Published on May 2nd, 2014 | by Wilbert van der Zeijde
“It’s the worst-kept military secret. Everyone knows that there are nearly twenty U.S. nuclear bombs on Dutch territory in Volkel. It is astonishing that the left overs of the Cold War are still here”, says nuclear expert Hans Kristensen. He can truly say that the Dutch government in the year 2014 still have to be silent.
To the great dissatisfaction of the Dutch Parliament virtually any question about nuclear weapons – their presence, numbers, possible use, and how to get rid of them- is turned away with the excuse of “NATO agreements “. The Netherlands is not allowed to confirm or deny the presence of weapons of mass destruction.
This will also lead to frustration this week as the House will talk with ministers Frans Timmermans (Foreign Affairs, Labour) and Jeanine Hennis – Plasschaert (Defence, Liberal) about nuclear disarmament and non – proliferation. The government wants to actively work on these issues. Just like the U.S. President Barack Obama, Timmermans says to strive for Global Zero , a world without nuclear weapons. ” But the Netherlands pretends it has nothing to say, and it is in the hands of others ,” said Kristensen.
In preparation for the debate, the Chamber held a hearing with experts this afternoon, including the Dane Kristensen. He is affiliated with the Federation of American Scientists, who want nuclear disarmament. He has managed to reveal/surface many facts about the U.S. nuclear in recent decades . In a cafe in The Hague, he talks about the history of the in total 183 U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe and the upcoming modernization. He also expresses his surprise about recent incidents in the Netherlands. That the Public Prosecutor threatened to sue the former Prime Ministers Dries van Agt and Ruud Lubbers because they had said something about nuclear weapons ‘ makes the whole subject ridiculous “. That the government ignores attempts by the House to curb the nuclear role of the Netherlands is worrying according to Kristensen. The Chamber had called out not to modernize the nuclear bombs and to not adjust the JSF, that replaces the F -16 fighter, to carry nuclear weapons.
Kristensen does not take the word hypocrite in his mouth, but finds it “schizophrenic ” that the Dutch government on the one hand says to strive for global nuclear disarmament, but then does not take the initiative to send the nukes back to the U.S.” That’s as believable as telling your children that they should not smoke while you’re puffing away yourself.”
The facts Kristensen has discovered: At the air base in Volkel, probably since the 50s, U.S. nuclear bombs are stationed. At present there’s a little less than twenty so-called tactical nuclear weapons of the type B61. Dutch F – 16s, and later JSF ‘s are equipped to deliver the bombs. The pilots practice every year . In Germany , Belgium , Italy and Turkey, the Americans also have nuclear arsenals. Because the bombs are outdated, the U.S. is working on a modernization that will costs $ 11 billion ( 8 billion euros ). There’s resistance against that price in the U.S. Congress.
“In the years before the metal of the new bomb is forged, the Netherlands can really do something to get rid of the weapons. By talking with the U.S., but especially with the Eastern European countries within NATO. Because everything has to be decided by consensus within NATO, Lithuania basically has decided that the nukes in the Netherlands are here to stay.”
It is mainly the Baltic states that fear Russia, that adhere to the “symbolic ” weapons. Kristensen has no expectation of a Russian contribution to mutual disarmament. If the U.S. and the Netherlands really want to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, they will have to do it themselves.
The Netherlands could even act alone. “In Greece there were also nuclear bombs , but the Greeks bought at one time a new fighter plane and then said not to have any money left over for the nuclear task. Then the Americans bombs there were silently removed. NATO has not disintegrated, Greece has not been thrown out. So it can be done.”
Even stronger, Kristensen thinks the Germans are choosing the “Greek scenario “. Germany does not buy the JSF, but the Eurofighter jet. When replacing the current Tornado , this is also a natural time to stop the nuclear mission. “Everyone I speak in the U.S., assumes that the Germans will get rid of their nuclear task in the next decade, and that this will have a Domino effect on the Netherlands and Belgium.” Similarly, these relics of the Cold War might be gotten rid of, without consensus within NATO.
“Obama has said he wants to get rid of all nuclear weapons in the world, but that it probably will not happen during his lifetime. I think that we are witnessing the disappearance of these weapons from Europe,” says Kristensen. ” The question is what role the Netherlands wants to play in this process.”
Hans Kristensen, nuclear expert
Hans Kristensen (52) studied mathematics and biology in Denmark. In the eighties he got interested in disarmament. In the U.S. , he specializes in information on nuclear weapons. Kristensen will speak tonight in the Humanity House in The Hague.
This article (author: Emile van Outeren) is published in Dutch newspaper NRC on 27 January 2014 and is translated into English by PAX (formerly known as ‘IKV Pax Christi’).