After a relatively quiet period, it appears the nuclear weapons discussion is making its way back to mainstream media, awakening the public with multiple alarms. The first of which was initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during their war on Ukraine. Putin has repeatedly warned that Russia is ready to use its nuclear arsenal if necessary to defend its “territorial integrity”. The ever-changing environment continues to elevate nuclear tensions between Russia and U.S.
In a recent report, NATO stated the current situation “is the most significant attempt at prolonged, consistent, and conscious nuclear coercion against NATO and its partners in almost forty years.” With numerous threats of nuclear retaliation by Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past year, some folks are growing numb. But should they be? Let’s look at some of the other alarms making headlines around the world in recent days.
Nukes to Belarus
Late last month, Putin stated that Russia will now be stationing tactical nukes in Belarus. This was clearly a warning to the West for bolstering its military support of Ukraine. He justified his position by stating the U.S. has kept nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Putin said the storage facilities for these weapons will be completed by July 1. The U.S. government believes Russia has about 2000 tactical nuclear weapons, and it’s unclear how many of these will be moved forward to Belarus.
This past February, Putin announced Russia was suspending participation in the New START treaty. A few weeks later, both houses of Russia’s parliament endorsed President Vladimir Putin’s move to suspend the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., using it as a warning to the U.S. for Ukrainian support.
In response, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Russia’s decision was, “both really unfortunate and very irresponsible.” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General said, “I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and to respect existing agreements.”
By the end of March, Russia announced the discontinuation of the notification process, “There will be no notifications at all… All notifications, all kinds of notifications, all activities under the treaty will be suspended and will not be conducted regardless of what position the U.S. may take.”
The next day Russia launched a thermonuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Russian Nuclear Tests
A month ago, Putin believed that Washington was considering breaking the moratorium on nuclear testing. “If the United States conducts testing, then we will. No one should have dangerous illusions of global strategic parity can be destroyed.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov walked back the statements a few days later stating, “At the moment everyone is sticking to the motto moratorium.” This past Friday, the Kremlin was still stating Russia is not preparing to conduct nuclear weapons testing.
The Kremlin’s Nuclear Recommendation
Another alarming broadcast by Sky News yesterday stated, Russian State Duma deputy Andrey Isayev reported the U.S. has yet to openly get involved with Ukraine “…because we [Russia] have nuclear weapons,” adding, “Why are there yet to attack China? It’s because China has nuclear weapons. All observers understand – if Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, they would still be leaders of their countries.”
Isayev then urged other countries desiring to “maintain their sovereignty” to “acquire nuclear weapons.” In closing he stated, “In a few years, a number of countries will join the nuclear club. There will be more of them.”
U.S. to Resume Nuke Warhead Production?
Last week, a seemingly alarming headline on Polish television (PTV) shared that the U.S. was resuming production of nuclear warheads – supposedly after a 32-year hiatus. The information provided from a Ukrainian ministerial advisor also stated President Joe Biden had approved $634 billion for the effort. The report was partially correct, as the U.S. in the 1990s stopped developing new nuclear weapons and devoted time and dollars to stockpile stewardship, maintaining, and dismantling the aging arsenal.
However, this report was perhaps a false alarm, as the Obama administration planned to spend a trillion dollars over 30 years to renovate U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, platforms, and for the research and development of new nuclear cruise missiles. It was well known that both the Trump and Biden administrations continued with these plans.