Breach Of Nuclear Threshold Looms With Deployment Of New US Bombs In Europe


  • Russia said that there was an accelerated deployment of modernized U.S. weapons in Europe.
  • The B61 tactical nuclear weapons at NATO bases in Europe would lower the “nuclear threshold”.
  • Russia would take the move into account in its military planning.

Russia has about 2,000 working tactical nuclear weapons while the United States has around 200 such weapons, half of which are at bases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Great Power Game

Amid the Ukraine crisis, the United States told a closed NATO meeting this month that it would accelerate the deployment of a modernized version of the B61, the B61-12, with the new weapons arriving at European bases in December, several months earlier than planned. “We cannot ignore the plans to modernize nuclear weapons, those free-fall bombs that are in Europe,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said.

The 12-ft B61-12 gravity bomb carries a lower yield nuclear warhead than many earlier versions but is more accurate and can penetrate below ground, according to research by the Federation of American Scientists published in 2014. “The United States is modernizing them, increasing their accuracy and reducing the power of the nuclear charge…” Grushko added.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered the gravest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the two Cold War superpowers came closest to nuclear war. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said Russia will defend its territory with all available means, including nuclear weapons, if attacked. The comments raised particular concern in the West.

Strategic Significance

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Oct. 6 that Putin had brought the world closer to “Armageddon” than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, though Biden later said he did not think that Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon. Putin has not mentioned using a tactical nuclear weapon but has said he suspects Ukraine could detonate a “dirty bomb”.

Russia’s Grushko said that Moscow would also have to take account of the Lockheed Martin F-35 which would drop such a bomb.  NATO, he said, had already strengthened the nuclear parts of its military planning. 

Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said that the new B61 bombs had a “strategic significance” as Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons were in storage, yet these U.S. bombs would be just a short flight from Russia’s borders. The United States, will bolster nuclear deterrence with the F-35, the B61-12 bombs and a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile.

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Source: USnews


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