The U.S. should move its nuclear weapons from Incirlik Air Base and start looking for alternatives to the longtime military hub in Turkey, a country that can no longer be fully relied on, analysts and former military officials said.
The U.S. military maintains about 50 nuclear warheads at Incirlik, according to nuclear watchdog organizations.
“It is the worst place possible to be keeping nuclear weapons,” said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a prominent nonprofit advocacy group.
The strained relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, a NATO ally, has steadily deteriorated in the wake of an attempted mutiny against the Ankara government in July 2016. Critics say Turkey is now behaving more like an adversary than an ally.
Since the coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Erdogan has cracked down on the opposition, raising concerns inside NATO about an authoritarian overhaul.
Turkey also has been at odds with the aims of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria and publicly flirted with purchasing Russian-made air defense systems. Ankara is suspected of leaking the locations of sensitive U.S. bases inside Syria to a state-run news agency and also engaged in a diplomatic spat with Germany that recently forced Berlin to pull its forces out of Incirlik.
The U.S. military does not comment on the locations of the weapons as a standing policy, but Incirlik’s housing of the warheads has long been common knowledge. Now it is a source of growing concern.