By Hans M. Kristensen
The Cold War practice of NATO and the United States refusing to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere is under attack in Europe. This week, two former Dutch prime ministers publicly confirmed the presence of nuclear weapons at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands, one of six bases in NATO that still host US nuclear weapons.
The first confirmation came in the program How Time Flies on the Dutch National Geographic channel where former prime minister Ruud Lubbers confirmed that there are nuclear weapons at Volkel Air Base. “I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013,” Lubbers said, who was prime minister in 1982-1994. He even mentioned a specific number: 22 bombs.
The second confirmation Lubbers was joined yesterday by another former Dutch prime minister, Dries van Agt, who also confirmed that the weapons are there. “They are there and its crazy they still are,” said va Agt, who was prime minister in 1977-1982.
As readers of this blog are aware (and anyone who have followed this issue over the years), it is not news that the US stores nuclear weapons at Volkel AB. But it is certainly news that two former Dutch prime ministers are now confirming it.
It is not a formal Dutch break with NATO nuclear secrecy norms but it is certainly a big crack in the dike that makes the Dutch government’s continued refusal to confirm or deny nuclear weapons at Volkel AB look rather, well, silly.
The instinct of the bureaucracy will be to ignore the statements to the extent possible and retreat into past policies of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons. But the new situation also presents an opportunity to break with the past and attempt to engage Russia about increasing the transparency of non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. Continue Reading →