The United States plans to deploy nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom for the first time in nearly 16 years, according to a report by The Telegraph, which cites documents from the Pentagon. This decision is a direct response to the escalating threat posed by Russia.
The United States withdrew nuclear warheads from the UK in 2008, a period marked by a perceived reduction in the threat from Moscow following the end of the Cold War. However, recent developments have drastically altered this assessment.
Drawing on the Pentagon documents accessed by journalists, The Telegraph reports that the U.S. intends to place nuclear warheads “three times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima” at the Royal Air Force Lakenheath base in Suffolk County. “RAF Lakenheath is expected to house B61-12 gravity bombs, which have a variable yield of up to 50 kilotons – more than three times the power of the atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945,” the article notes.
Admiral Rob Bauer, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, highlighted the shifting security landscape in a press conference last week after a NATO defense chiefs’ meeting in Brussels. He emphasized the need for Western citizens to prepare for fundamental changes in their lives. “We have to realise it’s not a given that we are in peace. And that’s why we [Nato forces] are preparing for a conflict with Russia. But the discussion is much wider. It is also the industrial base and also the people that have to understand they play a role,” Bauer is quoted by The Telegraph.
Bauer believes that if war breaks out, a significant mobilization of civilians will be necessary. Hence, governments must hasten to create systems to manage this process.
The Telegraph notes that the return of American nuclear weapons to the UK is part of a broader NATO program for the development and modernization of nuclear facilities in response to heightened tensions with the Kremlin following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Russia has stated that the deployment of U.S. weapons in the UK will be perceived by Moscow as an “escalation” and will be met with “compensating counter-measures.”
Apart from the conflict in Ukraine, the West faces increasing challenges from Iran and North Korea, which have grown closer to Moscow in recent years. According to the documents obtained by the news portal, the Pentagon has ordered new equipment for the base, including ballistic shields to protect military personnel from attacks on “high-value assets.” Construction of a new residential facility for the American forces stationed there is set to begin in June.
Earlier, the United States announced plans to station two squadrons of F-35 fighters, capable of carrying bombs, at Lakenheath.