NATO to conduct exercises of nuclear forces

NATO to conduct exercises of nuclear forces

NATO’s secretive Nuclear Planning Group met amid the alliance’s preparations for next week’s nuclear exercises.

Defense ministers chaired the meeting, which normally takes place once or twice a year at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

It came amid heightened tensions as some NATO members, led by the U.S., supply Ukraine with advanced weapons and munitions to defend against Russian air strikes.

NATO is wary of Russia’s movements, but has yet to see a change in the configuration of its nuclear forces.

However, the fact that Russia is also due to conduct exercises of its own nuclear forces soon brings additional uncertainty. According to NATO diplomats, they may take place at the same time as the alliance exercises or immediately after them.

“These are routine exercises, and they are purely related to combat readiness,” said British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, commenting on the NATO plan. – The NATO meeting is about making sure we’re ready for anything. I mean, the job of the alliance is to make sure that the 30 partners together are ready for whatever might come at us. And we need to keep working on that.”

The NATO exercise, called Steadfast Noon, is conducted at roughly the same time each year and lasts about a week.

They involve fighters capable of delivering nuclear warheads, but without actual bombs. Conventional fighters, reconnaissance planes and refueling planes also regularly participate.

Fourteen NATO countries will participate in the exercise, planned even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The main part of the maneuvers will take place at a distance of more than 1,000 kilometers from Russia.

NATO as an organization has no weapons of any kind. Nuclear weapons, nominally associated with the alliance, remain under the firm control of three NATO members: the United States, Britain and France. However, France insists on its nuclear independence and does not participate in Nuclear Planning Group meetings.

Earlier this week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent statement “dangerous and reckless” and stressed that allies “have also made it clear to Russia that serious consequences await it if it uses nuclear weapons in any way.”

Stoltenberg warned that if the world’s largest military alliance were to cancel the maneuvers, “it would send absolutely the wrong message.”

“Solid, predictable NATO behavior, our military strength, is the best way to prevent escalation,” he said. – If we now set the stage for any misunderstandings, miscalculations in Moscow about our readiness to defend all our allies, we will increase the risk of escalation.”