Belgium unprepared against nuclear attack as threat of war escalates
Belgium is completely unprepared for the possibility of a nuclear attack, La Libre Belgique has reported.
Owing to its status as the headquarters of NATO, Belgium — and, in particular, Brussels — would be a prime target in the event of a nuclear exchange with Russia, which has threatened repeatedly to use nuclear weapons since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February this year.
According to Olivier Galand of The Belgian Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons, "The problem is that Belgium has absolutely nothing to protect itself against a nuclear attack. We have no public anti-nuclear shelters. No missile interception system. No siren alerts." Galand added: "If something happens, we will be notified by SMS."
An escalating threat
Galand's warnings come against the backdrop of deeply worrying escalation in both rhetoric and actions by Russia and NATO over the last few months.
In response to Russia's continued threats, NATO is currently engaged in large-scale nuclear exercises , while Russia notified yesterday that its carrying out its own large-scale nuclear exercises today. Such exercises typically involve the launching of nuclear capable missiles, as well as simulations of nuclear attacks on major cities and critical infrastructure.
Adding to the rising tension, at a closed-door session of the UN Security Council held late last night, Russia formally accused Ukraine of planning to detonate a 'dirty bomb' containing radioactive material on Russian-held territory. The claim was dismissed by Western leaders as lacking any evidence and as a mere pretext for further military escalation from Russia.
In a speech last month announcing Russia's 'partial mobilisation' in response to its army's faltering efforts in the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin openly stated his intention to use "all weapon systems available to [Russia]" to defend "the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people." Putin added: "This is not a bluff."
Such escalatory rhetoric was compounded by US President Joe Biden's more recent warnings that the world is facing 'Armageddon'. "[Putin is] not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons," Biden said. He added: "I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon."
The EU recently donated 5.5 million iodine tablets to Ukraine to protect its citizenry against a nuclear attack or radiation leak from shelling around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine. Citizens of several European countries — including Belgium — have also increased iodine purchases in recent months.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' infamous Doomsday Clock is currently at 100 seconds to midnight, "the closest it has ever been to civilisation-ending apocalypse."
Moreover, in a recent op-ed , former CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote that "some intelligence analysts now believe that the probability of the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine has risen from 1-5 percent at the start of the war to 20-25 percent today.
Man survivor in gas mask on industrial gray background © BELGA PHOTO