On July 15, a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces attempted a military coup of the Turkish government. During the coup, Turkish authorities denied access to Incirlik Air Base, home to both the Turkish Air Force as well as the 39th U.S. Air Base Wing, and all external power to the base was shut off. The discovery that at least four Turkish tanker aircraft participating in the coup had launched from Incirlik has since prompted the arrest of the Turkish base commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan, as well as 11 other service members on the base for being complicit in the coup attempt. Incirlik remained without power for almost a week as the Turkish government reestablished control over the country, requiring power and supplies to be flown into the base.
This failed military coup has alarmed a number of military and arms control experts, since Incirlik Air Base houses an estimated 90 U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs as part of NATO's nuclear sharing program, 40 of which are reportedly assigned for delivery by the Turkish Air Force. Turkey has been home to U.S. nuclear weapons for over 40 years, along with hundreds more "shared" nuclear weapons stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. A remnant of Cold War nuclear strategy, these American nuclear missiles were positioned at military bases across Europe to serve as a guard against Soviet incursion and to allow for quick retaliation in case of a Soviet nuclear attack. With the end of the Cold War, some top military commanders have called for a removal of nuclear weapons from Europe, only to be met with fierce political resistance.
With recent events depicting a deeply divided Turkish military, Steve Andreasen, National Security Consultant for the Nuclear Threat Initiative and former director for defense policy and arms control on the U.S. National Security Council, makes the case for removing American nuclear weapons from Turkey in an Op-ed for the Los Angeles Times:
Let's get our nuclear weapons out of Turkey
After a faction within the Turkish military tried to overthrow the Turkish government last month, one of the many arrested for his alleged role in the attempted coup was a commanding officer at the Incirlik Air Base. That base — according to numerous media reports — is a major NATO installation hosting one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in Europe.
What if the Turkish base commander at Incirlik had ordered his troops surrounding the perimeter of the base to turn their guns on the U.S. soldiers that reportedly guard U.S. nuclear storage bunkers there?
Read more about nuclear weapons in Turkey
America's Nukes Aren't Safe in Turkey Anymore
The William J. Perry Project
The H-Bombs in Turkey
The New Yorker
The U.S. stores nuclear weapons in Turkey. Is that such a good idea?
The Washington Post
Warning Bells Around Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe
Nuclear Threat Initiative
Should the U.S. Pull Its Nuclear Weapons From Turkey?
The New York Times
Why the U.S. Should Move Nukes Out of Turkey