In the early hours of this month’s failed military coup in Turkey, the power was cut to the Incirlik Air Base, a base which houses not just a significant number of US troops and planes, but underground vaults which hold dozens of American B61 tactical nuclear bombs.
The low-yield nuclear weapons were designed in the 1960s, and only about 200 remain in service at this point, mostly deployed around Europe as a throwback to the Cold War era. That’s included a substantial deployment to NATO member Turkey.
But given Turkey’s long history of military coups and growing instability along its borders, there is increasing concern about stashing nuclear weapons in what amounts to the basement of an air force base there. Retired Air Force Gen. Eugene Habiger is among the critics.
Gen. Habiger, quoted by the San Antonio Express News, insisted that having nuclear weapons deployed anywhere is always a risk, and that it was particularly unwise in the case of the B61s in Turkey because they “no longer have any military usefulness.”
Turkey has seen more than a few coups d’etat, and so far none has impacted the US military assets deployed there. This has some insisting that the concerns are “unjustified,” but with no conceivably situation in which the US would need tactical nukes in Turkey, the odds of them becoming a problem seem very much beside the point.