US, NATO Deploying B61-12 Thermonuclear "Gravity Bomb" To Europe

NATO - the United States said during a closed meeting with NATO that it will be accelerating the deployment of an upgraded version of the B61-12 air-dropped thermonuclear "gravity bomb" to European bases in December, which is a few months earlier than was originally planned.

The gravity bomb was originally scheduled to be sent to European bases next spring, according to US officials who spoke to NATO, according to a report by POLITICO.

The United States already has around 200 nuclear weapons, half of which are located in bases in Germany, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Russia has about 2,000 working tactical nuclear weapons.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told POLITICO in an email, “While we aren’t going to discuss details of our nuclear arsenal, modernization of US B61 nuclear weapons has been underway for years, and plans to safely and responsibly swap out older weapons for the upgraded B61-12 versions is part of a long-planned and scheduled modernization effort. It is in no way linked to current events in Ukraine and was not sped up in any way.”

Russia responded to the news by saying that the United States is lowering the "nuclear threshold" by deploying new nuclear bombers to Europe.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko spoke to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti and said, "We cannot ignore the plans to modernize nuclear weapons, those free-fall bombs that are in Europe."

"The United States is modernizing them, increasing their accuracy and reducing the power of the nuclear charge, that is, they turn these weapons into 'battlefield weapons', thereby reducing the nuclear threshold," Grushko added.

The Russian ambassador to Washington said on Saturday that the United States should bring its foreign-based nuclear weapons back to American territory and stop training troops from non-nuclear countries to use the arms, according to the Russian state news agency RT.

Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov was responding to a POLITICO article published on Wednesday that said that the United States was planning to speed up deployment of the B61-12 nuclear bombs to NATO bases in Europe, according to RT.

In a message released by the Russian embassy, Antonov said that officials in Washington call B61-12 munitions “tactical” and “speculate that the Russian arsenal of the same class is several times larger than that of the US. However, they fail to mention the fact that all our tactical nuclear weapons are stockpiled in centralized storage facilities on Russian territory and cannot pose a threat to the US," according to RT.

The Russian ambassador also rejected "claims by the US and NATO" that Washington's regular nuclear warfare training exercises with the involvement of non-nuclear countries are "not directed at Russia," RT reported.

“The question arises: against what other country the alliance, whose Strategic Concept calls Russia ‘the most significant and direct threat,’ trains to use nuclear weapons?” Anatoly said.

He also said that "The world is currently going through a period of “tension and heightened risks” due to the conflict in Ukraine, and nuclear powers such as the US and Russia “bear a special responsibility for preventing escalation," RT cited him as saying.

“With this in mind, I once again urge Washington to return all of its nuclear weapons deployed abroad to the national territory and eliminate foreign infrastructure for their storage and maintenance. As well as to abandon the practice of training military personnel from non-nuclear states to use such weapons as part of the so-called nuclear-sharing missions that contradict the fundamental principles of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons),” he said.

The Russian state news agency recalled Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning last month that Moscow was "ready to use all means" to defend itself in case of such an attack".

RT said that his words were "interpreted" by the United States and its allies as a "veiled threat" by Russia to use "atomic weapons" during Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The news agency claimed that Russian officials have insisted since then that Russia is not threatening anyone with atomic weapons, pointing to Russia's military doctrine that says such weapons can only be used if "weapons of mass destruction are being deployed against the state" or if it is "faced with an existential threat from conventional warfare".

On numerous occasions, Russian officials, including Putin have referred to Russia's nuclear arsenal, although they have stated that it will only use them if Moscow feels that it is facing an "existential threat", and claims that Russia is not seeking an "open confrontation," or escalation with the United States or NATO.

An "existential threat" is generally defined as a threat to a country, or people's existence, or survival.

The problem with this exception lies in the fact that there is a possibility that Moscow could fabricate a situation in which there "appears" to be an existential threat to Russia in order to justify the usage of nuclear weapons.

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine of creating a "dirty bomb" that Moscow claims Ukraine intends on using.

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted on October 24th, "According to the information at hand, two organizations of Ukraine have been directly ordered to create the so-called #dirtybomb. The works are at their concluding stage,"

"The Kyiv regime plans to camouflage the explosion of this kind of ordnance under an extraordinary effect of Russian low-power nuclear warhead that contains highly enriched uranium in its charge."

Although Moscow has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine is preparing to use a "dirty bomb," it has never provided any solid supporting evidence to speak of to corroborate its claims.

For this reason, Western officials believe that Russia may be attempting to conjure an "existential" threat from thin air in order to justify using drastic measures, such as deploying tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield.