We have a second cable from Wikileaks on the subject of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, noting that the Belgian government refused to join an effort by Germany, Netherlands and Italy to ask for the removal of US nuclear weapons their territory — despite the enthusiasm shown by the then-Foreign Minister:
Belgium has a special interest in nuclear non-proliferation issues because it participates in NATO’s nuclear forces at the Kleine Brogel air force base. It rejected a recent overture from Germany to join with the Netherlands, Italy and Germany to propose to the rest of NATO that nuclear weapons be removed from those countries (ref B). However, Belgian MOD and MFA officials apparently had to rein in then-Foreign Minister Leterme when he initially responded too positively to the idea. Belgium’s official policy rejects a unilateral approach to disarmament and insists that the issue must be discussed among all NATO members at one time, with due regard for U.S.-Russian bilateral discussions and the NPT. The government is also opposing a proposal from the floor of the Belgian parliament to ban nuclear weapons from Belgian soil.
Leterme, by the way, is now the Prime Minister of Belgium. (He was Foreign Minister from July-November 2009, which dates the proposal.)
The cable is noteworthy for two reasons.
First, we have noted on this blog the repeated incursions by “bombspotters” onto Kleine Brogel Air Base where, the cable makes clear, US nuclear weapons are stored. The fact that Belgians are the only chocolate maker that wants US nuclear weapons makes its utter failure to meet NATO security requirements all the more galling. Seriously, if they really want the bombs, than they can hire a dog-sitter or whatever it is called.
The second reason the cable is newsworthy is that the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi apparently did join Germany and Netherlands. A Prodi government I would understand. But Berlusconi? As I noted the other day, Italy had managed to retain two bases with US nuclear weapons, unlike any other NATO ally, which suggested a certain fondness for nuclear weapons.
As regular readers know, I have long supported the immediate consolidation of all US nuclear weapons in Europe to two US airbases — with Incirlik and Aviano being the obvious candidates. The surprise announcement that Italy wants the bombs gone too modestly complicates that proposal, although presumably Rome would welcome the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Ghedi Torre.
Does anyone know why the Berlusconi government might have shifted its position on forward deployed US nuclear weapons? Is it a function of some inexplicable Italian coalition politics?