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U.S. Speeds Deployment of Upgraded B-61 Nukes To Europe To Deter Putin and Reassure European Allies

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

U.S. Interests in Ukraine Nowhere Near Important Enough to Tempt Nuke Use

According to reporting by Politico, the United States has moved up replacing older B-61 nuclear gravity bombs with the more accurate B61-12 versions. Older B-61 variants that are distributed throughout U.S. airbase in Europe were due to be replaced in Spring of next year, but instead will be replaced by the new more flexible, but less powerful B61-12's as early as December of 2022.

The B61-12's are variable yield devices with 4 yield options of 0.3 kilotons (kt), 1.5kt, 10kt and 50kt. They will primarily be replacing B61-11's with non-variable yields of 400kt. The rationale for reducing the maximum yield is that while the B61-11 was only accurate to within about 200 meters of the target, the B61-12's accuracy should be about 30 meters. The increased accuracy will allow for a much smaller warhead to destroy a deeply buried bunker while producing less radioactive fallout materials. The variable yield will also allow them to be used in a wider variety of situations, including tactical warfare, increasing the chances they could be used.

The variable yield, thermonuclear multi-purpose B61-12 bombs will replace some 100 older B-61 bombs stored at U.S. air bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey.

Analysts conjecture that the motivation for the accelerated replacement to be twofold:

1) To act as a deterrent to Putin's not so veiled threat to use tactical nuclear weapons to protect territory Russia has recently annexed from Ukraine.

2) To reassure NATO allies that United States stands committed to engage in nuclear war with Russia should Russia use nuclear weapons against members of NATO.

Both of these rationales beg some majorly important questions:

Is there any thought the the B61's would be used on Russia itself should Putin use tactical nukes in the Ukraine war?

The sane answer to this is no, and unless Putin believes the Biden Administration is insane the new B61's will have little to no deterrent power.

While not nearly as foolish as striking Russia itself, the use of B61's in Ukraine against Russian forces in retaliation for Russia's use of nukes would effectively be a declaration of War against Russia by the United States. Such use would not advance U.S. security interests and would not make U.S. citizens safer.

Regarding the 2nd rationale, the B61's make are part of the United States Nuclear Triad designed to insure that no U.S opponent believes that a nuclear war with the United States could be won with a preemptive strike strategy or any strategy for that matter. The three legs of the triad include bombs and missiles delivered by our Air Force's planes, intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from silos in the United States and submarine launched nuclear missiles.

So, the B61's are a very small part of the United State's deterrent capability and replacing 400kt B61-11's with 50kt B61-12's doesn't really do anything to enhance deterrence. And the option to strike with less powerful nuclear weapons could actually increase the chance they are used by people believing that precise use of tactical nuclear weapons does not necessarily lead to unrestricted strategic use of nuclear weapons.

The above is an interesting theory, but there are no U.S interests of enough importance in Ukraine to warrant testing the theory .

The final question (certainly not new) regarding the the deployment if U.S. nukes into our airbases in Europe is whether the United States and its citizens should be on the hook to go into a full-blown nuclear war with Russia should it attack a NATO country with nuclear weapons? Or should we move toward a policy that Europe is primarily responsible for providing its own nuclear deterrent capability?

Bottom line, deploying new less powerful, but more flexible B61 thermonuclear bombs to Air Bases in Europe will do virtually nothing to deter Putin from using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Another bottom-line is that the United States is supplying 70 percent of the military aid, 70 percent of humanitarian aid, and 34 percent of the financial aid to Ukraine. This is just wrong. Being that Ukraine and Russia are in Europe's backyard, Europe needs to step up and become the primary supplier of military, financial and humanitarian aide to Ukraine.

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