The go-in is part of the annual International Action Week that calls for the removal of US nuclear weapons from Germany. It that was first organized in 2017. This year it began on March 26 and will end on August 9. In two years 60 protesters got inside the base.
Military officials repeatedly stated that activists wouldn’t be able to infiltrate the Buechel Air base this year due to the new strict security measures, which would prevent protest actions at all costs. However, according to one of the go-in activists Brian Terrell, a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the security apparatus around nuclear weapons is really only public relations.
“It is usually quite easy to enter a military base like Buechel. ‘They have many civilian contractors, employees and in many cases families of soldiers. I have been stopped or arrested at many military bases, often only because I was identified as a protestor.’ – Terrell said.
When the group he was in cut the fence and got into the Buechel base, they had only a few minutes before getting arrested. However this happened not because security systems at the base detected intrusion.
"A car carrying 3 others who were to join us was stopped by the police and so they were alerted. Because the peace camp was announced, there were many more police than usual, road blocks, surveillance," Terrell continued.
"The military policeman who arrested us was very upset that we had destroyed government property (the fence) and broke German law by trespassing. I told him that the US government broke German and international law by bringing nuclear weapons there. He went on about the hole in the fence - I told him that the fence is a small matter, too small for our attention, compared with the destruction of everything that the nuclear bombs threaten."
Another activist who took part in the July 10 action, Susan Crane commented, "The flaw in the security systems of nuclear weapon bases is that the governments think that nuclear weapons bring security."
Nevertheless, they don’t. According to John LaForge, of Nukewatch, and the coordinator of the US Peace Delegation to Germany, it was even easier to break into the base in 2018. That time three major go-in actions succeeded. Two activists managed to reach Protected Aircraft Shelters and occupied the top of them for hours. The campaign was ‘highly embarrassing’ for the military so they constructed an additional perimeter fence and greatly increased the number of security patrols.
Why didn’t the undertaken measures work?
Disarmament activists have repeatedly shown the fences and guard staff around nuclear weapons systems to be lax, weak, ignored, and nearly vacant.
According to the executive director of World Beyond War David Swanson, careers overseeing nuclear weapons seen as low-status, unprestigious jobs.
“One of the possible reasons why the enclosing structures at such bases are so weak is that nuclear weapons have been forgotten and de-prioritized. I think, not just because nukes have been forgotten, but also because the theater, the propaganda would serve no purpose at nuclear bases.‘ That is why NATO just let slip the names of the 6 bases in 5 nations in Europe. ‘It's just not a priority anymore, it's out of fashion, it's culturally deemed uninteresting or passed’, he concluded.”
Dr. Mark Gubrud, adjunct assistant professor in peace, war, and defence at the University of North Carolina, considers the nuclear weapons and their forward-deployment on the ground in Europe relics of the Old Cold War. So they are being kept there more for political than military reasons.
The activists’ stories about how easy it can be to sneak into a military base may sound alarming, given that major European countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom continue to face significant terror threats. Those concerns may be heightened after a NATO committee recently inadvertently revealed the exact locations of US nuclear weapons across Europe.