BRUSSELS — NATO on Tuesday condemned the release by Wikileaks of confidential and secret diplomatic cables detailing the deployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, describing the move as "illegal and dangerous."
Leaked US diplomatic cables show that most of the 200 US tactical nuclear bombs still left in Europe are based in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey. The four nations have long been suspected of hosting the warheads, but NATO and the governments involved have always refused to formally confirm the suspicions.
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Italy and Britain also are believed to house dozens of nuclear bombs, but they were not named in the Wikileaks report.
In a cable released by Wikileaks detailing a discussion last year
between US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel's foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen, the
US diplomat commented on the battlefield weapons, noting that they were
located in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey.
The B-61 bombs, America's oldest nuclear weapons, date back to the
1950s. They were part of Washington's effort to demonstrate a commitment
to NATO's defense during the Cold War by embedding such weapons near
Recently, a number of prominent former European politicians have called
for the removal of the weapons, saying they no longer serve any
practical purpose. Still, nuclear weapons remain at the heart of NATO's
new doctrine — known as the alliance's "Strategic Concept" — adopted at
its summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November.
The new START agreement signed in April by President Barack Obama and
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev calls for sharp reductions in the two
countries' strategic nuclear arsenals. But Moscow has appeared
unprepared to deal with the shorter-range battlefield weapons, arguing
that while all its have been withdrawn, the US maintains a sizable
arsenal near Russia.
The US has an estimated 1,100 tactical nuclear weapons at home and abroad, while Russia is estimated to have at least 2,000.