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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

NATO Is Training for A Nuclear War with Russia Right Now

A 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress taxis under a spray of water after returning from a mission July 12, 2014, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. This marked the last flight for one crew member on the aircraft, Lt. Col. Ronald Polomoscanik, the 343rd Bomb Squadron director of operations, who is retiring after 23 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele/Released)

With the prospect of a Russian tactical nuclear strike in Ukraine on everyone’s mind, the United States military and several NATO allies are coming together for one of the largest nuclear exercises in Europe. 

Steadfast Noon 22 brings together 14 NATO allies and partners with over 60 aircraft, including nuclear-capable fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets and B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers. 

Nuclear Drills for NATO: Steadfast Noon 22

More than 60 aircraft, including F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lighting II fighter jets, and B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers, will test the transatlantic alliance’s nuclear deterrence. However, the aircraft won’t be using any live nuclear munitions. 

Steadfast Noon is to be an annual exercise and isn’t taking place as a response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine or the repeated Russian threats of a nuclear strike against the Ukrainian forces.

“This exercise helps ensure that the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a press release

NATO insists that the exercise is part of the transatlantic alliance’s routine training program and it is not linked to any world events in any way. 

In its press release that announced the start of the exercise, NATO highlighted the transatlantic alliance’s new strategic concept that was adopted by the leader of the NATO countries during the summit in Madrid in June. 

NATO highlights that Steadfast Noon 22 is part of the strategic concept that stresses that “the fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.” 

Moreover, the transatlantic alliance states that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. NATO’s goal is a safer world for all; we seek to create the security environment for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Steadfast Noon 22 is taking place between October 17 till the end of the month. NATO countries rotate host duties for the exercise every year; this year, it is the turn of Belgium to host Steadfast Noon. 

The Nuclear Specter Over Europe 

The failures of the Russian military in Ukraine have brought the specter of nuclear warfare to the European continent. As the country with the largest nuclear arsenal (more than 6,000 nuclear warheads), Russia has repeatedly threatened to deploy some of its nuclear munitions against Ukraine. 

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials have publicly set some red lines that could trigger a nuclear strike, such as attacks on Russian territory, for example, they have not delivered on their threats, at least so far. 

If a nuclear strike did indeed happen, a highly likely scenario is that the Russian military would launch a tactical nuclear munition somewhere in Ukraine where the Ukrainian forces are the most threatening in order to make it seem that the attack was purely on a military target. 

NATO Ukraine Russia

NATO M270 MLRS. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

As the war continues to go progressively bad for the Russian forces and as the Ukrainian military continues to liberate large swaths of territory and edges closer to Crimea, which has been annexed by the Russians since 2014, the threat of a Russian nuclear strike will hover on everyone’s mind.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.