One obscure but troubling legacy of the Cold War is the American nuclear weapons that are deployed in Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands under NATO nuclear weapons sharing agreements. The arsenals consist of 150 B61 gravity bombs held in US custody, apparently for the enduring purpose of deterring a Soviet/Russian tank invasion of Europe. The bombs can be tailored to different yields: with different versions capable of producing explosions with between 0.3 and 340 megatonnes of power. In total, about 3,155 of these bombs were made, with between 1,200 and 1,900 still in service worldwide. A 1994 variant has a hardened casing and can be used as a nuclear bunker buster.
Apparently, these weapons were in place during the negotiation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and two arguments were privately maintained about why this usage is not in contravention of the treaty. The first was that, since the bombs were under American control, they had not been illegally transferred from a nuclear-weapons state to a non-nuclear weapon state in violation of Article I of the Treaty. The second was that the weapons would not be used “unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which the treaty would no longer be controlling.”
The latter argument strikes me as exceptionally weak – as does the general rationale for maintaining these weapons. The existing arsenals of American submarine launched missiles, land-based ICBMs, nuclear-equipped bombers, and nuclear cruise missiles would seem sufficient to serve any conceivable purpose for which these bombs might be used. I am also willing to bet that your average Belgian, Italian, or Dutch citizen isn’t too pleased to have the things within their borders.