US speeds up plans to store upgraded nukes in Europe – Politico citing US diplomatic cable

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The United States has accelerated the fielding of a more accurate version of its mainstay nuclear bomb to NATO bases in Europe, according to a US diplomatic cable and two people familiar with the issue, Politico writes.

The arrival of the upgraded B61-12 air-dropped gravity bomb, originally slated for next spring, is now planned for this December, US officials told NATO allies during a closed-door meeting in Brussels this month, the cable reveals.

The move, which involves replacing older weapons with the newer version at various storage facilities in Europe for potential use by US and allied bombers and fighter jets, comes amid heightened tensions over Russia’s threats to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine and growing concerns that the West needs to do more to deter Moscow from crossing that line.

The upgrades to the B61 program have been openly discussed in budget documents and public statements for years, and Pentagon officials have said the upgrades are necessary to ensure the stockpile is modernized and safe. Asked for comment, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder responded via email that “while we aren’t going to discuss details of our nuclear arsenal, modernization of US B61 nuclear weapons has been underway for years and plans to safely and responsibly swap out older weapons for the upgraded B61-12 versions is part of a long-planned and scheduled modernization effort. It is in no way linked to current events in Ukraine and was not sped up in any way.”
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