NATO is going ahead with long-planned nuclear exercises next week despite rising tensions over the war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that he is not lying about using all means available to defend Russian territory, NATO Secretary General Jens said. Stoltenberg said Tuesday.
The exercise, called “Constant Noon,” is held annually and typically lasts about a week. These are warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but they are not live bombs. Conventional jets and surveillance and refueling aircraft are also routinely involved.
Fourteen of NATO’s 30 member countries will take part in the exercise, which was planned before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The main part of the exercises will take place more than 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) from Russia, a NATO official said.
“It would send a very wrong signal if we suddenly canceled a long-planned routine exercise due to the war in Ukraine. That would absolutely be the wrong signal to send,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.
“The firm and predictable behavior of NATO, our military force, is the best way to avoid an escalation,” he said. “If we now create the basis for misunderstandings, miscalculations in Moscow about our willingness to protect and defend all allies, we would increase the risk of escalation.”
With the Russian army retreating under blows from Ukrainian forces armed with Western weapons, Putin raised the stakes by annexing four Ukrainian regions and declaring a partial mobilization of up to 300,000 reservists to bolster the crumbling front line.
As his war plans have gone awry, Putin has repeatedly signaled that he might resort to nuclear weapons to protect Russian profits. The threat is also intended to deter NATO nations from sending more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.
NATO as an organization does not possess weapons. Nuclear weapons nominally linked to NATO remain under the firm control of three member countries: the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The alliance’s secret nuclear planning group will meet on Thursday among defense ministers.
Stoltenberg described Putin’s spiraling nuclear rhetoric as “dangerous and reckless” and stressed that the allies “have also clearly conveyed to Russia that there will be grave consequences if they use nuclear weapons in any way.”
“We are closely monitoring Russia’s nuclear forces,” Stoltenberg said. “We have not seen any change in Russia’s position, but we remain vigilant.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.