In the latest turn of events, a top NATO military commander said Thursday that Russia had deployed nuclear-capable systems that can be used for nuclear weapons. The U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said that there was no direct evidence of Moscow having deployed nuclear arms. But that does not mean it may not have happened, he added.
Russia warns against deployment of NATO missiles in Ukraine
Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov had warned that Moscow would take retaliatory measures if NATO deployed its ballistic missile systems in Ukraine. Russia was rattled when the United States sent its troops to train Ukrainian forces last month. Peskov said the deployment of NATO missile systems in Ukraine would be a major threat to Russia’s security. Russia has also opposed the U.S. missile defense program in Eastern Europe.
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General Breedlove said that a large number of systems that Russia uses for nuclear weapons are dual-use systems. They can be used as either conventional or nuclear gear, and some of them are deployed. Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of backing separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire agreed in February.
Russia stockpiling forces in eastern Ukraine
Breedlove said that NATO need not change its nuclear postures. The alliance has “a secure, a safe and very capable nuclear response and that’s our mission — to keep it that way.” NATO is concerned about Russia’s statement that it could station nuclear weapons and delivery systems in Crimea. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that he had kept the country’s nuclear forces on alert during the annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Breedlove accused Russia of resupplying and stockpiling forces in eastern Ukraine. More than 6,000 people have died since last year in the deadly clashes between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia separatists. The United States has been increasingly building up its presence in Eastern Europe to counter Russian aggression. Breedlove said NATO will assess a request from the Baltic states for more troops to counter the rising threats from Russia.