Report: U.S. Transferring Nuclear Weapons From Turkey to Romania

Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul's Taksim square
Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul's Taksim square / AP

The United States has reportedly begun relocating nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania amid heightened tensions between Washington and Ankara.

An unnamed source told EurActiv that the U.S. no longer trusted Turkey, a NATO ally, to host the weapons following last month’s failed military coup. The weapons are reportedly being transferred to Romania’s Deveselu air base.

"It’s not easy to move 20-plus nukes," another anonymous source told Euractiv, emphasizing technical and political barriers.

The Romanian foreign ministry "firmly" denied that U.S. nuclear weapons were being relocated to the country.

The possible transfer underscores ongoing strain between the Obama administration and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the attempted coup.

The U.S. has roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons based at the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, some 60 miles from the Syrian border, which have been there since the Cold War, according to a report from the Stimson Center.

The Stimson report says it remains unclear whether the U.S. could have maintained control of its weapons if the coup had ignited a prolonged civil conflict in Turkey, Euractiv noted.

During the July 15 coup attempt, the power at the Incirlik base was shutoff and Erdogan’s government barred U.S. aircraft from taking off. Turkish officials two days later arrested the base commander, as well as 11 other service members from Incirlik, on accusations of complying with the coup.

Update: Several experts have come out since the publication of the EurActiv article to question its sources and reporting, the American Interest noted Friday. Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, for example, took to Twitter to challenge the story.

Other experts questioned the prospect of the U.S. transferring its nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania in a BalkanInsight report.