Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2015
A 65-day-long series of protests at the Büchel Air Force Base in west-central Germany—home to 20 US nuclear bombs—culminated on May 29. Thirty-five different organizations began their string of blockades on March 26, commemorating the Bundestag’s (Parliament’s) 2010 call to the German government to advocate for removal of US nuclear weapons in Germany. The occupations ended May 29, marking the conclusion of the UN’s 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. (See “Nuclear Weapons Proliferation,” Page 1.)
Over the course of the 65 days, over 400 people participated in 31 blockades through a wide variety of demonstrations. Local, national and international organizations came to present lively opposition to nuclear weapons and the base’s role in the US–German “nuclear sharing” agreement. The actions ranged from an orchestra concert to tripod blockades, a red carpet roll-out of peace flags, a die-in staged to dramatize Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, and a Maypole dance. Banners galore punctuated the actions and constantly decorated the peace encampment. Birthdays and a Good Friday service were observed at the gates, contributing to what became disruption of traffic three to four days a week, preventing personnel from accessing the base, and often closing it. On the last day alone, 35 people were taken into custody as they blocked seven gates to the base. A total of 60 protestors arrived armed with toothbrushes to symbolize their willingness to remain at the blockade until there is a commitment to withdraw the weapons. The US removed its nuclear weapons from England and Greece prior to 2010. The US B61s at Büchel include 20 of the 180 bombs remaining in five European allied states. The stationing and potential use of the weapons violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits signatories like the United States from transferring nuclear
weapons to non-nuclear states like Germany; Büchel is charged with the nuclear missions of NATO and the B61 bombs would be delivered by German Tornado aircraft. Contrary to a move toward fulfilling international obligations under the NPT, there are plans to upgrade the B61s to “smart” bombs, giving them the embarrassing distinction of being the only such nuclear weapons on European soil. In a move that some have called a “new arms race,” the upgrade plan will further endanger Russia’s trust in disarmament talks with NATO.
—Atomwaffenfrei, May 30; Büchel Atomwaffenfrei, May 26; Rheinische Post, Mar. 24, 2015 —KL