On 29 October 1983, 550,000 people gathered in the middle of the Hague to protest against nuclear weapons being placed in the Netherlands. This is still the biggest protest the country has ever seen, and was a clear mandate against nuclear weapons. As a result of this and other mass protests, no nuclear-armed cruise missiles would be stationed in the Netherlands.
This sounds like a success story: a country successfully resisting their NATO overlords when it comes to nuclear weapons. However, the government had already secretly agreed in the 1960s to the placement of a different kind of nuclear weapons. While this was an open secret, it would not be confirmed until Wikileaks released a confidential cable in 2009, which also confirmed the placement of nuclear weapons in Belgium and Germany.
It is now believed that twenty-two nuclear weapons of type B61-12 are stationed in the Volkel air base in the southern part of the country. These are smaller nuclear weapons with “only” a 50-kiloton TNT yield, or three times the power of the American bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. A nuclear weapons expert, Hans Kristensen, expects that 9,000 people would die if something goes wrong with the weapons. And, because they are owned by the United States, it is the Americans who decide whether or not they will be used.
Declassified maps from the USSR showed Volkel as a target, confirming that nuclear weapons don’t protect but rather make anyone storing them a potential victim of their destructive power.
This situation is relevant to the present time, with Finland and Sweden on the verge of joining NATO. Both countries have seen popular opposition to nuclear weapons. While the leaders of both countries have put out statements declaring that they oppose the stationing of nuclear weapons on their territory, the history of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany shows that public opposition counts for nothing when it comes to the Americans placing nuclear weapons on their land. This is especially concerning for Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre border with nuclear-armed Russia.
The media have also reported recently that Poland is in talks with the United States about joining the nuclear-sharing programme, officially putting American nuclear weapons on Polish soil. At the beginning of October, President Zelenskyi of Ukraine even seemed to call for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russia. While his office has clarified his remarks since, it shows how tense the present situation is, and how easily the situation can escalate.
Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous technology that humanity has ever created. Their only use in the theatre of war—the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—resulted in approximately 250,000 deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians. In 1962 the United States threatened a full-scale escalation because nuclear weapons were positioned in Cuba, close to their borders. Yet in 2022 they don’t seem to mind doing the exact same to Russia. Sweden, Finland, and Poland might feel protected, yet NATO nukes make them not just potentially complicit in widespread nuclear destruction but also the first target should things go wrong.
In 1983 the message of the Dutch protesters was: “We have made weapons that caused us to stand on the edge of a cliff. We can’t afford another mistake, or the whole world will be destroyed.” Now that nuclear war is looming again, every communist, socialist and anyone with an ounce of peace and self-preservation in their body should resolutely oppose every development that brings us closer to nuclear armageddon.
- Huib Modderkolk, “Diep weggestopt explosief materiaal: ‘De kernwapens liggen in Nederland. Voor de rest is het een Amerikaans feestje’,” de Volksrant, 16 January 2021 (tinyurl.com/58nyeh25).
- Rebecca Seunis, “Als het misgaat in Volkel, vallen er vanwege de kernwapens die daar liggen 9000 doden,” Omroep Brabant, 14 November 2019 (tinyurl.com/26x9tasw ).
- “Finnish prime minister says joining NATO doesn’t mean hosting nuclear weapons on Russia’s doorstep,” Business Insider (tinyurl.com/8d9h9d26).
- “Partistyrelsens beslut om Socialdemokraternas säkerhetspolitiska linje,” Socialdemokraterna, 15 May 2022 (tinyurl.com/5bswspd2).
- Bartosz Sieniawski, “Poland wants NATO nuclear weapons at home,” Euractiv, 6 October 2022 (https://www.euractiv.com/section/all/short_news/poland-wants-nato-nuclear-weapons-at-home/).