‘Tactical nuclear weapons are a particularly serious threat,’ Norwegian intelligence report says.
FEBRUARY 14, 2023 2:04 PM CET, politico.eu
While war rages in Ukraine, Norway’s intelligence service is warning of the increasing importance of Russia’s nuclear “deterrent” in the Arctic waters of the far north.
“As the importance of nuclear weapons and strategic deterrent forces increases, the Northern Fleet’s defense of the military bases in Kola, the Northern Bastion and the Barents Sea is also becoming more important,” the Norwegian Intelligence Service said in its annual report.
When asked to clarify its assessment on the risks, the intelligence service told POLITICO: “The key part of the nuclear deterrent is on the submarines and surface ships of the Northern Fleet.”
Some commentators interpreted the report as a warning that this is the first time Russia has had tactical nuclear weapons on board its warships since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
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However, Pavel Podvig, a senior researcher with the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research, said he believed it was highly unlikely the report indicated that Russia had deployed ships armed with tactical nuclear weapons, but rather that Moscow was relying on vessels that are theoretically capable of carrying nukes.
He added that U.S. and other intelligence officials have said they have seen no signs of activity that would suggest Russia is deploying its non-strategic nuclear weapons.
While Russia also has submarine capabilities, anti-satellite weapons and cyber capabilities that could threaten Norway and the NATO military alliance, tactical nuclear weapons are “a particularly serious threat in several operational scenarios in which NATO countries may be involved,” the Norwegian report said.
It also noted that an escalation of a localized war into a wider conflict involving the United States, NATO and Norway could not be ruled out.
The agency said in its assessment that while Russia will maintain, modernize and develop its nuclear arsenal, no significant changes in its nuclear doctrine are expected in the coming years.
This article has been updated with additional information.