The United States has secretly removed all of its nuclear weapons from the United Kingdom, ending a 54-year atomic presence in the nation, the Federation of American Scientists reported today (see GSN, June 19).
The departure of the 110 B-61 gravity bombs from the Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath means that 150-240 B-61 warheads remain in Europe, down from the 480 authorized by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000. In 2004, President George W. Bush ordered the withdrawal of U.S. weapons from an air base in Germany and may have approved the British removal at the same time, according to FAS analyst Hans Kristensen (see GSN, July 10, 2007).
Kristensen questioned why the transfer was made covertly and still has not been officially announced. He confirmed the removal with several sources who required anonymity.
"By keeping the withdrawals secret, NATO and the United States have missed huge opportunities to engage Russia directly and positively about reductions to their nonstrategic nuclear weapons, and to improve their own nuclear image in the world in general," he said (Federation of American Scientists release, June 26).
"This is a win-win situation for NATO and disarmament, and for rapprochement with Russia," Paul Ingram, head of the British American Security Information Council, said last night. "NATO's future and the transatlantic alliance is tied up with operations in Afghanistan far more than with aging freefall bombs that have no military relevance."
"The nuclear weapons themselves don't serve any military purpose," added Greg Mello, head of the nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group. "They are mostly about cementing a political bond that ties Europe interests to U.S. interests" (Julian Borger, London Guardian, June 26).