Could Terrorists Gain Access to US Nukes at NATO's Incirlik Base in Turkey?

© Flickr / U.S. Department of DefenseU.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle sits after shortly landing Nov. 12, 2015, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey
U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle sits after shortly landing Nov. 12, 2015, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey - Sputnik International
Some worry that US-made nuclear weapons are not safe at the Incirlik air base in Turkey, but Ismail Hakki Pekin, former head of the intelligence unit of the Chief of Staff of the Turkish army, told Sputnik these comments serve to "exert pressure on" Turkey so as to prevent Ankara from changing its foreign policy strategy.

This "rhetoric of pressure," as the analyst described it, is meant to "threaten" Ankara. This is how "the West is trying to prevent Turkey from changing its foreign policy and becoming independent of the US influence," he noted.

Earlier, the Stimson Center, a Washington DC-based non-profit, released a report, urging policymakers in the US to remove B61 nuclear bombs from Europe and strengthen conventional forces instead.

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"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," report co-author Laicie Heeley said. "These weapons have zero utility on the European battlefield and today are more of a liability than asset to our NATO allies."

Researchers insist that there are "serious risks" involved since terrorists or other hostile forces could seize US-made nukes, but Ismail Hakki Pekin did not share these sentiments.

The intelligence expert said that radical groups will not be able to gain access to these weapons, but even if they do, they "will not be able to use them."

The bombs stationed at Incirlik were designed to be dropped from high-speed aircraft. "Taking into the way they function, one can assume that even if they fall into the hands of terrorists, this would not matter since they cannot be used without code keys and outside of planes," he explained.

Ismail Hakki Pekin further noted that stationing "so many nuclear weapons poses a threat to Turkey's security." These bombs "are incapable of protecting Turkey from potential attacks," he said, adding that they do not serve as a deterrent because "these weapons are under full control of the US troops, not Turkish army."

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Terrorists Could Capture US Nuclear Weapons at Turkey's Incirlik Base
The United States deployed its tactical nuclear weapons to Europe in the 1950s and the 1960s, but removed most of them in the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War. A total of 180 B61 bombs remain stationed at six bases located in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.

US leadership approved an $8 billion life extension program for the B61 that entered its final stage before mass production earlier this month. The US plans to begin rolling out the upgrade in 2020, but Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center, said that "these bombs are ill-suited for modern warfare and incredibly costly."

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