Russia has notified the U.S. that its annual nuclear exercise has begun and that it will include launches of nuclear-capable missiles starting Wednesday, according to two U.S. officials. The annual exercise has been described by U.S. officials as “routine” around this time of year but nevertheless will take place against heightened Russian rhetoric about using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
The Russian “Grom,” or Thunder nuclear exercise, typically involves large-scale maneuvers of strategic nuclear forces, including live missile launches, a senior military official said earlier this month. Officials have expected the annual exercise for several weeks but only recently received notification from Russia.
The Russian exercise coincides with the long-planned NATO nuclear exercise “Steadfast Noon.” This year’s NATO exercise, hosted by Belgium, takes place from Oct. 17 to Oct. 30 and involves 14 countries.
U.S. B-52 long-range bombers will participate, flying from Minot Air Base in North Dakota. The exercise also includes fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets, but no live weapons will be used.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters earlier this month that the NATO exercise is meant to ensure NATO’s nuclear deterrence capabilities “remain safe, secure, and effective.”
Stoltenberg said NATO will “monitor” the Russian exercise and “will remain vigilant not least in light of the veiled nuclear threats and the dangerous nuclear rhetoric we have seen from the Russian side.” (SOURCE)