Even though a news story published by EurActiv.com several days ago about the U.S. moving its nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania is being hotly disputed in some circles, many question if the overall posture of both Russia and America of late hasn’t been suggestive of an uptick in at least the risk of nuclear war between the former Soviet Union and the United States.
According to EurActiv, America is moving the nukes because of the deterioration in relations between Washington and Ankara. It is believed that the U.S. has kept about 50 tactical nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base since the conclusion of the Cold War. According to EurActiv, America saw just how fraught with risk its continued harboring of nukes at Incirlik was, when, during the coup attempt in July, power to the base was cut, Turkey’s government prevented U.S. aircraft from flying in or out of Incirlik, and the base commander was apprehended for his alleged role in the coup.
In the wake of this turmoil, there are reports that the U.S. is moving its nukes from Incirlik to an air base near Deveselu, Romania, and that Russia is irate at the move, given the proximity of the missiles’ new home to the Russian border. However, a Foreign Policy article dated two days after the publication of EurActiv’s story said “there doesn’t seem to be any basis at all for the report,” and citing, in addition to strong denials by the Romanian government, technically-based reasons why such a move would not be feasible.
For their part, however, Russia, according to reports, has been busily making preparations to effectively defend itself in the event of nuclear war. About a week ago, the Daily Mail Online reported that Russia has been in the midst, for some years now, of building numerous underground bunkers throughout the country, bunkers capable of withstanding the effects of a nuclear attack. The article quotes Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, USA, who said, “It is clear that Russia is modernizing its strategic forces. Russian doctrine states that tactical nuclear weapons may be used in a conventional response scenario.”
The article also quotes Mark Schneider, a former nuclear policy official with the Pentagon, who recently told the Washington Free Beacon, “Russia is getting ready for a big war which they assume will go nuclear, with them launching the first attacks.”
What seems to have captured the attention of analysts is the possibility of the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons inside of a conventional conflict, as referenced by Gen. Scaparrotti. Few policy wonks think now in terms of the “nuclear holocaust” that had so many living in fear decades ago. Today, it is considered more likely that a nuclear conflict on a more limited scale could occur, and that a greater acceptance of that scenario by both the U.S. and Russia makes such an eventuality more likely.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large