Russia Positioning Nukes To Confront NATO?
by F. MICHAEL MALOOF
Moscow could be preparing to move nuclear weapons into the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed last year, and also position them around the strategic Russian enclave of Kaliningrad near the periphery of NATO countries, in possible violation of the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, according to a WND source.
The move would send a message to NATO to limit its eastward progression, in line with the new military doctrine Moscow released in December.
A source who has worked in past U.S. administrations on nuclear-weapon issues told WND that such a buildup in Crimea could include nuclear weapons, and there is a question whether it would be a violation of the 2010 START treaty, since Crimea has been annexed by Russia.
If not strategic nuclear weapons, Moscow could move tactical nukes into Crimea, the source said.
Moscow may already have moved nuclear weapons into Kaliningrad and Crimea, but WND was unable to independently verify the reports.
A May 16, 2002, Congressional Research Service report released by Wikileaks suggests the presence of nuclear weapons already in Kaliningrad, the non-contiguous Russian coastal territory surrounded by Poland and Lithuania.
U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who heads U.S. European Command and is NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, said last November that Russia’s military buildup on the Crimea Peninsula includes cruise and surface-to-air missiles, allowing Moscow to assert military influence in the region.
When Moscow announced its new military doctrine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov staked the claim that Russia has the right to station nuclear weapons in Crimea.
“Crimea was not a non-nuclear zone in an international law sense but was part of Ukraine, a state which doesn’t possess nuclear arms,” Lavrov said. “Now, Crimea has become part of a state which possesses such weapons, in accordance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
“In accordance with international law,” he said, “Russia has every reason to dispose of its nuclear arsenal … to suit its interests and international legal obligation.”
Preparing for nuclear war
Peter Vincent Pry, former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, said Moscow has been preparing for a nuclear war, but its intentions have been largely unreported by the establishment media.
“For years, Russia has been embarked on a massive program modernizing its strategic and tactical nuclear forces,” Pry said
Pry, who also is executive director of the congressional advisory Task Force on National and Homeland Security, said Moscow’s preparation for nuclear war with the U.S. are frequent themes on Russian television, “as if preparing the population psychologically.”
He noted Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 6, 2014, told a French television audience that Russia has global nuclear superiority and “is the first in the world in nuclear weapons.”
“Unfortunately,” Pry said, “Putin is right.”
Pry said Moscow is giving strategic nuclear forces the highest priority in its defense budget. He said the Strategic Rocket Forces, as during the Cold War, is “still Russia’s elite service.”
Russia also has a major advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons, Pry said, since the U.S. has dismantled virtually all of its tactical nuclear weapons with just a few hundred “obsolete gravity bombs” bunkered in Germany.
Russia has thousands of tactical nuclear weapons, variously estimated at 3,000 to 20,000, he said.
Pry said the Obama administration has tried to “low ball” the numbers and the significance of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, which he said “is a grave mistake.”
He said Russia’s advantage today in the nuclear balance is “unprecedented.” The advantages, he said, give Russia “escalation dominance,” which allows Russia to commit aggression unopposed by the U.S. and its allies.
Moscow’s large-scale military exercises aimed at European NATO and the U.S., Pry said, go unanswered, “even by so much as a diplomatic protest.”
The new military doctrine, however, stresses more of a “non-nuclear deterrence” against information warfare and an increase in Special Forces and intelligence to deal with terrorism from Islamic jihadist groups. The threat includes groups resident in Russia’s southern provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, which have many fighters now in Syria.
However, nuclear deterrence will remain part of the new Russian military doctrine, along with maintaining a strong military presence in Kaliningrad and in the Arctic region to stake a claim on valuable untapped energy and mineral resources.
Cold War port
During the Cold War, Kaliningrad was heavily militarized as a strategic point from which to strike NATO countries.
“Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons can only be used in response to an attack involving a weapon of mass destruction or in the event of aggression of a conventional nature that presents a threat to the country’s existence,” according to Anna Maria Dyner of the Polish Institute of International Affairs.
However, the “main potential enemy,” as outlined in the new military doctrine, will be NATO and its involvement with and expansion to countries bordering Russia “or its allies.”
The prospect of placing nuclear weapons in the Crimea and in Kaliningrad is in apparent response to the U.S. plan to place an anti-ballistic missile system in countries bordering Russia.
While the stated purpose of deployment of the anti-missile system in Europe is to stop Iranian missiles, the Russians are under no illusion that the system is to jeopardize its own nuclear deterrence, which Moscow has dubbed a game-changer prompting its response.