< Back

US will know if Russia is preparing a nuclear strike

Oct 2, 2022

The United States will almost certainly find out in advance whether Russia is preparing a nuclear strike on Ukraine, and Moscow may well want to be found out, nuclear weapons experts interviewed by AFP say, UNN reports.


According to the experts, if such an escalation occurs, it is likely to take the form of a smaller tactical nuclear weapon, likely to be launched on an Iskander short-range ballistic missile.

While military analysts have so far downplayed Moscow's threats, and U.S. officials say they have seen no action indicating such plans, Western defense and intelligence officials are watching closely to see if real nuclear threats emerge.

Where are the bombs?

Preparations for an attack would be obvious, Pavel Podvig, a senior fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, told AFP.

The institute's 2017 report lists 47 nuclear storage sites across Russia - 12 national-level facilities and 35 base facilities.

They are constantly monitored by intelligence and military surveillance satellites from the US and other countries.

Podvig says Russia has deployed its strategic or long-range nuclear warheads in the field, on missiles, bombers, and submarines.

But its non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons, which number up to 2,000, are stored and not mounted on delivery vehicles such as Iskander, Podvig said.

"No Iskanders with nuclear warheads are roaming around. These weapons are in storage," he said.

"I'm sure the United States would see any Russian preparations to use nuclear weapons," said Mark Kanchian, a former U.S. defense and energy official who worked on nuclear weapons issues.

"The weapons must be removed from storage, the units involved must be put on alert, and the Russians may also put their strategic nuclear forces on alert," said Kancian, who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

He added that evidence would also come from possible visible training of Russian ground troops, issuing them protective equipment and instructions on how to operate in a nuclear environment.

"All this will be visible," he said.

Warning the world

The United States warned weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion that Russia intended to attack Ukraine, seeking to prepare Kyiv and allies and perhaps deter Moscow from acting.

Would Washington openly warn the world if it discovered that Russia was planning a nuclear attack? This could cause unprecedented panic not only in Ukraine, but also in other regions that could be affected by the fallout.

Such anxiety could become global if people expected an escalation to transcontinental nuclear war.

The United States would almost certainly warn allies and other powers, including, most importantly, China and India, hoping they would pressure Moscow to back down or face international isolation.

But, experts say, Washington is likely to find the public warnings useful in increasing pressure on Russia.

"The strategy should be based on isolation. It is necessary to reinforce the unacceptability of this, that it is criminal," they said.

Author - Serhii Kolomiets, 02/10/2022

Recent news