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NATO allies want U.S. nuclear weapons out of Europe

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 3, 2010

A group of NATO allies plans to call on the U.S. to take its nuclear arsenal out of Europe.

The countries — Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway — will discuss the issue with the rest of their NATO allies at a November summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

“This does not mean a call for an immediate withdrawal for all these weapons,” Bart Ouvry, spokesman for Belgium’s Foreign Ministry, said by telephone on Thursday.

Ouvry declined to elaborate, saying he would reserve further comments for his partners at the NATO meetings.

The Federation of American Scientists, using information gathered from public records, has calculated in recent years that nuclear weapons were removed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and RAF Lakenheath, England. Based on inspection data, the group said, that means U.S. nuclear weapons in northern Europe remain at Büchel Air Base, Germany; Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium; and Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands. The majority of U.S. nuclear weapons are thought to be kept at three bases around the Mediterranean Sea: Aviano Air Base and Ghedi Air Base in Italy and Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Taylor Clark, a public affairs officer with the U.S. European Command, said he could “neither confirm nor deny” the presence of any U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.

Sharon Squassoni, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is difficult to gauge how the Obama administration might react to a call by NATO allies to remove its nuclear weapons in Europe.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the Obama administration is nearing the completion of a Nuclear Posture Review, which could potentially change U.S. policy. It cited unnamed sources as saying the U.S. is talking with allies in Europe about the possibility of withdrawing its nuclear weapons from the continent.

Media outlets in France and Germany touched on the issue in recent articles. German reports said that a letter signed by the foreign ministers of the five countries was to be sent to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Der Spiegel magazine reported that German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also asked for the removal of 20 nuclear weapons from his country.

“Presumably, there will be an initiative from certain foreign ministers in order to put the subject of nuclear weapons on the agenda of the next NATO meeting,” Maike Tribbels, a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Agence France Presse quoted several current and former Belgian political figures as supporting the call, including one of Rasmussen’s predecessors at NATO, Willy Claes. It said that the nuclear arsenals of France and the United Kingdom were not mentioned.

Several groups opposed to nuclear proliferation estimate that the U.S. has 200 nuclear warheads in Europe, down considerably from the days of the Iron Curtain that split Europe in two.

Marcus Klöckner in Kaiserslautern, Germany, contributed to this report.


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