blog posited one day …” is worthless. Links or it didn’t happen (i.e. isn’t true i.e is just another lie)

  12. rosemerry
    July 20, 2016 at 14:10

    Nuclear weapons were only “necessary” for deterrence and this worked only with MAD (mutually assured destruction) which our modern political masters seem never to think of, casually talking of first strike, which was not allowed under not-so-MAD rules. Now with UK PM Theresa May deciding that hundreds of thousands of deaths would be “worth it” to upgrade the Trident, all the nuclear powers will agree. A new arms race is completely uncalled for; NATO is the worst way of reaching some sort of peace on earth.

  13. IAL
    July 20, 2016 at 14:03

    Just one more reason why the “intelligence” community has lost all credibility. Where did these people “in charge” get their education? Idiots r us? National Relations for Dummies? Lack of Common Sense University?

    This is a dire situation as you point out Jonathan. Nuclear weapons have no place in Turkey or anywhere else in Europe. The EU has already shown, repeatedly, that they have capitulated to terrorism by allowing radical Muslims into their countries.

    Enough already! The world is in peril due to the lack of common sense of US intelligence agencies, the US military, and the group-think that is apparently a part of those “in the know”.

    The American people demand that their government start upholding the principles of democracy and the principles of freedom upon which this country was founded and stop aligning themselves with dictators (e.g Turkey and Saudi Arabia) and capitulators (e.g. the EU that bows down to Muslim radicals) around the world. The US should be an example of good power in this world – not an example of cowardice and incompetence.

    IAL Ph.D., MBA

    • Jon Camp
      July 22, 2016 at 12:18

      IAL Ph.D., MBA,
      I TOTALLY agree with you about the STUPIDITY of our leaders RE: Weapons/Defense. I do however, take
      exception in your evaluation of our intelligence community. Intelligence organizations do NOT make any decisions, PERIOD!! They are responsible to “provide “Intelligence, (the most effective weapon Any commander has), and let the “hot shots figure out what to do with it”.
      In the past America had a SUPERB Intelligence Community, second to NONE.Unfortunately our “Idiots” in
      DC decided to cut it back to the point of a 4th rate outfit when compared to the one we had into the 80’s !
      Consequently, between our MORON LEADERSHIP, and our Half-assed intell. we are in DEEP doo doo. This reminds me of the Russian troops abandoning their weapons when they were not getting paid or supported….The ONLY thing the U.N. does, is to call on the United States, and then Criticizes us for what/how we try to take care of the problem….And guess who picks up the tab? (in both money and LIVES).
      I don’t have a Ph,D or an MBA, but I guess, looking at, our “educated” leaders, it doesn’t always mean much. A “Leader” should either ask the experts for assistance in these matters, or “Get Out and let someone who WILL ! ! ….As usual, someone else takes the flack for the people responsible.

      An Uneducated AMERICAN


    • stephen
      August 2, 2016 at 08:41

      We have a president with no legitimate history, no birth certificate (despite what the press states) that is better than grade school photo shop, no school records much of the time, no available papers he wrote, we find he was disbarred for lying on his application for the bar. At Harvard, he writes that he was a foreign exchange student from Kenya. He told his boyhood friend, radical Marxist Bill Ayres’ postman how he was a foreign exchange student from Kenya and was going to be president some day. His “wife” was also disbarred due to committing fraud. Obama lived in pakistan his junior and senior year of college and lied about it. Obama has open the flood gates to Muslim Brotherhood members. He may be a member. You now see that they have successfully moved ahead with their plan to infiltrate the USA and take over. MB’s are in the CIA, the FBI, DHS etc etc. No one says a word. Truely, obama must think us all to be stupid. When you have a whole political party embrace you, even after sending 2 senators to force Egypt to reinstall the genocidal maniac Morsi in Egypt.

      Yes, leadership…what leadership. It was noted Islamist from Indianapolis, Andre’ Carson showing radical Islamists around the whitehouse after Obama’s last election. These were people who would be arrested if found in any other place. Yea, what leadership. Our military is depleted. We have a fraction of the readiness we had in 2000. We have a Trojan Horse in the whitehouse and democrats ready to steal the election.

      We have Turkey with Nukes going Islamist with the help of Obama the Islamist. We need a coop. We need a military type leader to fix things until we are fit to be democratic once again. we are not democratic now and not for a long time. The democratic party has nearly destroyed our country. Some republicans are also to blame. Pray for America.

  14. Chris Chuba
    July 20, 2016 at 13:10

    Having standard gravity nukes in Turkey makes no sense whatsoever strategically. The F16 and F35 have a combat radius of 500 miles so they are next to useless against Russia. Okay, they could be used against Iran but even if we wanted to do the unthinkable, I thought that this is why we had like 12 Aircraft carriers, nuke subs, and Minuteman ICBM’s. This is a very expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary arsenal to maintain.

    • mahatma darby
      July 21, 2016 at 15:32

      It wasn’t unthinkable when the US used the first and it is not unthinkable now. (by those with the power to use them)

  15. July 20, 2016 at 12:37

    Terrific article; thanks, Jonathan!


    • Peter Loeb
      July 21, 2016 at 07:24


      With all due respect to Mr. Marshall and Ray McGovern, I do not believe
      there should be anything at all “mysterious” (etc.) about why
      and how and when the US began funneling weapons to Turkey.

      It is all spelled out in John Tirman’s brilliant book, SPOILS OF WAR:
      Due to the date of publication of this book central to the problems
      raised in particular with deals with Turkey, it must of course be
      updated to address contemporary nuclear concerns you have
      both raised. The essential process remains the same.

      For the interest of Consortium readers and writers, this
      work is considered by Mr. Tirman to be more investigative
      reporting than history. It was conducted without the cooperation
      of the major participants,

      (Available in libraries as well as Amazon.)

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

      • stephen
        August 2, 2016 at 08:17

        nato nukes are out of our control. we can make them, store them etc., but getting them back may not be so easy. However, we should try and we should get them away from all countries that are bringing in Isis populations among refugees, which is most of NATO. God bless Europe, im sad to say they have been tricked into destroying themselves by letting muslims in. Muslim is not a religion, its a violent social movement that usurps all constitutions and replaces them with sharia law. the world is slow to grasp this and will pay in blood. Trusting a state rapidly becoming Islamist would change everything if they had deliverable Nukes, and Turkey does.

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