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NATO Saw Potential For Russian Tactical Nuke Use, Cable Says

February 16, 2011

NATO in 2009 judged that the Russian armed forces remained ready to use tactical nuclear arms to respond to low-level or other military conflicts, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 14).

In general, the alliance assessed that Russia’s military was prepared to deal with no more than a medium-level conflict in the nation’s western sector, according to a diplomatic dispatch from the U.S. mission to NATO made public by the transparency organization WikiLeaks. Two large-scale Russian military drills conducted in 2009 were handicapped by personnel shortfalls and outdated technology, the document said (Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press/Google News, Feb. 14).

“(Russia is) still relying on the use of tactical nuclear weapons, even in local or regional conflicts,” the Xinhua News Agency quoted the dispatch as saying.

NATO’s conventional military edge is thought to be a key reason for the nuclear power’s continued holding of an estimated 2,000 battlefield nuclear weapons within Russian borders. Comparatively, the United States is believed to have only 200 nonstrategic nuclear arms fielded in five NATO states.

Washington has announced it wants to begin talks within one year with Moscow on negotiating a pact that would limit the two sides’ tactical nuclear weapons. The former Cold War antagonists recently enacted the New START arms control pact, which caps each sides’ deployed strategic nuclear arsenal at 1,550 (Xinhua News Agency/People’s Daily Online, Feb. 15).

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