Reports that Belgium stores United States nuclear weapons have sparked debate among politicians and top government officials over the country’s “worst-kept secret,” with an unnamed defence official arguing that keeping the warheads meant the country had a seat at the “big boy table.”
Years of neither confirm nor deny policy observed by federal and military authorities went up in smoke after a draft document published on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly website confirmed that U.S. nuclear warheads were stored in a Belgian airbase.
Seizing on the report, Flemish green party, Groen, called on federal authorities to allow a debate to be held on the matter, with one party representative questioning whether our country should continue storing the weapons for the U.S.-powered military alliance.
“Do we really want weapons of mass destruction in our territory with someone like Donald Trump at the buttons?” Groen’s Wouter De Vriendt said on broadcast radio.
Het grootste deel van de wereld is klaar voor de ontwapening van #kernwapens.
België niet, en dat is één van de redenen waarom de #F35 werd gekocht.
Tijd dat daar een transparant debat over komt.
sp.a wil dat België eindelijk de kant kiest van de #ontwapening.
— John Crombez (@johncrombez) July 16, 2019
The green party’s stance was echoed by its socialist counterpart, the sp.a, with two members of the party taking to Twitter to reiterate demands for nuclear weapons to be removed from Belgium.
However, an anonymous military source said Belgium’s stance on the international stage benefited from the arrangement.
“Nuclear weapons in our country do not cost our country anything — and we sit at the table with the big boys,” an unnamed military official said, according to De Morgen, swinging back at budgetary arguments advanced by a sp.a member.
The official further argued that removing the warheads from our country would prove costlier than keeping them in, saying Belgium would have to pour additional funds into the defence budget if the government decides to heed calls for nuclear decommissioning.
Both the sp.a and Groen said they will raise the issue during a defence parliamentary committee slated for Wednesday.
As the news of the revelations picked up steam on Belgian media, a spokesperson for the defence ministry said “we cannot and should not speak about it,” suggesting that the party’s demands may fall on deaf ears.
The Brussels Times