NATO to hold “nuclear exercise” as Putin threatens to nuke Ukraine

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor
NATO to hold “nuclear exercise” as Putin threatens to nuke Ukraine
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NATO, the world’s most powerful intergovernmental military alliance, will conduct a nuclear exercise next week amid fears that Russia will begin to use nuclear weapons in its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Composed of 28 European nations, the United States, and Canada, defense ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met Thursday for the Nuclear Planning Group, according to the Associated Press.

Complicating matters is the fact that Russia plans to hold nuclear exercises around the same time, even after being accused of committing war crimes, such as massacres and targeting of civilians, in Ukraine.

“We are committed to defending every inch of NATO’s territory – if and when it comes to that,” the United States’ first Black Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin said at Thursday’s meeting.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III participates in a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

Notably, NATO’s nuclear exercises are conducted every year. But this year they come at a time when tensions between Russia and the West are at their highest point since the Cold War, when the world’s citizens regularly prepared for mutually assured destruction by nuclear blasts and radiation.

Nuclear exercise highlights tension between Putin in Russia and NATO in the West

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has resulted in the deaths of civilians, military personnel and damage to critical infrastructure, the small Eastern European nation has refused to go quietly into the night, surprising Russia and the West with its determination to survive.

What was expected to be the end of Ukrainian independence in a matter of days has morphed into a months-long war with no end in sight. With European countries and the U.S. supplying Ukraine with military equipment and humanitarian relief, Russian President Vladimir Putin has appeared to become increasingly desperate to take over parts or all of Ukraine regardless of the cost.

Recent comments from the Russian dictator alleging he would use any means necessary to defend his territory has raised fears among the international order that nuclear weapons may be used.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videoconference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

“Russia will also be conducting its annual exercise, I think, the week after or just after the annual [NATO] exercise,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told reporters. 

“This is a routine exercise, and it’s all about readiness,” Wallace added. “NATO’s meeting is about making sure we are ready for anything. I mean, that is the job of this alliance—to make sure that the 30 partners together are ready for what is thrown at us. And we have to continue to work at that.”

Tensions reach highest point since Cold War

The NATO exercise, labeled “Steadfast Noon,” was planned before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. It will last roughly a week, involve 14 member-countries of NATO, and will be largely conducted about a 1,000 miles away from Russia.

Among the 30 member countries, only the U.S., U.K., and France possess nuclear weapons, though France has refused to attend the Nuclear Planning Group meetings in favor of maintaining independence over all of its nuclear capabilities and decisions.

In total, nine countries across the world collectively hold 13,000 nuclear weapons: the U.S., Russia, France, China, the U.K., Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Putin shows no signs of stopping

Despite being pushed back in recent weeks by Ukraine, Russia’s Putin has become emboldened in an apparent effort to maintain his legitimacy at home. He’s made moves to illegally annex four areas of Ukraine and announced the “partial mobilization” of up to 300,000 Russian reservists to join the fight.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, sings Ukrainian national anthem during his visit in Izium, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Ukrainian troops piled pressure on retreating Russian forces Tuesday, pressing deeper into occupied territory and sending more Kremlin troops fleeing ahead of the counteroffensive that has inflicted a stunning blow on Moscow’s military prestige.(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

For his part, French President Emmanuel Macron has claimed to have met with Putin several times and warns that Western nations should limit their rhetoric around nuclear weapons. Yet, as Russia continues to make itself a pariah on the world stage, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had strong words this week.

Western nations “have also conveyed clearly to Russia that it will have severe consequences if they use nuclear weapons in any way,” Stoltenberg said.

1 comment

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