"Answer to the West": Tactical Nuclear Exercises Under Putin's Order Began Today

The Guardian reports that Russian forces have begun military exercises near Ukraine that simulate the use of tactical nuclear weapons in response to what Moscow claims are threats from Western officials who are meddling in the conflict

by Sededin Dedovic
"Answer to the West": Tactical Nuclear Exercises Under Putin's Order Began Today
© WSJ News / Youtube channel

In Russia, the first phase of a military exercise on the preparation and use of tactical nuclear weapons has begun, announced the Russian Ministry of Defense, reported Russian News Agency TASS. "By order of the Supreme Commander, a military exercise for the preparation and use of tactical nuclear weapons under the supervision of the General Staff has begun in the Southern Military District," the ministry stated.

During the exercise, missile forces are practicing the preparation for the use of Iskander tactical missile systems, and aviation will equip aircraft weapons, including Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, with special payloads and head to their patrol areas.

The ministry emphasized that the exercise is a response to provocative statements by Western officials and aims to maintain readiness to respond and ensure national sovereignty. The Guardian reports that Russian forces have started military exercises near Ukraine that simulate the use of tactical nuclear weapons in response to threats from Western officials interfering in the conflict, according to Moscow.

Russian Nuclear Ballistic Missiles - Rs24 Yars & Topol M© Armies Power / Youtube channel

Vladimir Putin ordered the exercises earlier this month, a move Russian officials said was a warning to the West not to escalate tensions further.

The Kremlin is particularly angered by French President Emmanuel Macron's suggestion of sending European troops to fight against Russia in Ukraine, as well as comments by British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said that Ukraine has the right to use weapons supplied by London to target sites in Russia.

On Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense released footage showing trucks carrying missiles to fields where launch systems were prepared, and troops at an airfield preparing a bomber to carry a nuclear warhead. The exercises are taking place in Russia's Southern Military District, headquartered in Rostov-on-Don, which borders Ukraine and includes parts of the country occupied by Russia.

The ministry stated that this is the first phase of the exercises, which involves practicing the loading of launch vehicles, driving to launch sites, and loading hypersonic Kinzhal missiles onto aircraft. Russia has numerous weapon systems capable of delivering tactical nuclear warheads, which are designed for battlefield use, as opposed to strategic warheads that could wipe out entire cities.

Unlike strategic weapons, which have been subject to arms control agreements between Russia and the USA, tactical weapons have never been limited by such pacts, and Russia has not disclosed their number or any other details about them.

Putin frequently mentioned Moscow's nuclear arsenal in the early days of its invasion of Ukraine, repeatedly promising to use all necessary means to defend Russia. He later appeared to tone down his rhetoric, reportedly after Chinese officials persuaded him to abandon nuclear threats, but he recently warned NATO countries that they risk provoking a nuclear war if they deploy troops to Ukraine.

In a recent speech marking the Soviet Union's victory in World War II, he said the country's nuclear weapons are "always in combat readiness." How serious are the threats and how powerful is Russia's nuclear force can be seen from Reuters' report on Russia's nuclear arsenal.

President Vladimir Putin warned the West again that Russia is technically ready for nuclear war and that if the United States, France, or anyone else sends troops to Ukraine, such a move would be considered a significant escalation of the war.

Reuters presented key facts about Russia's nuclear arsenal: Russia, which inherited nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union, has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear warheads. Putin controls around 5,580 nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Of these, about 1,200 are retired but largely intact, and about 4,380 are stockpiled for use by long-range strategic launchers and shorter-range tactical nuclear forces, according to the FAS. Of the stockpiled warheads, 1,710 strategic warheads are deployed: about 870 on land-based ballistic missiles, about 640 on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and possibly 200 at heavy bomber bases, the FAS reported.

Such numbers mean that either Moscow or Washington could destroy the world multiple times over. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a peak of about 40,000 nuclear warheads, while the USA had around 30,000. Russia's nuclear doctrine published in 2020 outlines the conditions under which the Russian president would consider using nuclear weapons: generally in response to an attack with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, or the use of conventional weapons against Russia "when the very existence of the state is threatened." The United States, in its 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, stated that Russia and China are expanding and modernizing their nuclear forces and that Washington will pursue an arms control-based approach to prevent costly arms races.

"While Russian nuclear statements and threatening rhetoric are of great concern, the Russian nuclear arsenal and operations have changed little from our 2023 assessments except for ongoing modernization," FAS stated in its analysis of Russian forces from 2024.

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