Pressure is growing on the UK government to block the stationing of US nuclear weapons in Britain, with ministers warned the deployment will ‘paint a great big target’ on Britain, in the event the war in Ukraine escalates into a military confrontation between NATO and Russia.

The warning came from the Chair of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, in letters to Foreign Secretary James Cleverley and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. The letters were sent amid growing evidence that the US government is preparing RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk to site the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb. This includes US Air Force budget documents which revealed plans to upgrade nuclear storage bunkers at the base, as well as the building of a new dormitory to house the additional personnel needed for a nuclear weapons mission in Britain.

On the rising nuclear tensions, Councillor O’Neill said: 

“The current situation is a repeat of the dark days of the 1980s, when at the height of the Cold War, Prime Minister Thatcher invited President Ronald Reagan to send over cruise missiles, making the whole of Eastern England a target inviting Soviet attack.

The NFLAs want to see no repeat of that – a situation in which Suffolk could be turned into a nuclear wasteland. Instead we have urged Ministers to arrest any future redeployment of US nuclear weapons by refusing them permission to deploy in Constable’s country.”

In addition to the letters to the government, NFLA also gave its support to CND’s upcoming day of action on Saturday, 23 September. This includes local actions by CND groups in their own communities about the return of US nuclear weapons to Britain. Meanwhile, prominent CND figures have written to the base authorities about their intention to carry out a citizens’ weapons inspection at Lakenheath.

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said:

“Councillor O’Neill’s letters are an important intervention from local government leaders and reflect the wishes of the majority of the British public. By allowing B61-12s to come to Britain, the UK government isn’t guaranteeing the country’s security. It is ensuring that Britain will become a target for nuclear strikes in the event of any war between the US/NATO and Russia. The UK government must urgently block this deployment. ”