NATO and Russia are to hold separate long-planned nuclear force exercises amid huge tensions over Russia’s war with Ukraine.
The Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community are closely monitoring any unexpected or unusual movements of Moscow’s nuclear weapons during Russian exercises that run through the end of the month, according to several U.S. officials.
“We believe that Russia’s nuclear rhetoric and its decision to continue this exercise while at war with Ukraine are irresponsible,” a senior defense official told CNN.
According to the United States, Russia conducts an annual exercise called “Grom,” which roughly translates to Thunder. “We expect the exercise to continue for several days,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator. It will include live-fire missile launches and strategic asset deployment. ”
This is what NATO will do: On Monday, NATO will begin its annual nuclear exercise dubbed “Resolute Noon,” in which the United States is one of 14 countries participating. According to the Pentagon, it has been going on every year for more than a decade.
The exercise includes fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but not live ammunition. The United States will provide B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The main exercise area will be more than 625 miles from Russia. The defense official said the goal is to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains “credible, effective, safe and secure.”
According to NATO, up to 60 aircraft will be involved, including advanced fighter jets, surveillance aircraft and tankers. Flights will take place in Belgium, the UK and the North Sea.
Biden warns of unprecedented nuclear threat: While Russia’s drills are routine, President Joe Biden issued a stark warning about the dangers of President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat earlier this month as Moscow faced a military setback in Ukraine.
“For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we face an immediate threat to use (use) nuclear weapons, if in fact things continue in the direction they’re going,” Biden warned in his remarks at a Democratic fundraiser in New York .
He added: “I don’t think there is an ability to easily (use) tactical nuclear weapons and not end the world with doomsday.”
After Biden’s remarks, administration officials stressed that the United States still saw no evidence that Putin was turning to Russia’s nuclear capabilities, nor any intelligence that he decided to do so.
U.S. and allies closely follow drills: Tensions in Ukraine mean Russia’s drills will come under greater scrutiny.
The drills are expected to focus on strategic weapons, meaning Russia will need to give advance notice of tests of ballistic missile systems under treaty obligations.
NATO and U.S. officials said they were confident they could accurately monitor any Russian nuclear activity during the exercise. “We will remain vigilant given the covert nuclear threat and dangerous nuclear rhetoric we are seeing from Russia,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.