US Official: Russia Is “Playing With Fire” With Its Nuclear Threats

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With the reports that NATO is planning to discuss its own strategy on using nuclear weapons, a senior Pentagon official has warned that Russia is “playing with fire” with its nuclear threats.

Russia is “playing with fire” when threatening to use nuclear weapons in international disputes, and thus attempts to intimidate NATO, according to Robert Work, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense.

“Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire,” Work told a House Armed Services subcommittee. “Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation.”

In the past few months, there have been numerous references to Russia’s nuclear arsenal by senior Russian officials, which significantly escalated the tensions between Russia and NATO.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin was ready to put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert during the well-planned operation to annex Crimea in March 2014.

Another major nuclear warning in March came with the Russian ambassador to Denmark saying that “Danish warships would be targets for Russia’s nuclear weapons” if the country joined NATO’s missile defense program.

In April, leaked notes from a meeting behind closed doors between U.S. and Russian intelligence officers revealed that Putin would view any NATO’s attempt to return Crimea to Ukraine or to step up its presence in the Baltics as declaration of war and threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” to retain his control in the region.

And just a week ago, speaking at a military expo, Putin announced adding 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which would be able to overcome “even the most technically advanced anti-missile defense systems.”

Furthermore, Putin said that Russia will aim its armed forces at the territories “from where the threat comes,” and added that “We aren’t moving anywhere.”

Who’s to blame in the nuclear conflict? NATO or Russia?

In a response to such saber rattling, Robert Work said, “Senior Russian officials continue to make irresponsible statements regarding its nuclear forces, and we assess that they are doing it to intimidate our allies and us.”

“These have failed. If anything, they have really strengthened the NATO alliance solidarity,” he added.

U.S. lawmakers were concerned over a Russian military doctrine that is believed to include the use of nuclear weapons in the confrontation between Russia and the U.S. to force the latter to back down.

Although NATO accuses Russia of saber rattling, the Alliance has been getting on Russia’s nerves itself by increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe, including the deployment of its heavy military equipment in the Baltic states and Poland to rapidly send 5,000 troops to counter Russia threat and aggression.

On Tuesday, NATO announced it will be sending dozens of tanks, artillery, Bradley armored fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers and thousands of soldiers to allied countries in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. The heavy weaponry will be stationed in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, in order to prevent Russian aggression.

Announcing the move, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the press: “While we do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia, we will defend our allies.”

Are NATO’s military drills provoking Putin?

Earlier in June, NATO carried out a large-scale military exercise in the Baltic Sea, while the Russians watched, swallowing nervously.

For the past 65 years, NATO has carried out hundreds of military drills, but not a single one of them were as massive as the ‘Noble Jump’ exercises in Poland, which were completed at the end of the past week.

The military drills were the first exercises of the recently created NATO’s very high readiness Spearhead Force. The need to carry out such military drills clearly indicate the tense relations between NATO and Russia, which responds to every NATO’s military drills with its own exercises.

Furthermore, Pentagon has not dismissed the reports in the media that said the United States is coming up with a plan to station heavy military equipment in the states of Eastern Europe that neighbor with Russia. Russia, in turn, claims that this kind of activity violates the agreement of demilitarization in the region.

U.S. pushes Putin to start increasing Russia’s nuclear arsenal like crazy

Meanwhile, just yesterday, NATO and some sources claimed that the Alliance is planning to discuss its own strategy on using nuclear weapons at a meeting in Brussels, according to The Guardian.

And while NATO officials are wondering whether Russia’s threats have to be taken seriously or dismissed as a childish exaggeration and boasting, the U.S. is preparing to embark on an expensive long-term effort to modernize its nuclear force.

The modernization process, which includes weapons, submarines, bombers and ballistic missiles, would cost from $355 billion over a decade to about $1 trillion over 30 years. Many U.S. officials are wondering what could the money be used for if it wasn’t for Russia’s threatening attitude of the past one and a half years.

However, would the U.S. long-term nuclear modernization really restrain Russia? It would rather encourage Putin to launch a new arms race, which means starting a new Cold War. Or worse, to get out of existing nuclear arms control treaties and start increasing his country’s nuclear arsenal like crazy.

But here’s another question: will Putin back down if the U.S. continues stationing its heavy military equipment and soldiers in Eastern Europe? So far, it has not helped.

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