Can Secretary Gates fire Belgian Ministry of Defense officials too? Via the Federation of American Scientists, it appears that last week some peace activists with a video-camera managed to infiltrate Kleine Brogel Air Base, which happens to house 10-20 U.S. B61 non-strategic gravity bombs.
Watch the incredible video here. Apparently they even managed to stroll by the aircraft shelters beneath which are believed to be the vaults that house our nukes before they were apprehended by base security.
The incident reminded me of something Jeffrey highlighted at the Carnegie Endowment last September:
And if I think there’s – the dominant – the dominant character I would say of the existence of those weapons in Europe is that we don’t talk about them. I think NATO countries have been incredibly reluctant to make the public case about why they need U.S. nuclear weapons on their soil. And as a result, because there is no public case, I think you see a corresponding lack of funding for security at the sites at which the European allies provide security, and you see a corresponding lack of investment in dual-capable aircraft. And NATO’s aircraft are getting quite old, and we’re coming up to a series of decision points.
[B]ecause there is no support, I worry very much about a singularity, an event. It could be a security event. Our friends from Peace Action, Belgium, could get in the wire with a cell phone and take a picture of a [sic] vault. It could be a very ugly public debate about certifying a particular new aircraft for nuclear weapons. It could be a debate about deploying refurbished B-61s on airbases.
I do worry that something could happen that will deny NATO its preferred option of not talking about this, and then force the participants into a very ugly public debate in which the result would be the rapid, disorganized, uncoordinated withdrawal of the weapons amidst recriminations. And to me that would be much worse than beginning the dialogue about what the optimal posture is and whether that includes weapons.[emphasis mine.]
Well, they didn’t get pictures of the vault per se, but close enough! It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this incident has on the debate about U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, extended deterrence, and the future of the B61.
UPDATE 2/4: Jeffrey has some more thoughts on the incident here.