Russia’s Massive Military Drills Heighten Fears The Kremlin Will Nuke Ukraine

(Photo by ALEXEI BABUSHKIN/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Russia conducted a strategic nuclear force exercise on Wednesday, according to state media, part of a larger set of nuclear drills that come amid reports of tactical nuclear weapons use in Ukraine.

Moscow claimed that Russia’s Strategic Deterrence Forces launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that struck its target, characterizing Wednesday’s practice firing as a “massive retaliatory counterstrike against the enemy,” according to state-run TASS media agency. The overall exercises, dubbed “Grom,” will likely involve test firings of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and come amid heightened rhetoric from the Kremlin on the use of a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

“In accordance with the Russian Armed Forces’ training schedule an exercise is being held to practice command and control of the Armed Forces, including the tasks of carrying out a massive nuclear strike by the strategic nuclear forces in retaliation for the enemy’s nuclear strike,” Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu said in a report to President Vladimir Putin, according to TASS. (RELATED: NATO To Host Nuclear Weapons Drills As Tensions With Russia Run High)

Russia notified the U.S. of its intent to carry out the annual exercises, Brig. Gen Pat Ryder said at a press conference Tuesday, adding that “this is a routine annual exercise by Russia” and the country is in compliance with “arms control obligations and its transparency commitments to — to make those notifications.”

The strategic nuclear forces’ drills aim to confirm the Russian military’s preparedness and the ability of commanders to lead troops in performing nuclear warfare, according to TASS.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to “make use of all weapon systems available” in the event of a Western incursion on Russian territory.

President Joe Biden said he did not believe Putin would drop a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine but warned against the consequences of even threatening to do so in an interview with CNN Tuesday.

“What I am talking about, I am talking to Putin. He, in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon as if that’s a rational thing to do,” Biden told CNN, adding that miscalculation could result in “Armageddon.”

At the same time, Moscow has put forth allegations at the United Nations that Kyiv has conspired to ignite a “dirty bomb” — a conventional explosive laced with radioactive material — in Ukraine and portray it as a tactical nuclear weapon attack from Russia, according to Reuters.

However, the U.S. has claimed seeing any evidence that Ukraine in fact is preparing the false flag attack, and Ukrainian officials have denied any such plan exists.

Ryder promised “consequences” if Russia employed a so-called “dirty bomb” or nuclear weapons but declined to detail the scope of the response.

U.S. and Russian secretaries of defense have spoken twice over the phone in the past week after a period of silence since May amid increasingly frequent warnings that Russia may make good on its pledges to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

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