Nuclear weapons in Europe squander money

28 March 2014

Nuclear weapons in Europe squander money

Last Tuesday the biggest summit ever held in the Netherlands, the Nuclear Security Summit, concluded with a declaration. Dozens of world leaders committed themselves to making greater efforts to better secure nuclear material, yet their statement contains not a word about NATO’s atomic weapons in Europe. That’s odd when you consider that it recently became known that the security of these American arms does not meet the stated demands and that more money must be found if it is to do so.

Harry van Bommel

Security and safety will cost $235 million

Harry van BommelWe’re certainly not speaking here about a small sum of money. In the near future at least $154m will have to be added to the US defence budget in order to ensure that the stationing of nuclear weapons in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Turkey will be safer and more secure, on top of the $80m spent on safety and security since 2000.

The additional costs are extremely worrying, because – amongst other reasons – they create the impression that the nuclear weapons in the Netherlands will for the time being not be returning to the US. This contradicts the expressed will of the Dutch national Parliament, which has voted for their removal. It also conflicts with the government’s standpoint that Europe should be rid of NATO nuclear arms.

And what will it cost the Netherlands?

The government keeps the costs of the nuclear weapons stationed in the Netherlands very close to its chest. To date there has never been any clarity on this matter. What is known, however, is that some of the costs must be borne by us. We will have to pay for maintenance and, if necessary, for adapting the infrastructure at Volkel air base, where the weapons are stored, as well as security in and around the base, the training of pilots and the exercises in which they take part.

This raises the question as to what proportion of the $154 million the Dutch contribution will represent. During yesterday’s debate with Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans I asked him about this, but answer came there none; he did not have the date to hand and would get back to me, he said. It could well be a very brief response, Timmermans warned.

Whatever the Minister’s answer, which I expect to receive soon, it’s clear that nuclear weapons in the Netherlands are both unnecessary and hugely wasteful of money. All the more reason to send these militarily obsolete weapons straight back to the US.

This column first appeared, in the original Dutch, on the website The Post Online. Harry van Bommel is a Member of Parliament for the SP and the party’s spokesman on defence issues.

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