The United States is the only country known to station nuclear weapons in other countries today, while Russia and the United Kingdom also did so in the past. A total of 19 states are believed to have previously hosted such deployments, in some cases without their knowledge: Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark (Greenland), France, East Germany andWest Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom. The figure does not include territories that during the relevant period were under the direct jurisdiction or administration of a nuclear-armed state (Guam, Okinawa, and the Marshall Islands).
Most nuclear hosting arrangements were put in place in the 1950s and 1960s, and all but the above-mentioned five cases in Europe are believed to have since been discontinued. The majority of weapons were withdrawn from Europe after the Cold War. Hosting arrangements with Greece ended in 2001, while the United States also withdrew its nuclear weapons from RAF Lakenheath (United Kingdom) and from RAF Ramstein (Germany) in 2006. Further reductions of the US arsenals in Aviano (Italy) and Incirlik (Turkey) were conducted in 2016.
There have been several attempts by European policymakers to have the remaining weapons removed from these five states. Numerous non-governmental organizations have continued to advocate for removal. In four of the five host states — excluding Turkey — public opinion polls have shown clear support for withdrawal of the nuclear weapons on their soil.
In Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands several political initiatives, involving parliamentary debates and motions, have also sought to achieve the removal of nuclear weapons. The Belgian Senate in 2005 unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the removal of nuclear weapons from Belgian territory. In January 2020, a similar motion — calling also for the signature of the TPNW — failed to pass but gained considerable support from parliamentarians.
The Dutch parliament has been very vocal in its support to remove the nuclear weapons on its territory, and has adopted several motions explicitly calling on the government to do so.
In 2009, the German coalition government committed through its governing platform to have the remaining nuclear weapons in Germany withdrawn. The then Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, promoted the initiative enthusiastically for some time, but the United States responded negatively, and the initiative was quietly shelved the next year.
The national debate on Germany’s role in nuclear sharing, has not subsided, however. It was particularly questioned in the run-up to the federal elections of 2021, prompting NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to publish an op-ed in the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, reiterating the importance of Germany’s support for nuclear sharing for transatlantic peace and security. After the elections, in November 2021, Stoltenberg sought to put pressure on the coalition party negotiations, saying: ‘I count on Germany to remain committed to NATO’s nuclear sharing. It is our ultimate security guarantee.’ Stoltenberg also pondered that if Germany opts out of nuclear sharing, other states in Eastern Europe (namely Poland, as was already floated as an idea in 2020) would have to take over this role. The coalition agreement of 24 November 2021 in Germany includes a strong commitment to NATO and the importance of being part of ‘strategic discussions and planning processes’ within the alliance. While committing to uphold a ‘credible deterrent capability’ in the alliance, the coalition government also reiterates the goal of Global Zero and a Germany free of nuclear weapons.
In both Turkey and Italy, removal of nuclear weapons is not as frequently discussed as in the other three host nations. The Italian parliament in September 2017 passed a motion to explore ‘the possibility of adhering to the legally binding [ban] treaty’ but ‘in a way compatible with [Italy’s] NATO obligations and with the positioning of allied states.’ While Italian civil society organizations have been very active in the promotion of nuclear disarmament and the TPNW, the government has subsequently taken no action to move closer to the TPNW and away from nuclear sharing commitments.
Turkey is adamant in its support for upholding current NATO nuclear sharing arrangements and there has been no perceptible support for their removal and the TPNW within society or political parties. This is so, except for former Turkish defence minister, Hikmet Sami Türk, signing the ICAN open letter in support of the TPNW.