“For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the United States recognizes that Russia poses a threat to their country.” says Leonid Polyakov, former Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, chairman of the Expert Council of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS).
Polyakov notes that the United States and Russia have not yet concluded any agreements on the limitation of tactical nuclear weapons.
“The United States insisted on concluding such an agreement. Even under the former White House administration, some congressmen believed that it should precede the signing of an agreement on the limitation of strategic nuclear weapons. Such an agreement was concluded, but Russia still refuses to sign a treaty on the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons.” Polyakov explains.
Polyakov adds that Moscow is stalling for several reasons, the main one being that for Russia tactical nuclear weapons are of much greater importance than for the United States.
“Moscow set forth a specific condition for signing this agreement… the Kremlin demanded that the U.S. remove all its nuclear weapons from the territory of Western and Central Europe. But, the Europeans themselves opposed such a move, insisting that they wanted to maintain American presence in their security system. And even if the U.S. agreed to this condition, I’m sure that Moscow wouldn’t agree to sign a treaty on the limitation of tactical nuclear weapons.”
This position stems from Russia’s objective weakness in relation to NATO. If we look at conventional weapons, the NATO group is far superior to the Russian one. The United States also has a significant advantage in space, which gives them additional intelligence and strike capabilities. Moreover, the United States has started deploying anti-missile defense systems, which Moscow perceives as an immediate threat directed against Russia. According to Russian military doctrine, this threat can be counterbalanced only with nuclear weapons. We should not forget that after the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s invasion of the Donbas, there were frequent allusions to a nuclear confrontation that actually turned into direct nuclear blackmail.”
Polyakov believes that Moscow is capable of launching a tactical nuclear strike on Europe.
“They haven’t said anything officially, but Russian diplomats have threatened Denmark and Sweden if they join NATO’s missile defense system. There’s no doubt that NATO military facilities, especially missile defense sites and nuclear weapons storage complexes, are targets for Russian nuclear weapons.”
Leonid Polyakov points out that the United States, as well as American military bases and submarines, are the target of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons, whereas the range of tactical missile systems (for example, the Kalibr cruise missile) is only 1,500 kilometers… which would then target closer sites.
“So, Russian air strikes could target, for example, missile defense objects in Poland, an airfield in Bulgaria, or any other military facilities in Europe.”
On July 7 at a joint meeting of the Military Council of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Academy of Sciences, the Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko declared that Russian troops were getting ready to place nuclear weapons in occupied Crimea.
“They’ve started working on restoring storage facilities for nuclear weapons – the Feodosiya-13 site – and a strategic aviation base at Gvardeyskoye airfield. At least one frigate and three submarines of the Black Sea Fleet are equipped with modern rocket systems (Kalibr-type cruise missiles) that can be armed with nuclear weapons.
Leonid Polyakov believes that the probability of such a strike is very high:
“The information supplied by Muzhenko indicates that Russia is getting ready to deploy and use nuclear weapons. The targets of these attacks would be any NATO administration or base: headquarters, military bases and aircraft carriers, such as those stationed in France and the United Kingdom, as well as missile defense systems that are deployed in Turkey, Romania and Poland.”
Speaking at the European Parliament in December 2016, the leader of the Crimean Tatar people, Deputy of Ukraine Mustafa Dzhemilev announced that Russia had already delivered nuclear weapons to Crimea.
Earlier, in an interview with Interfax Russia on December 15, 2014, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia had the right to deploy nuclear weapons in annexed Crimea.
“Crimea has become part of a state (Russia-Ed.) that has such weapons in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In compliance with international law, Russia has every reason to dispose of its legitimate nuclear arsenal in accordance with its interests and in accordance with its international legal obligations.”