Has U.S. slipped nuclear bombs out of Britain?

June 26, 2008

lakenheathprotest.jpg U.S. nuclear weapons in Britain – out with a whimper, not with a bang?

It was once one of the most contentious issues in Europe, inspiring mass demonstrations, “peace camps” and a movement that shaped the politics of a generation. After more than half a century, there are no more U.S. nukes in Britain.

On Thursday, the Federation of American Scientists, a group set up by former Manhattan Project scientists alarmed by the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reported that the United States had removed the last of its nuclear bombs from the Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath in eastern England.

The move had more to do with changing U.S. strategic imperatives and military technology than with a sudden outbreak of global harmony. Dropping nuclear bombs out of airplanes is an old-fashioned way to deliver them in an era of accurate ballistic missiles. Washington now considers its main threat to come from the area south of the former Soviet Union, and is still keeping nuclear bombs in bases in Italy and Turkey and other parts of Europe. Britain has its own nuclear weapons and has decided to replace the submarines that carry them with a more modern fleet.

If the removal of American nukes from Britain really happened, it happened on the sly. A spokewoman for the U.S. forces in Lakenheath said Washington never talks about the
location of its nuclear bombs. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman had not read reports on the subject and had nothing to say about it, and the Ministry of Defence had no comment.

But the event, if confirmed, marks the end of an era for thousands of British protesters who defined themselves by their opposition to U.S. nukes, camping outside bases like Lakenheath throughout the 1980s.

The head of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the biggest single-issue campaign group in Europe, welcomed the news that the bombs were gone and said it would be good if the government would announce it publicly. She also said the fight would continue against U.S. plans to set up an anti-missile defence, perhaps with base stations at the same location in Lakenheath.

Those who pine for the days of “peace camps” may still get their chance to break out their muddy tents.

Have your say. Twenty years after the Cold War, should the United States still have nuclear weapons in Europe?


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It amazes me that the U.S. feels that anyone in this world should have to answer to the U.S. regarding anything including nuclear weapons. If anyone doesn’t need nuclear weapons, it is the U.S. We have terrorists (white) right here in the U.S. There is no country that is more unstable than the United States. We as Americans are expendable to our government, no more than crash test dummies. Look at the state of our Union. This is a country of no morals, no values and will do anything for a buck. Our governmemt is awful, we have more loose cannons in the White House than ever. Only in America can we have the corruption that we have and these politicians stand in our faces and lie as if we are idiots, but then these are the same people that feel that they should make the laws for children. We expect these people to protect us from other countries in this world and yet our govenment can go start an unjust war and destroy the lives of other people. What are we paying our government for? Life here in the United States is like a bad season of the Real World, just an image of what we want the world to think we are, when we are anything but. I just thought I would share this.

Posted by Senta | Report as abusive

Peter:This is truly tragic, now your organization has nothing to protest about, what will you do, a cause of a half a century gone.Then again the British population has always known more than those colonials who prevented you from the opportunity to learn German as your fist language.Watchdog63

Posted by J Edwards | Report as abusive

While recent American bellicosity has given opponents of our foreign policy grounds from which to decry our military adventures, we must also consider the fact that Europe relies on our military superiority for it’s defense. The cold war may be over but Europe is still within the aegis of the American defense umbrella. That is something that should also be taken into account with the reemerging assertiveness of Russia.

Posted by David Morovan | Report as abusive

They kept us safe for more than 20 years, whats helping us now….

Posted by Pete Harper | Report as abusive

As the only country to use nuclear weapons on civilians (twice) the US should be condemed for having them never mind the audacity to criminalize other countries for their aleged efforts to build them. Don’t get me wrong, mass murder is mass murder no matter how much glamour or reason you put behind the madness.

Posted by Bilal | Report as abusive

Thought I would share another 2 cents worth. If the “west” decries that nuclear weapons is what keeps the peace for us, then let’s examine this. Two recent and major wars started by the west and based on LIES..that’s right lies. We the west have done nothing to uphold the principals that we fought for in WWI and WWII. Why shouldn’t Iran and others attempt to have the same stick that kept the Russians at bay, exept they seem to be trying to keep the West at bay??? If we consider these countries as loose canons, then we are the hypocrites that Iran needs to protect itself against. We should have dropped the nukes on Germany not Japan… maybe a bit of racism??? What pray tell on what moral ground do we ever justify killing inocent people so that our incocent people can live; what type of logic is that?!!! Those who reason such are mad and need to have their weapons inspected by the UN. These weapnos of mass destruction have gone from their “ideal” of keeping the peace to the tyranny of “keeping control”.

Posted by Bilal | Report as abusive

At last we are no longer a target by proxy. We can only be annihilated for our own stupid policies now!!hooray-(ish)

Posted by Kym Overy | Report as abusive

If ,in Italy,we live in a free country, this is due to US, who saved us from Nazism and from Comunism. U.S. are no perfect, a lot of mistakes have been made by their previous and actual presidents and thier foreign policy, always moved by economic reasons, could be criticized. Anyway they historically represents the best opportunity

Posted by marcello | Report as abusive

great news. now the rest of the nuclear arms/power grave boat can be chucked out as well.

Posted by Andrew Lohmann | Report as abusive

Sorry to read that the English cartoons of hippies and grannies chained to fences in the rain will probably end with the removal of the nukes. Maybe they can turn their attention from a tactic that kept them safe and allowed them to protest to the demise of democracy in Rhodesia.

Posted by mike salomaa | Report as abusive