This one will make you sit up and pay attention…
With constant unrest in the Middle East, Iran flirting with crossing the nuclear “red line“, and North Korea ever-testing the nuclear waters, news that Russian nuclear forces are running drills is anything but surprising. That said, when those nuclear drills take on “heightened alert” status and involve the most extensive maneuvers in two decades, one is likely left with more questions that answers.
The exercise raised concerns inside the Pentagon and with the U.S. European Command because it was the largest exercise of its kind in 20 years and involved heightened alert status of Russian nuclear forces.
The nuclear drills were part of other military maneuvers in Russia carried out between Feb. 17 and Feb. 21.
The exercises followed a recent surge in Russian strategic bomber flights that include a recent circling of the U.S. Pacific island of Guam by two Tu-95 Bear bomber and simulated bombing runs by Tu-95s against Alaska and California in June and July.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley P. Miller sought to play down the nuclear exercise but declined to comment on the movement of nuclear weapons and whether nuclear forces went on a heightened state of alert. “We don’t comment on intelligence matters,” he said.
Miller said the nuclear forces maneuvers were “nothing to be concerned about because the Russians, like us, have routine exercises and inspections.”
However, a U.S. official said the exercise was a concern within the U.S. national security community because of the scale of the exercise and the number of weapons being moved. “Certainly it’s a concern when you have this kind of exercise going on,” this official said.
From a practical standpoint, one could easily argue that maneuvers such as this are both reasonable and relatively routine – aside from the extensive nature and heightened alter status. The world appears on the verge of something potentially game-changing. And with threats to both Russians east and west, preparedness should not necessarily be viewed as a sign of potential aggression. And for the record, I don’t think that is what anyone is implying here.
As the Free Beacon piece reported, the Pentagon and the White House have not yet confirmed if they were made aware of the drills before they took place last month. Such courtesies are typically extended between the two former Cold War adversaries. But if Washington was left in the dark, an entirely different set of scenarios could be in play.