Russia says U.S. lowering ‘nuclear threshold’ with newer bombs in Europe

  • Russia warns US about new B61s
  • Pentagon: Long Planned Modernization
  • Russia says NATO is boosting nuclear plans
  • Pentagon: B61 updates not related to Ukraine
  • Russia: the latest bombs are of strategic significance

LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Russia said on Saturday that the accelerated deployment of modernized U.S. B61 tactical nuclear weapons at NATO bases in Europe would lower the “nuclear threshold” and that Russia would take the move into account in his military planning.

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

Amid the Ukraine crisis, Politico reported on October 26 that the United States told a closed-door NATO meeting this month that it would accelerate the deployment of an upgraded version of the B61, the B61-12 , with the new weapons arriving at European bases in December, several months ahead of schedule.

“We cannot ignore plans to modernize nuclear weapons, those free-fall bombs that are in Europe,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the state news agency RIA.

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The 12-foot B61-12 gravity bomb carries a lower-yield nuclear warhead than many previous versions, but is more accurate and can penetrate underground, according to Federation of American Scientists research published in 2014.

“The United States is modernizing them, increasing their accuracy and reducing the power of the nuclear charge, that is, they are turning these weapons into ‘battlefield weapons,’ thereby reducing the nuclear threshold,” Grushko said.

The Pentagon said that it would not discuss the details of the nuclear arsenal of the United States and that the premise of the Politico article was wrong as the United States had long planned the modernization of its weapons nuclear B61.

“The modernization of the US’s B61 nuclear weapons has been underway for years, and plans to safely and responsibly exchange older weapons for upgraded B61-12 versions are part of a long-planned modernization effort and planned,” Pentagon spokesman Oscar Seara said.

“It is in no way related to the current events in Ukraine and is not accelerated in any way,” Seara said in an emailed statement.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the two Cold War superpowers edged closer to nuclear war.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Russia will defend its territory with all available means, including nuclear weapons, if attacked.

The comments raised particular concern in the West after Moscow said last month it had annexed four Ukrainian regions that its forces controlled parts of. Putin says the West has engaged in nuclear blackmail against Russia.

“STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE”

US President Joe Biden said on October 6 that Putin had brought the world closer to “Armageddon” than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, although Biden later said he did not think Putin would would use a tactical nuclear weapon.

Putin has not talked about using a tactical nuclear weapon, but has said he suspects Ukraine could detonate a “dirty bomb,” a claim Ukraine and the West say is false.

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The US B61 nuclear bomb was first tested in Nevada shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Under Barack Obama, president of the United States from 2009 to 2017, the development of a new version of the bomb, the B61-12, was approved.

Russia’s Grushko said Moscow should also take into account the Lockheed Martin F-35 dropping such a bomb. NATO, he said, had already strengthened the nuclear parts of its military planning.

NATO “has already decided to strengthen the nuclear component in the alliance’s military plans,” Grushko said.

Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said on Telegram on Saturday that the new B61 bombs had “strategic significance” as Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons were in storage, but these American bombs would only be a little flight from the borders of Russia.

The United States, according to the US 2022 Nuclear Posture Review published on Thursday, will strengthen the nuclear deterrent with the F-35, the B61-12 bombs and a nuclear air-launched cruise missile.

Editing by Frances Kerry and Helen Popper

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

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