After Months of Russian Nuclear Bluster, Moscow Accuses the West of – Nuclear Bluster

( – For months, top Russian officials have issued broad hints, in word or deed, about the potential use of nuclear weapons in the country’s standoff with NATO over Ukraine.

But on Thursday a foreign ministry spokesman flipped the script, accusing the West of dangerous nuclear rhetoric.

Ivan Nechayev made the comments on the same day Russia’s defense ministry announced the deployment of fighter planes armed with the country’s nuclear-capable Kinzhal (“Dagger”) hypersonic missiles in Kaliningrad, the exclave of Russian territory bordering NATO allies Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltic sea.

It said the three Kinzhal-armed MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets would be “on round-the-clock combat alert” at an airbase near the exclave’s capital, “as part of additional strategic deterrence measures.”

Commenting on the move, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that while the Russians “portray this as a matter of prudent defense and deterrence, that, of course, is nonsense. Russia does not face a threat from NATO.”


 Hypersonic missiles are slower than ballistic missiles, but are reportedly capable of greater maneuveribility in flight, making them harder for missile defense systems to counter.

It is just such actions as the Kaliningrad deployment that have prompted U.S. and NATO officials to issue repeated cautions over the months since Russia invaded Ukraine about the recklessness of “nuclear saber rattling” by Moscow.

But at a briefing at the foreign ministry, Nechayev characterized Russia as the responsible party and the West as reckless.

“It is not Russia, but the liberal-globalist circles ruling in the U.S., U.K. and the E.U. that allow themselves to talk about the admissibility of lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons,” Nechayev charged.

“We assume that the U.S. and NATO are aware of what the aggressive anti-Russian rhetoric with emphasis on the possibility of using nuclear weapons, which they themselves are ramping up, may lead into.”

Nechayev suggested that among those responsible for such rhetoric were NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and “some European leaders.”

For Russia’s part, he said, its doctrine provides for the use of nuclear weapons “only in response to aggression with the use of weapons of mass destruction, or when the very existence of the state is threatened.”

Nechayev stated that Russia holds to the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

That position was reaffirmed in a joint statement by the five declared nuclear weapons powers early this year – and U.S. officials have frequently cited it in response to Russian nuclear rhetoric over the months since.

Less than two months after that statement, President Vladimir Putin in launched the invasion of Ukraine warned that anyone threatening Russia – “one of the most powerful nuclear states” – will attract “consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”

He then ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be placed “on the highest alert.”

Days after the invasion began, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the postponement of a long-planned test of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, to send a de-escalatory signal.

By contrast, Russia in April tested a newly-developed ICBM, the Sarmat, with Putin calling the test “a wakeup call for those who are trying to threaten our country in the frenzy of rabid, aggressive rhetoric.”

‘Dangerous and unhelpful’

Days after the test Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the risk of nuclear war “very significant,” saying the danger “cannot be underestimated.” He also stressed, however, that Russia’s “principled” starting point was that nuclear war is “inadmissible.”

Asked about Lavrov’s words, Austin said, “Any bluster about the use of nuclear – possible of use of nuclear weapons is very dangerous and unhelpful.”

“Nobody wants to see a nuclear war,” Austin said. “Nobody can win them. And as we do things and as we, you know, take actions, we’re always mindful of making sure that we have the right balance and that we’re taking the right approach.”

Also in April, Dimitry Medvedev, former president and deputy chairman of the Kremlin’s security council, warned Sweden and Finland against joining NATO. Alluding to Russian military hardware in nearby Kaliningrad, he said, “nobody in their right mind wants … Iskanders, hypersonic weapons or ships with nukes a stone’s throw from their house.”

In May, the Russian military reported drills simulating launches of nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, practicing single and multiple strikes against airbases, infrastructure, and military command posts, and “conditions of radiation and chemical contamination.”

The announcement brought a fresh caution from the Pentagon, with then-press secretary John Kirby saying it was “unhelpful and irresponsible” for the Russians to “speak to, boast about, their nuclear weaponry.”

“I think we can all agree that the specter of a nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia is good for no one, certainly not good for Russia, it’s not good for us, and it’s not good for Ukraine or the region.”

NATO chief Stoltenberg made clear during a press conference in March that the alliance has “no plans to deploy nuclear capable intermediate range land based systems in Europe.”

“At the same time, we need to be able to make sure that we are able to respond and protect all allies, also in a new security environment where Russia has deployed more nuclear capable missiles,” he added.

“We also need to make sure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe and secure and effective,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO does not itself have nuclear weapons, but the U.S. reportedly has nuclear weapons stored at NATO bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. NATO allies Britain and France also possess nuclear weapons.

See also:
Defense Secretary Austin: ‘Nobody Wants to See a Nuclear War Happen … All Sides Lose’ (Apr. 27, 2022)


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