No return of US nukes to Britain

Jess Barnard, now a Labour NEC member, was on the first demo at Lakenheath in May2022

In January, the Federation of American Scientists revealed that B61-12s nuclear bombs have been cleared for transport to bases in Europe, including Britain. They are the United States newest guided nuclear bombs, the same type used on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, though considerably more powerful of course.

Their locations in Europe will include RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk which last year became the sixth nuclear base in Europe funded by the US. Guided nuclear bombs were stored at Lakenheath until 2008. The silo facilities at are still intact there.

Peace campaigners only became aware of plans by the US to station nuclear weapons in Britain again when sharp eyes spotted that the US Department of Defense had added the UK to a list of NATO nuclear weapons storage facilities in Europe, which are to be ‘upgraded’ at a cost of millions of dollars. The British Government tried to keep this news secret – Parliamentary CND was originally told by the Ministry of Defence that they could ‘neither confirm nor deny’ the reports that nuclear weapons would be returning to Lakenheath, on the grounds that this was purely the business of the United States!

Irresponsible British media outlets have given this news almost no coverage, yet the weapons pose a danger to everyone in the country, particularly people in the Southeast of the country. Lakenheath, is only 70 miles north of the capital city. Millions of people live within range of the blast and radiation in the event of a terrorist attack on the base or even from some kind of accident involving the weapons.

The US aircraft which would be needed to transport the bombs to their targets are already at Lakenheath. This would be an extremely dangerous development at any time, but the war in Ukraine and increasing global tensions, with calls for NATO members to increase their military spending and step up military aid to Ukraine, put Britain on the front line in a future NATO/Russia war.

Nuclear weapons have now been declared illegal by a UN Treaty, yet the US and NATO still insist that they are vital for our defence and national security. We have to make it clear that the weapons make us a target and actually threaten our security, as well as destabilising international relations.

When nuclear weapons were stored at RAF Lakenhurst previously, there were 110 bombs kept there – enough to render the planet uninhabitable by humans and many other forms of life. After a sustained public protest led by CND, the weapons were removed from the base in 2008. Clearly, constant vigilance is needed to make sure they don’t return.

CND at Labour Conference 2022

Jeremy Corbyn was one of the many MPs to joins staff at the CND stand

CND’s Wages Not Weapons theme proved a winner at Labour’s 2022 annual conference, and the CND stand did a roaring trade throughout the four days in Liverpool. Awareness of US nukes coming to Lakenheath had also grown, and it too was a recurring theme of discussion with passers-by.

The number of Young Labour and Labour Student visitors to our fringe meeting was up on previous years, reflecting how the danger of nuclear conflict over Ukraine was driving the issue into people’s consciousness. We were delighted too with the amount of follow up at the CND stand after the fringe meeting.

Labour keeping stum on return of US nukes

Jeremy Corbyn protesting at Lakenheath in 2008. US nuclear were withdrawn later that year

As tensons mount over Ukraine, the British and US goverments continue beating their war drums. Labour CND Chair Carol Turner argues the UK govenment must not be allowed to stay silent. The prospect of a nuclear war in Europe is closer than it’s been for decades, and US nuclear weapons returning to Britain put us all on the front line.

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have both tabled parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State for Defence about US nukes returning to Lakenheath. In written replies MoD junior James Heappey MP, avoided the issue with the reply: ‘The Ministry of Defence is unable to comment on US spending decisions and capabilities, which are a matter for the US government’.

The Labour Party leadership are also maintaining a determined silence. Asked about US nukes at Lakenheath at a Britain in the World Policy Committee recently, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy made no reply despite protests from NPF members.

Based on an article Labour OutlookRead, read it in full here, and
What we know so far about US weapons at Lakenheath here

Stop US nukes coming to Lakenheath

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.

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