We clearly remember the not-so-private conversation the Lyin’ King had with Mr. Medvedev last May: The president unwittingly revealed, on a hot mic, that he’d have “greater flexibility” with respect to solving (nuclear) missile defense” after he was elected. Russia seems to have taken that declaration as gospel. Between February 17 and 21, the Russians held their largest nuclear drill in 20 years. The exercise tested the transport of both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons near Europe. Most significantly, the Russians not only moved the nukes but, according to United States officials, they stored them, in different locations, “far from normal deployment locations.”
Depending on whom one believes there is either nothing to see here or there is plenty to be concerned about. Both opinions originate from the government. Lt. Col. Wesley P. Miller of the Pentagon insists that we must ignore the man behind the iron curtain. He refuses, however, to comment on the movement of Russian nuclear forces and whether the action has resulted in a heightened state of alertness: ““We don’t comment on intelligence matters…” That doesn’t seem to affect his ability to make groundless statements that all is well, however.
Lt. Col. Miller insisted that the administration “will ensure continued focus on maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent as part of the president’s comprehensive approach to nuclear security…”
Well, that’s certainly a relief. Except for one thing; the Lyin’ King has already reduced America’s nuclear capacity and appears hell-bent on decreasing America’s nuclear capability still further. Russia is on the opposite road. Literally, it seems.
An opposing viewpoint has been made. An unnamed, U.S. official insists that the Russian nuclear exercise is a concern within the U.S. national security community because of the sheer scope of the exercise and of the number of weapons being moved. “Certainly it’s a concern when you have this kind of exercise going on …” He went further. He added that Russia appears to be escalating the readiness of its nuclear forces at a time when “the U.S. nuclear complex is in urgent need of upgrading and the military is facing sharp automatic defense cuts that could affect U.S. nuclear forces’ readiness in the future.”
In addition to this, The Hill reported that the National Nuclear Security Administration, “which runs the nuclear weapons complex, were notified of possible furloughs under automatic spending cuts that went into effect March 1…” Defense Secretary Panetta confirms that nothing is off the table with respect to military cuts because of the sequester.
The Russian drill involved 7,000 troops as well as several hundred pieces of equipment and 48 aircraft. Nuclear weapons were reportedly moved to three large storage facilities, two of which are located perilously close to Europe. According to the START treaty between America and Russia, Russia is required to notify the United States of any major nuclear exercises involving bomber flights. Somehow, the enormous, Russian nuclear movements didn’t come up during the meeting between John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on February 26. But, happily, strategic arms talks, between the United and States and Russia, will remain on the schedule. Whew.
Conflicting opinions have been offered about Russia’s nuclear weapons activity. Is the West crushed? Is the Wicked Witch of the East alive and kicking? Worry? Don’t worry? Based on the information available, my money is on “worry.”