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Stoltenberg's statements: What NATO's nuclear development means and where it leads us

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<p><strong>Stoltenberg would not be able to talk about NATO's nuclear deterrent if he was not fully aligned with the United States.</strong></p>
<p style=Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, said the North Atlantic alliance is in talks to develop more nuclear weapons and modernize their launch systems.

He told Britain's Telegraph: “I will not enter into technical details about how many nuclear warheads should be operational and which should be stored, but we need to consult on these matters. That's exactly what we do.”

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Russians say Stoltenberg's remarks on NATO nukes are 'intimidation tactic'
He also emphasized that NATO is a “nuclear alliance”, and explained: “Its goal is, of course, a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as they exist we will remain a nuclear alliance because a world in which Russia, China and North Korea has nuclear weapons and NATO doesn't, it's a more dangerous world.”

Stoltenberg wouldn't be able to talk about NATO's nuclear deterrence if he wasn't fully aligned with the United States. Therefore, the expansion of the nuclear weapons of the North Atlantic alliance is a policy and program of the Biden administration.

Nuclear sharing in NATO

NATO's nuclear deterrence is determined by the nuclear sharing agreements, explains Stephen Bryen, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, an expert on security strategy and technology, in his analysis.

As officially described, “the posture NATO's nuclear deterrence also relies on the United States' nuclear weapons being deployed in Europe, as well as the capabilities and infrastructure provided by the allies involved.

Some NATO countries contribute to the alliance with dual capability aircraft (DCA – capable of carrying conventional and nuclear weapons). These play a key role in the nuclear deterrence mission and lend themselves to operations at various levels of readiness.

In terms of their nuclear role, these aircraft are equipped to carry nuclear weapons in a conflict and their staff are trained accordingly.

The United States maintains full control and custody of its nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, while allies provide military support to the DCA mission with conventional forces and capabilities.

Britain and France

< p>While NATO's nuclear weapons are American, the UK and France also have nuclear weapons.

The US has stockpiled gravity bombs in Europe that can be released from NATO aircraft or launched from US, which operates independently of the alliance.

Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard returns to HM Clyde Naval Base, Faslane, Scotland, after patrol
Technically, gravity bombs fall under the category of tactical nuclear weapons. The US, UK and France are also developing strategic nuclear weapons in and around Europe.

The UK has around 225 nuclear warheads (more than half in storage) for its nuclear programme. Trident submarines. British nuclear capability requires US coordination.

France is the only NATO country with a fully independent nuclear arsenal consisting of ballistic missile submarines and a small number of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The French have floated the idea of ​​replacing the US nuclear deterrent with a French one and discussions were held with Germany about this idea.

A counterbalance to French pressure

To some extent, Stoltenberg's announcement to upgrade the NATO nuclear alliance could be interpreted as a counter to French pressure to deviate from the US-led deterrence in Europe.

However, it is It is certain that Stoltenberg's emphatic reference to NATO as a nuclear alliance was mainly intended to offset fears that Russia might turn to nuclear weapons to settle the conflict in Ukraine.

Compared to the US, Russia has a huge arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons and many of its tactical missiles can be fitted with nuclear warheads.

A ceremony marking the arrival of the F-22 Raptor to the RAF Lakenheath in 2016, held inside an air raid shelter with an (empty) underground nuclear weapons vault. There are 33 domes on this base
In fact, the Ukrainians have warned Europe that this is what Russia could do.

The Russians are conducting nuclear drills and claim to have placed nuclear weapons in Belarus, although none have been detected there so far. Similarly, US strategic bombers fly near Russia's border as a warning from the US.

Attacks on strategic radars

Ukraine has also attacked two sensitive radar sites that are important parts of Russia's early warning system. It is not clear why these targets were chosen either by Ukraine or by NATO, which supplies the weapons and intelligence for these attacks.

NATO relies on nuclear gravity bombs for deterrence. These would be launched against Russian targets by NATO aircraft.

About 150 such bombs are stored at six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel Air Base in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands and Incirlik in Turkey. These are part of the nuclear sharing agreement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In addition, the US announced in January that it has upgraded parts of RAF Lakenheath Air Force Base in Suffolk, England, where a special squadron, the 48th Security Force, of F-35s will be able to carry B-61 gravity bombs.

The US is building special hydraulic loading ramps, upgrading storage facilities and installing a nuclear 'shield' to protect personnel.

These F-35s will operate exclusively with US pilots and are outside the NATO nuclear sharing agreement, meaning their mission could be tied to the alliance's security and deterrence, but also used outside of any general agreement within the NATO.

The B-61 bombs

For the American B-61 gravity bombs, a modernization program (Mod 12) is nearing completion. The B-61 is a “dial a yield” weapon, meaning that the kiloton yield of the bomb can be adjusted to suit specific targets.

The US will also retain some Mod 11 B-61 bombs. Mod 11 B-61s are considered bunker busters (they can destroy targets deep in the ground) and are not variable performance. They have a fearsome 400 kiloton warhead. About 30 were built and it is unclear if they have been deployed in Europe.

For Mod 12 B-61 yields can be selected from 0.3 – 1.5 – 10 to 50 kilotons. For comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was between 11 and 16 kilotons. Modernizing the B-61s requires improving transportation systems, including changes to the aircraft's electronics.

There is very little information on how quickly the upgrades and changes can be made. The new F-35s are capable of carrying B-61 bombs if equipped for that purpose. It remains unknown how many of the F-35s delivered to Europe are nuclear.

The B61 thermonuclear bomb which has been the primary thermonuclear weapon in the US stockpile since the end of the Cold War
Many unanswered questions

It is important to note that neither the US nor NATO is bound by any treaty, or have any other responsibility to protect Ukraine from a nuclear attack. Therefore, deterrence, at least as far as it can be perceived, is not officially related to Ukraine.

But that doesn't mean that Stoltenberg, as the United States' proxy, didn't hint at the alliance's shift toward extending a nuclear umbrella over Ukraine. One reason to evaluate this may be the change in strategy underway, following the NATO-US decision to allow it to use long-range weapons to strike targets on Russian soil.

In the wars by proxy before Ukraine, the US and Russia were careful to avoid direct conflict.

This is why Truman did not want American forces to cross the Yalu River in Korea, that neither China nor Russia were attacked in the Vietnam War, that during the Cuban Missile Crisis President John F. Kennedy refused any nuclear attack in Cuba and the Soviet Union.

But there were moments when tensions peaked and approached the nuclear threshold. This was especially the case in 1973 when the Soviet Union began threatening nuclear intervention in the Yom Kippur War and when the US declared a DEFCON-3 alert.

Fuel on the fire

In context of superpower confrontation, by proxy or otherwise (the Cuban Missile Crisis was not a proxy conflict but a direct confrontation between the US and the USSR), NATO-sanctioned attacks on Russian soil appear to pass a dangerous red line.

When combined with the absence of negotiations and talks, the absence of a peaceful stance on the part of the US and most of Europe on Ukraine, the risk of an expanded conflict, even with nuclear weapons, increases . In these circumstances, the expansion of nuclear arsenals adds fuel to the fire.

(In the main photo from The Defense Ministry via Reuters, above, a US Air Force B-52 strategic bomber, accompanied by C -17 and F-22 in a joint exercise with the South Korean Air Force, in South Korea, on December 20, 2022)

Source: 24h.com.cy

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