As news that US nuclear weapons are coming to Britain again begins to spread, CND has organised our first protest at RAF/USAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. With the cooperation of local CND groups, the Stop UK nukes coming to Lakenheath protest takes place outside the base on Saturday 21 May, 13.00 to 15.00. CND groups across the country are already mobilising.
The United States is the only country that sites its nuclear weapons outside its own territory. The return of US nukes to Britain will increase global tensions and put the UK on the front line of a Nato/Russia war.
What’s happening at Lakenheath is part of an upgrade of US/Nato nuclear facilities across Europe. Increasing Nato’s capacity to wage nuclear war in Europe is dangerously destabilising and further undermines the prospects of international peace.
It’s vital that we build the biggest opposition to siting US nuclear weapons in Britain. It means spreading the word across the labour movement, and that’s up to us all.
Labour CND will play our part in keeping you up to scratch with developments in the weeks and months ahead.
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
Military posturing fans the flames of war in Europe
Keir Starmer has chosen the moment of mounting tensions over Ukraine to announce that ‘Labour’s commitment to Nato is unshakable’, attempting to justify his stance with selective and inaccurate statements about the defensive and democratic character of the North Atlantic Alliance and accusing those who disagree of showing solidarity with Putin.
Nato is not ‘a defensive alliance that has never provoked conflict’ nor does it provide a ‘guarantee of democracy and security’ as the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere will readily testify, whose countries have been shattered and lives destroyed by two decades of war.
Neither has Nato ‘ushered in what is now approaching three-quarters of a century of peace between the nations of Europe’. Nato’s bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999 was the first military attack on a sovereign European country since the end of World War II. It took place without UN approval and is widely regarded as illegal under international law.
Even Denis Healey, who Starmer describes as a ‘giant of the Labour movement’, argued: ‘It was a terrible mistake to attack a sovereign state without even consulting the United Nations… we should have asked Richard Holbrooke [US ambassador to the UN] to have another go at negotiation.’
In contradistinction to the benign picture Starmer seeks to paint, Nato’s evolution includes:
The North Atlantic Alliance is a nuclear-armed alliance committed to using nuclear weapons pre-emptively in a military conflict whether or not its adversaries possess nuclear weapons. Since the 1950s, Nato has rejected successive calls to adopt a nuclear no-first use policy.
Declassified US documents testify to the fact that the use of nuclear weapons was actively considered during Nato’s first military engagement, the Korean war of 1950-53.
The Warsaw Pact dissolved in July 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By contrast Nato extended its area of operations. In the ensuing three decades, it has expanded its mission statement and enlarged its membership.
There are currently 30 Nato member states. Additionally, Nato works with 40 non-member partner states across the globe on a wide range of political and security-related issues. Full Nato members in East Europe include Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Albania, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which border Russia. Nato partners with borders on Russia include Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Russia’s near abroad – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – are also Nato partners.
Three Nato members are nuclear weapons states – Britain, France and the US. Five European members – Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey – host US nuclear weapons on their territories and are pledged to deploy them if Nato so commands.
Tensions between Nato and Russia have been building for three decades. Ukraine must not become the pretext for a military clash between two nuclear armed adversaries.
Labour CND calls for de-escalation and dialogue, not a build-up of armaments and troops leading to the brink of a war in which the people of Ukraine will be the losers. This is a strategy of sanity, in contrast to the military posturings of Britain and the US which fan the flames of war in Europe.
Labour CND is supporting this appeal from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and urges all CND members to sign this e-petition in order to put pressure on the Government to take immediate steps to demand the return of British Resident Shaker Aamer to the UK.
A decade of abuse and torture in Guantanamo
The e-petition was launched on 14th February by human rights lawyer, Gareth Pierce, and Shaker’s father-in-law on the day which marked Shaker Aamer’s ten years of unlawful imprisonment, torture and abuse in Guantanamo. Shaker Aamer is one of many victims of the US/UK Governments’ “war on terror” policy. Public protest succeeded in bringing home the other 15 UK Citizens and British residents who were abducted, tortured abroad and rendered to cruel detention without trial in Guantanamo. However, Shaker Aamer still remains in Guantanamo, locked up in a steel cell, in solitary confinement, in absolute denial of all his human rights.
Fears for Shaker Aamer’s life
There are serious concerns for his health. He suffers constant pain from various medical conditions caused by years of inhumane and cruel treatment. He has been weakened by years on hunger strike in protest at the injustice and brutality suffered by those who remain in Guantanamo. His UK lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, who visited him in November 2011, stated that Shaker is slowly dying in Guantanamo. Shaker faces no charge or trial. He was cleared for release over five years ago.
Token gestures by the UK government
The UK Government has made several requests to the US for his release and return to the UK. But, it would seem that these may be token gestures, to conceal the intent to delay his return. Shaker’s allegations of UK complicity in his torture in the presence of M15/M16 agents are serious and embarrassing to the Government. Whilst he remains in Guantanamo, his testimony has been silenced.
The latest threat to prevent Shaker’s return to the UK
The Government’s lack of action may be linked to an alarming recent report that Shaker has been visited again by Saudi officials who attempted to coerce him into signing documents agreeing to his transfer to Saudi Arabia, a country from which he fled over 28 years ago.
Complicity by the UK government
This visit could not have taken place without the agreement of the UK Government. If Shaker is forcibly transferred to Saudi Arabia, he will be imprisoned, tortured and permanently separated from his British wife and children and the truth of his torture will never be heard. Although Shaker refused to sign, his family believe that he may be rendered there against his will at any time.
The e-petition to the Government to take urgent action to bring Shaker home may be our last hope to save him. Time is running out, please help to bring Shaker home.
Please sign this e-petition and encourage all your family, friends and contacts to sign it too.
Copy this appeal, take it to your local CND group and Labour Party, sent it to your MP, local press, community organisations and councils.
Join Labour CND in this campaign for a victim of NATO’s war on terror policies.
Shaker Aamer is only one of many whose lives have been destroyed by the unjust policies of the UK and US Governments. Your support for this e-petition may bring him home and give him back his life. Public protests like this can prove that the pursuit of justice can, even against the odds, defeat Government policies. We must stand up against the use of over-whelming military force, abduction, torture, indefinite detention without trial, extra-judicial assassinations by drone and nuclear threats to try to give our world a future and give peace a chance. Joy Hurcombe