CND has condemned NATO’s ongoing round of nuclear weapons exercises, warning they will further escalate tension and military conflict in Ukraine.
The nuclear drills – titled Steadfast Noon – commenced on Monday and will run for two weeks. They are training air crews to use US tactical nuclear bombs in the event of a nuclear war. At a time when there is regular reference to the use of tactical nukes in the context of the Ukraine war, this is indeed an unwise and provocative act.
The exercises involve 14 NATO members and around 60 aircraft. These include fourth and fifth generation fighter jets, tanker and surveillance aircraft, as well as a number of US B-52 long-range bombers. The exercises are an annual occurrence, but coming this year at a time of heightened tensions between NATO and Russia, they are likely to stoke further tension. Moscow, meanwhile, will hold its own nuclear exercises – called Grom.
The exercises are designed for US nuclear bombs that are stored in at least six US-operated NATO bases in Europe under a so-called nuclear sharing agreement. This means that non-nuclear weapons states use US nukes in times of war. The bases have special weapons storage facilities – many of which have undergone multi-million dollar modernisation. They are Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi air bases in Italy, Volkel air base in the Netherlands, and possibly Incirlik in Turkey.
Britain’s role in these US nuclear exercises follows reports last April that the US-run Lakenheath airbase in Suffolk was also undergoing modernisation of its nuclear weapons storage facilities heralding the likely return of US nukes to Britain. This has led to renewed calls from CND and others for the UK government to reject the return of these weapons.
CND is holding a national demonstration at Lakenheath on Saturday, 19 November – to demand that these weapons of mass destruction are removed from Britain.
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: “These nuclear exercises couldn’t come at a worse time. We call on our government to withdraw – and to reject the stationing of US tactical nukes in Britain. We will work with movements across Europe to put an end to ‘nuclear sharing’ and win a nuclear weapons-free continent.”