No Russian ‘muscle movements’ after Putin’s nuclear readiness warning, US says

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the construction site of the National Space Agency in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the construction site of the National Space Agency on the premises of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, in Moscow, Russia February 27, 2022. Sputnik / Sergey Guneev / Kremlin via REUTERS / File Photo

February 28, 2022

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has yet to see any “muscle movement” following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s weekend declaration that he was putting its nuclear forces on alert, an official said. senior US defense said on Monday.

However, some former US officials and experts warn that it would be a mistake to write Putin’s remarks as ill-advised, given the risk that Putin could decide to escalate the use of nuclear weapons if he feel cornered in the war in Ukraine or if war breaks out. into NATO.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday said its nuclear missile forces and North and Pacific fleets had been placed on “enhanced” combat missions, following orders from Putin a day earlier.

The phrase special combat mission, or reinforcement, seems to have confused the Pentagon.

“It’s not an artistic term that we understand as the Russian (nuclear) doctrine,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “So that’s why we’re analyzing it and looking at it to try to understand exactly what it means.”

The leaders of the US military, which built much of its intelligence-gathering architecture to spy on the Soviets, did not know about Putin’s decision until he went public and until now. , there’s still no major weapon or force move to prove anything. it means, the US official said.

“I don’t believe we’ve seen anything concrete as a result of his orientation, at least not yet, in terms of significant or noticeable muscle movements,” the official said. .

The United States closely monitors everything from Russia’s nuclear storage facilities to the deployment of nuclear-capable bombers, missile forces and submarines.

The White House said it had “no reason to change” the nuclear alert level at the moment, and President Joe Biden assured Americans they should not fear nuclear war.

The United States and Russia account for more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, but only a fraction of them are deployed, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Russia, which called its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”, failed to achieve any clear objectives in the five days after launching the invasion, with no cities under its control. controlled by Russia, has no right to dominate Russian airspace, and some Russian militaries have run out of fuel and supplies.

Putin is also facing an unprecedented wave of economic and diplomatic isolation from the West, which is transferring hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine’s military to fight Russian forces.


Jon Wolfsthal, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama on arms control, said the United States has long been concerned about Russia’s nuclear weapons.

“We have to be very careful about what we do and don’t do when you have a country that is back in the corner, has nuclear weapons and is really talking about their potential use,” said Wolfsthal, now. with Global Zero, stated its policy of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Moscow and a fierce critic of Putin, wrote that it would be a mistake to dismiss Putin’s message about nuclear weapons.

“The people who know Putin best – the people I know in Russia – are worried about his recent nuclear statement. Those who least know him are saying it’s a cheap talk,” he wrote on Twitter.

The CRS, a nonpartisan Congressional research organization, said in a report that a 2020 Russian revision to its nuclear doctrine suggests it could launch a nuclear reaction. in a variety of different situations.

Robert Soofer, a former Pentagon nuclear policy adviser under the Trump administration, downplayed the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons to address battlefield failures in Ukraine.

Soofer, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: “The only way for this to become an issue is if the war spills over into NATO.

Francois Heisbourg, senior adviser at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), suggested Putin’s threats should be taken seriously.

“Those who say he is cheating only have their gut feelings to rely on. While those who say he is not a fraud can be based on a large amount of circumstantial evidence,” Heisbourg said.

“Because as far as Ukraine, he didn’t cheat. He doesn’t do anything innocent. He paid upfront on what he wanted. “

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Mary Milliken, Rosalba O’Brien and Jonathan Oatis) No Russian ‘muscle movements’ after Putin’s nuclear readiness warning, US says

Bobby Allyn

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