Today, October the 19th, the Belgian Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons demonstrated against the military nuclear exercise ‘Steadfast Noon’ that is taking place on Belgian territory. The coalition went to the NATO headquarters in Brussels to express their outrage.

by Belgian Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons, Vrede

NATO is currently conducting a nuclear air strike simulation exercise. This exercise is organised annually by some NATO member states to train pilots, including Belgians, in transporting and delivering nuclear bombs. Several NATO countries take part, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. These are the same countries that house US nuclear bombs on their territory as part of NATO’s “nuclear sharing”. The presence of these weapons in Belgium, their imminent replacement with more modern B61-12 bombs and the holding of such exercises are explicit violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Activists hold a banner protesting nuclear exercises outside NATO headquarters

This year’s nuclear exercise is being organised in Belgium, at the military base of Kleine-Brogel, where US nuclear weapons have been stationed since 1963. It is only since 2020 that NATO has publicly announced the Steadfast Noon exercise. Emphasising its annual nature makes it sound like a routine event. This is how NATO normalises the existence of such an exercise, while also downplaying the use and danger of nuclear weapons.

The countries of the transatlantic alliance are participating in an exercise that prepares them for the use of a weapon that kills hundreds of thousands of people at a time and has consequences that no state can face. The whole discourse around nuclear weapons aims to minimize their consequences and normalize their use (e.g. they talk about so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons, a “limited” nuclear strike, or in this case a “nuclear exercise”). This discourse contributes to making their use more and more plausible.

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