US Officials are reviewing plans to evacuate up to 50 nuclear bombs that have long been stored at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in the wake of Ankara’s military offensive in northern Syria, according to a report from the New York Times.
The Cold War-era B61 nuclear bombs are said to be 100-250 miles from the Syrian border, according to The Guardian. A former US official told the outlet that Turkish diplomats responded to suggestions about moving the bombs by saying Turkey would start to develop its own.
“The potential problems have been discussed for over a decade,” the former official said. “And now we’ve finally gotten to a point where this is a problem that we can’t ignore anymore.”
A senior official told the New York Times that the weapons were essentially Erdogan’s “hostages”. Trying to move them out of the base would be the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, according to the official, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed a desire to boost Turkey’s nuclear arsenal.
“Some nations have missiles with nuclear warheads — not just one or two. But [they say] I should not have missiles with nuclear warheads. I don’t accept this,” Erdogan said last month.
On Monday, the EU declared an arms embargo on Turkey, and a planned bipartisan bill in Congress would sanction Turkish leaders and cut off US weapons supplies. Erdogan has said he will respond aggressively to western attempts to isolate Turkey and has vowed not to halt the offensive.
“We are determined to take our operation to the end. We will finish what we started,” the Turkish leader said during a visit to Baku, Azerbaijan. “A hoisted flag does not come down.”