Russia Begins Nuclear Weapons Exercises Near Ukraine

PeopleOther ♦ Published: May 21, 2024; 21:10 ♦ (Vindobona)

Russia has begun nuclear weapons exercises near the Ukrainian border, once again issuing a stronger nuclear threat to the West. The exercises, which are taking place in the south of Russia, include training with tactical nuclear weapons, as announced by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Given Western arms deliveries to Ukraine, which has been resisting the Russian war of aggression for more than two years, the maneuver is seen as an additional threatening gesture by Russian President Vladimir Putin. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / - The President of the Russian Federation [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

According to the ministry's statement, the soldiers of the Russian army's Southern Military District are practicing the use of special ammunition for the Iskander missile system. This includes equipping launchers and secretly advancing to the intended launch positions, as reported by ORF.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly issued nuclear threats to the West since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. According to the ministry, these latest exercises are intended as a reaction to "provocative statements and threats from certain Western representatives". Only recently, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused French President Emmanuel Macron and British representatives of contributing to the escalation of nuclear tensions through their statements.

Exercises with tactical nuclear weapons

Tactical nuclear weapons, unlike strategic nuclear weapons that can destroy entire cities, are designed for use on the battlefield. The current exercises aim to prepare units and equipment for the "combat use of non-strategic nuclear weapons" to ensure Russia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

According to the Ministry of Defense, the exercises also include equipping Kinzhal hypersonic missiles with special warheads and flying into certain patrol areas. Video footage from the ministry shows missiles being transported in a military convoy and brought into firing position.

Background and Western Reactions

The maneuvers are taking place against the backdrop of the West's continued supply of weapons to Ukraine, which has been fighting against Russia's war of aggression for more than two years. Western countries have provided Ukraine with military equipment and intelligence information, but have not yet sent any troops of their own.

Analysts see the exercises as a clear warning signal from Putin to the West to stop interfering in the war in Ukraine. "The exercises are a reaction to the discussion about NATO troops in Ukraine," said Nikolai Sokov, a former Soviet and Russian arms control official, as reported by Reuters. Western militaries will be watching the exercises closely to conclude how much warning time they would have if Russia were to deploy such weapons.

The Russian maneuvers were also conducted in response to statements made by Western politicians, as Politico reported. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron had stated during a visit to Kyiv that Ukraine could attack Russia with British weapons, while Macron had hinted at the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine.

International reactions

Russia's Foreign Ministry described the exercises as a "sobering message" to the West and its "puppets" in Ukraine, as reported by Reuters. "We hope that these exercises will cool down the hot heads in Western capitals," it said in a statement. The West should recognize the potentially catastrophic consequences of the strategic risks it is generating and refrain from direct military confrontation with Russia.

In addition to the exercises in southern Russia, Belarus, where Russia deployed tactical nuclear weapons last year, will also be involved in the maneuvers. The latest developments underline the growing importance of non-strategic nuclear weapons in Moscow's strategic thinking since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, where Russian conventional forces have had considerable difficulties in the first two years. With this renewed nuclear threat, Russia is making it clear that it is prepared to use any means necessary to defend its territorial claims and deter the West from further escalating the conflict.

Russian MoD