Labour CND Chair Carol Turner’s blog on the Ukraine crisis launches with the announcement that the UK is about to become the sixth European Nato member to host American nuclear weapons. Keep tuned in for updates
The world is closer to nuclear war than we’ve been for decades, closer perhaps than ever before. Strained relations between Russia and the US over Nato’s eastward expansion touched boiling point at the end of February, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was followed by the announcement that Russian nukes were being moved to special alert.
What’s needed is cool council, encouragement to de-escalate the war and negotiate a stable end to this dangerous conflict. Instead, the belligerent rhetoric of the US, Britain and other European Nato members adds weight to the emerging view that Nato would welcome a long and protracted war in order to exhaust Russia – and consequences for the people of Ukraine be damned.
Against this looming possibility of nuclear war, a report by Hans Kristensen, Nuclear Information Project Director at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) gives cause for us to be very afraid. The UK, he says, is set to become the sixth European Nato member to host American nuclear weapons on our territory.
Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey already have US nuclear weapons stationed within their borders. FAS estimates around 100 US nuclear bombs are deployed in these five countries.
US Department of Defence (DoD) documents suggest the UK has been added to the list of nuclear weapons storage locations. Kristensen believes RAF Lakenheath, 80 miles northeast of London, is likely to be that facility. In the past, Lakenheath was used to store US Air Force (USAF) nuclear gravity bombs. The facilities to do so are still intact.
This analysis by FAS comes as Lakenheath is getting ready to become the first USAF base in Europe equipped with the latest generation of nuclear-capable fighter-bomber aircraft. The first of the F-35As arrived at Lakenheath in December last year; the US is due to begin training in the next 12 months.
Kristensen points out there is no public indication from Nato yet that it intends to store nuclear bombs in Lakenheath. He speculates that its upgrade ‘could potentially be intended to increase the flexibility of the existing nuclear deployment within Europe, without increasing the number of weapons’. In other words, with a war with Russia in the offing, Lakenheath could receive nuclear weapons from existing European Nato locations to ‘better realign the overall nuclear posture in Europe’.
Arms Control Association Director Daryl Kimball, however, told the Guardian he saw the upgrade of the UK storage facilities as: ‘an early sign that the US and Nato are preparing to engage in a protracted and maybe heightened standoff with Putin’s Russia.’
Meanwhile, the British government is working hand in glove with Nato and the US on Ukraine. Prime Minister Johnson’s recent announcement of increased military assistance to President Zelensky, including supplying offensive weaponry, is fanning the flames of a war that could stretch across Europe and beyond.
Keeping the people of Britain safe should be foremost amongst the UK government’s concerns. Creating the conditions for siting American nuclear weapons in Britain is tantamount to painting a target on the back of everyone in the UK.
This Tory government could and should be playing a supportive role in negotiations to end the Ukraine conflict, not helping escalate it. And Labour should be demanding it do so from across the opposition benches, not trailing in Johnson’s wake.
Read Hans Kristensen full report, Lakenheath Air Base Added To Nuclear Weapons Storage Site Upgrades, 11 April 2022 here
See Julian Borger and Sam Sabbagh, UK military vaults upgraded to store new US nuclear weapons, Guardian 12 April 2022 here