Kremlin Threatens Response to U.S. Nuclear Bomb Deployment in Germany
By Matthew Bodner
Sep. 23 2015 19:29
Last edited 19:30
Aleksey Toritsyn / WikicommonsMoscow has threatened to deploy Iskander-M missiles to Kaliningrad several times over the past year, as relations between Russia and the U.S. collapsed over the crisis in Ukraine.
The Kremlin on Wednesday lashed out at U.S. plans to modernize 20 nuclear weapons stationed at a German airbase, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov characterizing the move as a potential “violation of the strategic balance in Europe,” that would demand a Russian response.
The reaction comes after German television station ZDF on Tuesday cited a Pentagon budget document saying that the U.S. Air Force would deploy modernized B61 nuclear bombs to Germany’s Buchel air force base this autumn — replacing the 20 weapons already at the site — as part of a broader nuclear modernization initiative launched by the U.S. in 2010.
“This could alter the balance of power in Europe,” Peskov told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday. “And without a doubt it would demand that Russia take necessary countermeasures to restore the strategic balance and parity.”
The U.S. nuclear weapons in question are the newest upgrade to the B61 air-dropped nuclear bomb — one of the oldest atomic weapons in the U.S. arsenal — known as the B61-12. They are deployed to bases in several NATO countries, such as Germany and Turkey.
The B61 is a variable yield nuclear device, blurring the lines between so-called tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. In other words, the power of the weapon can be adjusted for use as a small-scale battlefield nuke, or set to detonate at over 300 kilotons — true city-busting power.
Peskov did not specify what sort of reaction or countermeasures Russia might employ if the U.S. proceeds to deploy the weapons as planned, but an unidentified “military-diplomatic” source told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Iskander-M tactical missiles could be redeployed to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave in Eastern Europe that borders Poland and Lithuania.
“The issue is being studied,” the source said. “The final decision will be make after a detailed analysis of the potential threats” arising from German Tornado fighter-bomber aircraft armed with modernized U.S.-made nuclear bombs.
Moscow has threatened to deploy Iskander-M missiles to Kaliningrad several times over the past year, as relations between Russia and the U.S. collapsed over the crisis in Ukraine.
Tensions over Ukraine have seen heightened nuclear rhetoric emanating from Moscow. The Iskander missile system is a short-range tactical missile capable of being armed with nuclear weapons.
Neither the Iskander nor the U.S. B61 bombs are governed by any arms control treaties, with the exception of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which stipulates that nuclear weapons cannot be shared with non-nuclear nations.