Netherlands host USA’s secret 21 nuclear bombs

Cold War nuclear bombs remain in the Netherlands : June 11, 2013 

BRUSSELS: Twenty-two American nuclear bombs remain housed in underground bunkers at a Dutch airbase, a Cold War legacy described as “pointless”.

Ruud Lubbers, Dutch prime minister from 1982 to 1994, broke a taboo of European politics by confirming the presence of the weapons at Volkel airbase.

“I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013,” Mr Lubbers told De Tijd Vliegt, or Time Flies, a National Geographic television documentary. “They are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking.”

A spokesman for the Royal Dutch Air Force refused to confirm the presence of the weapons, telling the Dutch broadcaster NOS that such issues “are never spoken of”.”He, as former prime minister, knows that well,” he said.

Dutch officials told the Telegraaf newspaper that the weapons were B61 thermonuclear bombs, the primary weapon in America’s post-Cold War “enduring stockpile”. The 3.4-metre, 349-kilogram bombs are four times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. While they have not been dismantled, they are not thought to be kept in immediate operational readiness.

Nuclear weapons are said to have been stored at Volkel since the early 1960s and the Cuban missile crisis. US diplomatic cables, leaked by WikiLeaks three years ago, mentioned atomic weapons in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Turkey. The cable was sent during a debate over the future of the arsenal following a call from Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, for the nuclear weapons to be removed from his country’s soil.

“A withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany and perhaps from Belgium and the Netherlands could make it very difficult for Turkey to maintain its own stockpile,” the leaked cable said.

Turkey, which is thought to house 90 US atomic weapons at its Incirlik airbase, on the northern Mediterranean coast, regards the nuclear umbrella as a key part of its Nato membership on the alliance’s eastern border with Iran.

At a 2010 summit in Lisbon, Nato decided that any change in the status of its nuclear arsenal would have to be unanimous among all 28 allies, effectively giving Turkey a veto.

The disclosure and criticism from Mr Lubbers could reignite the European nuclear issue as Dutch opposition politicians, on both the left and right, demand that the weapons be removed.

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, will face questions on the issue in parliament and reminders that he, as a Labour opposition MP in 2005, called for the weapons to be removed from Dutch soil.

Harry van Bommel, a Socialist MP, will call for the weapons to be scrapped.

“The nuclear strategy of Nato has not changed since the Cold War,” he said.


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