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Report: US Nuclear Weapons In Turkey In Danger Of Being Seized By Terrorists

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Dozens of U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey are at serious risk of being seized by terrorist groups, according to a new report released Monday by the Stimson Center.

In other words, researchers at the Stimson Center could not concretely answer the question of whether or not the U.S. could have held on to those nuclear weapons in the event of an enduring civil conflict in Turkey, which was a risk on July 15 — exactly one month ago. The inability to answer that question is essentially the reason for dramatically upgrading the risk factor.

While Turkish authorities managed to put the coup down, the possibility of the coup spiraling out of control was enough for analysts to take a second look at the security situation of U.S. nuclear weapons in the country. The situation seems volatile enough that the Pentagon in March told families of troops and other personnel to leave the region.

The weapons referenced by the report, which number 50 in total, are currently stored at the Incirlik base in Turkey for the purpose of assuring NATO of U.S. security commitments. These commitments came into play during the 1950s and 60s, in order to have a counter to Soviet tank armies rolling into Europe.

“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, just 70 miles from the Syrian border,” said Laicie Heeley, a Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program fellow at the Stimson Center. “These weapons have zero utility on the European battlefield and today are more of a liability than asset to our NATO allies.”

The report argues that these weapons are of limited political use.

“Today it is difficult to imagine the German government, or the Belgian or Dutch or Italian governments, authorizing their crews to drop nuclear weapons on Russian forces invading a nation in Eastern Europe,” the report notes.

Other analysts aren’t seeing the same threat. Kori Schake at the Hoover Institution has said that even if terrorists get their hands on U.S. nuclear weapons, these weapons are useless without the proper codes.

Tom Nichols, a U.S. Naval War College professor, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the fear of terrorists stealing nuclear weapons is definitely oversold.

“There are important and sensible reasons to remove U.S. weapons from Europe, but an overblown fear of U.S. bases being overrun by terrorists isn’t one of them,” Nichols said.

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