Friday

19th Jul 2019

Nato rebukes Putin's 'nuclear rhetoric'

  • Putin at the Kubinka fair on Tuesday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Nato has accused Russia of “nuclear sabre-rattling” after Vladimir Putin said he’ll deploy 40 new missiles.

The Russian leader made the announcement on Tuesday (16 June) at an arms fair in Kubinka, near Moscow.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“This year, our nuclear forces are going to get more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] capable of penetrating all existing, even the most advanced missile defences”, he said.

His deputy defence minister, Anatoly Antonov, who is on an EU blacklist over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, linked the news to US plans to position tanks and F-22 jets in eastern Europe.

“It looks like our colleagues from Nato member states are pushing us into an arms race”, he said.

The ICBM announcement prompted a rebuke from Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

He said, while visiting the European Commission in Brussels the same day, that “Russia is using nuclear rhetoric more in the way they’re messaging their defence strategy”.

“This nuclear sabre-rattling is unjustified. It’s destabilising. It’s dangerous”.

He said Nato deployment in eastern Europe is “proportionate, defensive, and fully in line with our international commitments".

He also said it comes because "we’re seeing a Russia which is more assertive and which is responsible for aggressive actions, especially in Ukraine”.

Old news

For his part, Pavel Podvig, a Russian military expert who works for the UN’s Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, played down the importance of the ICBMs.

He told EUobserver Russia has about 300 of them in service, as well as nuclear submarines and strategic bombers.

He also said its rearmament programme began before the Ukraine crisis: “It [the 40 new ICBMs] is not a particularly big increase in numbers. It’s business as usual”.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russia expert at Rusi, a defence think tank in the UK, said Russia is likely to retire about 60 ICBMs this year, resulting in a net decrease.

He said some of its Soviet-era missiles are inferior to what the UK and the US had in the 1970s.

He added that its heaviest ICBM, the R-36, used to be serviced by Uzmash, a Ukrainian firm. But co-operation stopped due to the war, posing the question: “Does the Russian military believe it can still count on them to detach their payload?”.

Nuclear rhetoric

The analysts echoed Stoltenberg on “nuclear rhetoric”.

“Russia is trying to send the signal it’s crazy enough to escalate to a nuclear level if it comes to that", Podvig said.

Referring to Western states' refusal to arm Ukraine, he added: “It’s hard to know what would happen in reality … but Putin is counting on the West to back down when confronted with the prospect of escalation and to some extent it’s working”.

Sutyagin said Putin's aggrandisement of Russia's nuclear arsenal is also internal propaganda.

“It's the only remaining tool in his possession to claim the status of a great power”, he said.

“Oil and gas is being lost due to substitution of Russian exports in the West. He’s losing his favourite energy weapon. The economy is weak and declining. Russian soft power is purely negative. So, what else does he have?”.

Nato solidarity lacks public support

More than half of Germans, Italians, and French are opposed to honouring Nato's Article V in a conflict between Russia and a neighbouring Nato state.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us