Pull the Nukes from Turkey — and Then Think Bigger



s Congress considers how to respond to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from Syria and Turkey’s subsequent attack on Kurdish forces in the region, a number of legislative options are on the table. But one of the most significant actions the United States should take hasn’t made it into legislation: it must withdraw its nuclear weapons from Turkey. At present, as many as fifty U.S. nuclear weapons sit under guard in an airbase in Turkey, just a 150-mile drive from the Syrian border. Meanwhile, tensions between Washington and Ankara continue to mount. Turkish forces recently attacked U.S. allies and troop positions in Syria, bracketing U.S. forces with artillery fire, apparently in an effort to pressure them to withdraw. This latest offense follows a steady rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, which threatens to do lasting harm to Ankara’s relationship with the rest of NATO. The rapid deterioration of Turkey’s relationship with the West raises serious questions about the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey. As the administration reviews this policy in the coming days, the smart solution is to remove these Cold War relics from Turkey once and for all. Even before the recent U.S.-Turkish tensions, serious questions existed about the security of the weapons at Incirlik. In the failed Turkish coup attempt in 2016, power to the air base was cut. Turkish authorities eventually arrested the base commander for his role in the coup. Since that time, the U.S. has slimmed the number of personnel assigned to Turkey, from more than 2,300 at the end of 2016 to roughly 1,700 as of June 2019. But the weapons remained.

Some critics argued then, as they do now, that withdrawing nuclear weapons from Turkey would damage already-weak U.S.-Turkish relations. Of course, Turkey’s recent behavior has already strained relations with the West; President Erdogan has indicated his desire to acquire nuclear weapons. If the removal of U.S. nuclear forces from Turkey sends a message about the state of U.S.-Turkish relations, it would serve as a well-deserved rebuke. President Trump recently expressed confidence in the security of America’s nuclear weapons in Turkey, even as the Air Force recently denied sending reinforcements. But having weapons of little utility in an increasingly volatile region does U.S. security interests no favors. Nor does giving Turkey leverage over U.S. forces and assets that they could potentially take hostage in the event of a real crisis. Removing these artifacts of the Cold War from Turkey is the only sure-fire way to ensure their security. There is no good reason that U.S. nuclear weapons should continue to remain based in a tinderbox near the Syrian border. The Trump administration has a chance to make a move that reduces risk in the region and strengthens the credibility of U.S. diplomacy. With the fast-moving events in Turkey and Syria, there’s not a moment to waste.
I agree 110%. Remove all US nuclear weapons from Turkey. In addition, pull out all non-essential men and women from among the 1,700 US military personnel still in-country.

The fewer US hostages Erdogan has access to, the better.