Why Russia Is Conducting Tactical Nuclear Drills

The US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that the Kremlin is calculating the timing of launching the “nuclear sword” to coincide with important political discussions in the West.

The Russian Aerospace Forces will also conduct exercises with Iskander ballistic missiles and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The Russian Ministry of Defense previously announced preparations for this exercise on May 6. ISW noted that a famous Russian blogger has commented that nuclear exercises are directly linked to the Kremlin’s efforts to influence Western decision-making. This move takes place in parallel with recent discussions about allowing Kiev to use Western weapons to attack military targets deep inside Russian territory.

This confirms ISW’s assessment that Russia’s “displays” of tactical nuclear weapons are part of the Kremlin’s intentional campaign because Moscow often uses nuclear weapons to influence the country. decision-makers in the West. ISW also assesses that US and Western policies limiting Kiev’s ability to attack military targets within Russian territory have seriously weakened Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Moscow’s current campaign in the region. north of Kharkiv or in any area along the border where the Russian military may decide to conduct offensive operations in the future.

What Are Tactical Nuclear Weapons?

Tactical nuclear weapons differ from their larger counterparts, the intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of devastating entire cities. These smaller weapons are designed for use on the battlefield, with yields as low as about 1 kiloton. For comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II had a yield of 15 kilotons1.

Unlike strategic weapons, which are subject to arms control agreements, tactical weapons have never been limited by such pacts. Russia has not publicly disclosed specific numbers or details about its tactical nuclear arsenal1.

Recent Developments

  1. Drills Involving Tactical Nuclear Weapons: On May 21, 2024, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced non-strategic exercises involving tactical nuclear weapons. These drills are significant because it’s the first time Moscow has publicly acknowledged such an exercise1.
  2. Iskander and Kinzhal Missiles: During these exercises, the missile force of the Southern Military District will practice using tactical nuclear weapons. Additionally, the Russian Aerospace Forces will conduct exercises with Iskander ballistic missiles and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles1.
  3. Influence on Western Decision-Makers: The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggests that Russia’s displays of tactical nuclear weapons are part of a deliberate campaign to influence Western decision-makers. A prominent Russian blogger has also linked these nuclear exercises to Kremlin efforts to sway Western policies. This timing coincides with discussions about allowing Kyiv to use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russian territory1.
  4. Ukraine’s Vulnerability: ISW further assesses that US and Western policies limiting Ukraine’s ability to attack military targets within Russian territory have weakened Ukraine’s defense capabilities. This vulnerability could impact the ongoing conflict in the region, particularly near Kharkiv and along the border where Russian forces may conduct offensive operations1.

In summary, Russia’s recent tactical nuclear drills serve both military and political purposes, aiming to influence Western decision-making while reinforcing its strategic position in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine1. The situation remains complex, and the international community closely monitors these developments.

!War map of Ukraine 2

Remember that tactical nuclear weapons are a delicate balance between deterrence and escalation. Their use remains a topic of concern and debate on the global stage1.3

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