U.S. Nuclear Weapons Sharing Coming Under Increased European Scrutiny

Jun 27, 2019 | 05:30 GMT

A picture showing Turkish weapons designed for the U.S.-built F-35 fighter jet are displayed in Ankara, Turkey, on Oct. 31, 2018.

Turkish weapons designed for the U.S.-built F-35 fighter jet on display in Ankara in 2018. The Turkish role in the U.S. nuclear sharing program is particularly fragile because of its plans to acquire S-400 air defense systems from Russia.

(MURAT KAYNAK/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


  • As a result of increasing strategic arms competition between the United States and Russia, European allies that host elements of the U.S. nuclear deterrent have rekindled the debate about overseas nuclear basing.
  • While so-called nuclear sharing isn't under immediate threat right now, there is significant uncertainty surrounding its long-term future.
  • The Turkish role in U.S. nuclear arms sharing is particularly fragile because of the deteriorating ties between Washington and Ankara, and the standoff over the acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems versus the U.S. F-35 fighter aircraft.

As the rivalry between the United States and Russia shows no sign of abating, a number of different elements of the strategic arms stability framework have come under significant stress. Several key treaties, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, have even broken down. At the same time, Washington and Moscow are doing their best to maintain or improve their nuclear posture in order to maintain a credible deterrent. This renewed focus on nuclear arms capabilities is also affecting one of the less overt elements of the U.S. nuclear force. While initially a secret agreement, it is now common knowledge that the United States stores tactical nuclear weapons in several European countries under what is known as "nuclear sharing." Currently, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey host U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on their soil. But this practice, which helped the United States improve and extend its nuclear umbrella over Europe...

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