There have been no US nuclear bombs in Britain since 2008, but there’s a possibility they will return. The bombs were removed from Lakenheath, the US air base in Suffolk, after a persistent and concerted campaign of action against their presence here.
The British and US governments did not publicly acknowledge the removal, nor are they likely to say anything about this escalation. Storage facilities for the bombs were not dismantled, but mothballed.
But clearly developments have taken place in secret. Britain was suddenly added to the list of European countries that have, or are being prepared to have, US nuclear bombs. The list is included every year by the US Defense Department in its Military Construction Program.
The Federation of American Scientists has been monitoring nuclear weapons deployment since it was founded in 1946, with the aim of helping to reduce their proliferation. It pointed out that this list, and planned work in budget bids, “signals a change in the nuclear status of RAF Lakenheath” in 2023.
This coincides with the deployment of the nuclear-capable F-35A Lightning II fighter bombers to Lakenheath, the first US Air Force base in Europe to get them.
The bombs likely to end up in Britain (designated B61-12) are upgraded, capable of GPS and satellite targeting. Five other NATO countries host older types of nuclear bombs – Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.
‘This will drag Britain into the US nuclear standoff with Russia.’
The US and UK governments have responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by supporting the expansion of NATO and arming Ukraine with new weapons. In this context, the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Britain again looks like a threat by the US against Russia. And it will drag Britain into the US nuclear standoff with Russia.
The previous campaigning to remove the weapons, which spawned the peace camps at Greenham Common in Berkshire and Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, was part of a wider movement that questioned the presence and rationale for US forces being in Britain at all.
Above all the demand was for accountability. The latest change is happening behind the backs of the British people, without our consent, in violation of democratic procedures.
This anti-democratic approach is the pattern with NATO. For example, the German parliament voted in 2010 to withdraw the bombs from Germany, and were simply ignored. Clearly NATO has no respect for the sovereignty of its member states.