The U.S. deployed a special nuclear security team to install radiation detectors in Ukraine that could identify the origin of any nuclear weapon that attacks the country, according to The New York Times.
The operation’s objective is to minimize any uncertainty of Russia’s culpability should President Vladimir Putin order a nuclear strike on Ukraine, the NYT reported Friday. Experts and officials have warned that Putin could make good on his threats to launch a tactical radioactive weapon at Ukraine, but the U.S.’ provision of sensing equipment and ongoing in-country data monitoring apparently marks the first sign of Washington’s preparation for a nuclear strike.
The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, a division of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), is helping deploy sensors “throughout the region” that have the ability “to characterize the size, location and effects of any nuclear explosion,” a spokesperson for the agency told the NYT.
The sensors will deny Moscow “any opportunity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine without attribution,” the spokesperson added. (RELATED: Putin Promises Ramp-Up Of Russian Nuclear Forces After Nixing Key Treaty)
Putin has promised to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine on multiple occasions if faced with no other option, and in March announced plans to station tactical nuclear warheads in Belarus, a Russia-friendly country that shares part of Ukraine’s northern border.
The White House played down the move as a scaremongering tactic, saying it had no indications Putin planned to attack Ukraine.
However, identifying the origin of a nuclear explosion in Ukraine may not be simple, the NYT reported. For example, the attacker could mount the payload on a truck, tank or other vehicle lacking an obvious flight path, rendering the task of proving without a doubt the bomb’s origin nearly impossible.
Experts told the outlet that public disclosure of Washington’s preparations for a nuclear weapons strike could deter attacks by making it harder for Russia to conduct a false flag operation, setting off the bomb in such a way that the forensics could indicate Ukrainian origin.
In October, Moscow alleged that Kyiv had plans to detonate a dirty bomb — a conventional weapon laced with radioactive material, Reuters reported. Washington said Russia hoped the creation of a false threat would provide pretext to escalate the war, according to the NYT.
Much of the science behind attributing nuclear explosions remains under wraps, according to the outlet.
“If a nuclear emergency were to occur in Ukraine, whether a radiation release from a nuclear reactor or a nuclear weapon detonation, scientific analyses would be rapidly provided to U.S. government authorities and decision-making centers in Ukraine and the region to make actionable, technically informed decisions to protect public health and safety,” the agency told the NYT.
The NNSA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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