"There are no do-overs in history, but there are lessons," says the former top White House arms control official Steve Andreasen. "What if the Turkish base commander at Incirlik had ordered his troops surrounding the perimeter of the base to turn their guns on the US soldiers that reportedly guard US nuclear storage bunkers there?"
The question posed by Andreasen plagues the minds of the America’s national security establishment in the wake of the failed government overthrow in Turkey as an increasingly frustrated Erdogan regime has laid the blame for the coup squarely at the feet of the United States both for failing to extradite alleged mastermind Fethullah Gulen and also for an array of reasons resembling conspiracy theories.
Last week, Erdogan himself claimed that Fethullah Gulen was only "a pawn" hinting that the United States was the real adversary of the Turkish people, a charge that has been leveled repeatedly by Ankara’s top officials beginning when Labor Minister Soylu Suleyman said in an interview that “the US is behind the coup” and carried forth in the pages of the Turkish press who went so far as to publish the picture of a top US general in an article titled "The Man Behind the Coup."
The situation facing NATO’s storage of nuclear weapons in Turkey was already among the defense alliance’s most critical vulnerabilities with the base, holding at least 50 B-61 tactical nuclear weapons with a charge upwards of a 100 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, sitting only 60 miles (97km) away from Daesh strongholds across the Turkish-Syrian border.
The danger of jihadists engaging in an offensive on the critical NATO base is that much greater with the Turkish people, and increasingly the country’s officials, expressing disdain for the alliance.
"We are in for a long stretch of political uncertainty in Turkey, exacerbated by growing anti-Americanism," explains Andreasen. "Any nuclear weapons stored there are more likely to complicate than to improve the domestic political currents in play."
The national security expert provides a very simply prescription for the potential danger to America’s national security interests – "Let’s get our nuclear weapons out of Turkey."