In the confusion over the attempted coup in Turkey on Friday, there was an angle that could be easily overlooked: The US Pentagon temporarily lost access to the Turkish air based of Incirlik, where an estimated 50 nuclear weapons are stored.
“The Turkish government claimed that some of the coup plotters were based at Incirlik and flew aircraft out of the shared base. It consequently closed air traffic out of the base and cut off its power supply, temporarily stopping US air operations … ” said this report in the Sunday June 17 issue of The Guardian. (The article goes on to note that in addition to its effect on nuclear weapons, the shutdown meant that the United States had to cease air operations against ISIS extremists in Syria.)
“To have rogue air force commanders flying around Turkey poses a lot of scenarios that NATO hasn’t planned for,” Aaron Stein, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council thinktank, was quoted as saying.
Perhaps the most potent analysis in the article came from Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists and frequent contributor to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “I would say that the security situation in Turkey and in the base area no longer meet the safety requirements that the United States should have for storage of nuclear weapons. You only get so many warnings before something goes terribly wrong. It’s time to withdraw the weapons.”