By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Having seen recent events culminating with the failed coup to oust Turkish leader Erdogan and the onset of his Orwellian crackdown against the judiciary, academics and any others perceived to be a threat to his increasingly autocratic rule, the time has come for the United States and subsequently the NATO alliance to reconsider whether Turkey is stable enough to host a nuclear stockpile.
New Yorker Magazine, quoting Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Incirlik Airbase holds about fifty B-61 thermonuclear bombs–more than twenty-five percent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The dial-a-yield of these bombs can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as one hundred seventy kilotons. For comparison, the yield of the Little Boy device that destroyed Hiroshima is estimated at fifteen kilotons.
During the coup attempt, the Turkish government closed Incirlik to all travel and cut off its power, forcing operations command to rely on back-up generators. The base’s commander was temporarily detained. The coup only hastened and to a much greater extent expanded the suppression of civil liberties and dissent.
The Erdogan government accuses dissident Fethullah Gulen, currently living in exile within the United States, of organizing the coup and warned the United States that it would be making a “great mistake” if extradition was not granted.
The dictatorial becoming of Mr. Ergodan should come as a strong worry especially when met with the inevitable backlash against his rule could pose a risk of proliferation if these weapons are not secured.
Concern over nuclear weapons within Turkey is not without precedent. During the 1960’s the weapons were technically under the custody of United States Officers but in actuality physically under the control of servicemen of the militaries of Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Germany who handled the weapons while in use.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. Secretary of Defense McNamara had grave concern that Turkish officers might on their own volition and without explicit authorization launch nuclear attacks against the Soviets. He ordered U.S. troops to sabotage the missiles if any were readied to be launched. Later, the weapons were equipped with Permissive Action Links to remove the danger of unauthorized launch.
In 1974 when Greece and Turkey nearly went to war, the United States removed all nuclear weapons from Greece and rendered all such weapons in Turkey inoperative.
Further cause for concern is that Incirlik Air Base is only about seventy miles from the Syrian border and serves as a staging base for U.S. strikes against ISIS. The involvement of Turkey in the anti-terrorist effort made the nation a natural target of jihadis and it would be folly to ignore that Incirlik and its stockpile of nukes would not make a very tempting goal.
Mr. Ergodan has not been a fully willing partner in the effort to wrest ISIS and al-Qaeda from the Levant. Kurdish sources, have alleged and shown considerable evidence to support that two years ago Turkey was actually allowing supplies to jihadists and anti-Syrian militias to pass through the nation and more recently Turkey was embarrassed when it was revealed that the nation was turning a blind eye to allowing tanker-trucks to import oil from ISIS controlled refineries–a source of hard case for the terrorist organization. Now, it seems Turkey’s acquaintance with these groups has gone sour at the very least.
If there it is any indication as to what could happen if Erdogan abandoned the West in favor of a posture of isolation and hegemony having a nuclear-armed dictator could be very destabilizing in the region.
From another perspective the removal of the B-61s might have the effect of cooling tensions with the Russians.
As part of the negotiations to end the Cuban Missile Crisis with the Soviets, the United States agreed to remove all “Jupiter” ballistic missiles from Turkey; the presence of which was a source of considerable worry for the Soviet Union.
By Darren Smith
Source: The New Yorker
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