Strong evidence of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil

25 July 2013

Strong evidence of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil

In a recent article on the modernisation of the American B61 nuclear weapons allocated to NATO, three former government ministers - Lubbers, van Agt and Stemerdink - were quoted as saying that in their period in government nuclear bombs were indeed housed at the Volkel airforce base. The big question now is whether that is still the case, the policy of every successive sitting government being neither to deny nor confirm the presence of these weapons. There are, however, a few hard facts which indicate that they are there.

Karel Koster is a foreign policy specialist in the SP research department.

The most authoritative evidence is the direct reference to nuclear weapons in the Netherlands and Belgium by United States Assistant Secretary of Defence Robert L. Gordon in the autumn of 2009. His declaration formed part of the report of talks with German officials conducted at the time at the American embassy in Berlin, a document made public by Wikileaks. A second piece of evidence is the presence on the base at Volkel of a United States Air Force (USAF) unit of a type, known as a MUNSS (Munitions Special Support Squadron), which specialises in handling nuclear weapons. The most recent reference to this unit was in 2007. In 2008 there was some talk of security problems involving nuclear weapons on various European NATO bases. The Pentagon report on the matter referred to Volkel. In addition, regular Nuclear Surety Inspections, in which the procedures for deploying nuclear weapons are tested, are held at the base. Finally, every year sees an exercise held, under the generic and revealing codename “Steadfast Noon”, in which all NATO states are involved in a nuclear assignment in order to practice this deployment. The last known exercise took place in September of last year on the Buchel airbase in Germany. In 2011, it was in Volkel.

This amounts to strong evidence that the Dutch air force is still preparing for tasks associated with nuclear attack and that as a result of the modernisation programme in the years to come will continue to do so. The desire to keep the bombs in the Netherlands is moreover not merely American, but the result of NATO policy – preservation of the nuclear strike force – repeatedly confirmed at NATO meetings over the last few years. Despite oppositional noises at national level in Germany and the Netherlands both countries continue to submit to this nuclear doctrine, although the presence of the bombs is based in the final instance on bilateral treaties concluded with the US in the 1950s.

This article first appeared in the original Dutch on 23rd July, 2013 in the Dutch national daily Trouw.

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