What is nuclear sharing and who is involved?


There are 2 nuclear armed states, United States and Russia, that have stationed nuclear weapons on foreign soil.  This dangerous and opaque practice allows nuclear-armed states to make other countries complicit in the responsibilities, management and eventual use of nuclear weapons with other countries by stationing the weapons on their territory and cooperating on matters such as aircraft, infrastructure, planning and training. 

The United States first deployed nuclear weapons to “certain locations in Europe” in  the 1950s. 

In the 1960s, this became defined as nuclear sharing under NATO. Today Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Türkiye are widely suspected to host US nuclear weapons, but have refused to confirm or deny the presence of these weapons on their soil for decades. Researchers have nevertheless been able to pinpoint the locations through declassified documents, high-resolution satellite images, leaks or even accidental disclosure. The 2009 German government coalition agreement broke the long-held silence by explicitly calling for negotiations with the US to remove the weapons.  Leaked documents also reveal plans to return US nuclear warheads to Lakenheath Air base in the UK, where they were previously stationed until 2008.  

The weapons at these bases are intended for use by airforce pilots from these countries to bomb enemy targets in Europe, and are three versions of the same basic model. In 2022, the U.S. government began building a new bomb, the B61-12, to replace those already deployed. The destructive power of the B61-12 can be calibrated up to 50 kilotons. For comparison, the bombs that killed 215,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were 16 and 20 kilotons respectively. Read more about the B61-12 here

Since June 2023, Russia has shared nuclear weapons with Belarus.  Following a highly contested referendum to remove Belarus’ nuclear-weapons-free status from the constitution, President Lukashenko, announced that his country had started taking delivery of Russian tactical nuclear weapons, a decision taken in the context of the war in Ukraine and meant to strengthen Russia’s use of its nuclear arsenal to blackmail other countries to limit their support for Ukraine.  While satellite imagery shows signs that key sites have been upgraded to receive the warheads, the exact number is unknown.

Who “hosts” them

Who owns them

What bases are  (allegedly) involved? 

Estimated number of Weapons*






United States

Kleine Brogel Air Base



United States

Büchel Air Base



United States

Aviano Air Base and Ghedi Air Base



United States

Volkel Air Base



United States



*Sources: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Nuclear Sharing 2023

Related questions:

Who makes the decisions around the nuclear weapons stationed abroad?
Is nuclear sharing legal?
What are the risks of nuclear sharing?