Three Green MEPs have been arrested for protesting against the use of nuclear weapons.
Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West of England, was one of three European politicians who scaled a fence to break into a military airbase in Belgium where American B61 nuclear bombs are being stockpiled.
The MEPs, along with members of the protest group Agir pour la Paix (Act for Peace), blocked the runway at the Kleine Brogel airbase in Belgium with a banner reading ‘Europe free of nuclear weapons’.
The other MEPs arrested along with Scott Cato are Michèle Rivasi from the French Green Party, Europe Écologie, and Tilly Metz, from the Luxembourg Greens. All three are being held in a police station in Brussels for questioning and are likely to be released later today (20 February).
Before the protest, Scott Cato explained the motivation behind the action, saying: "Our action is intended to challenge EU countries to remove US nuclear weapons from European soil. Each B61 bomb is 23 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima. These apocalyptic weapons should find no home in Europe.”
The US currently maintains stores of B61 nuclear weapons in five NATO countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands. According to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), around 200 bombs are being kept in weapons stations in these countries through NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement.
However, it has been argued that the presence of US nuclear bombs on European soil contravenes the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a 1970 international agreement that is supposed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons by preventing the transfer of weapons to non-nuclear weapon states (states that do not already possess their own nuclear weapons). 189 countries have signed up to the treaty, including all the states officially recognised as having nuclear weapons: the United States, the Russian Federation, China, France and the United Kingdom.
None of the five NATO countries storing US bombs have nuclear weapons of their own. The US has argued that it is not breaching the treaty as the weapons it stores in those NATO countries remain under its control until wartime, when the treaty would no longer apply – but campaigners have countered this by saying that the weapons are already handled by pilots and other staff in the NATO countries.
Scott Cato continued: “We demand that Europe's nuclear nations immediately sign up to the landmark global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and begin the process of decommissioning their nuclear arsenals.
“Nuclear weapons are obsolete in an era of asymmetric warfare and cyber warfare and have no place in a European defence policy for the 21st century. Britain and France have ignored their obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons for far too long."
“These Green MEPs will be found on the right side of history for the principled actions they have taken.”
CND has applauded the action taken by the MEPs, with General Secretary Kate Hudson saying: "US nuclear weapons have no place in Europe – this isn't a battle-ground for a nuclear war between world powers.
"Since Donald Trump initiated the tearing up of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty earlier this month, there is a real danger we could see the return of US nuclear missiles to British soil as well as more nuclear missiles across Europe."
The INF Treaty is an arms control agreement between Russia and the US that prevented both from using short- and medium-range missiles. Both countries formally suspended the treaty at the start of February.
Hudson continued: "We are in desperate need for a new era of diplomacy. The British Government could lead the way by supporting efforts to rescue the INF treaty and fully engaging with the UN's treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Our country is in a strong position to demonstrate how the nuclear states can work together to reduce and abolish nuclear weapons.
"The alternative is to sit back while the US president tears up all restraints on nuclear weapons and rapidly moves the world closer to nuclear war."
Commenting today, Green Party Co-leader Sian Berry offered her support to Scott Cato and said: “We stand in full solidarity with our brilliant MEP Molly and her Green colleagues who have been arrested for taking a stand against nuclear weapons.
“These bombs have the potential to kill millions of people. They make us less safe, are obsolete in modern warfare and are a colossal waste of money. It is only right all US nuclear weapons are removed from Europe.
“Greens are never afraid to put their bodies on the line for what is right. These Green MEPs will be found on the right side of history for the principled actions they have taken.”