Newsweek | by Jon Jackson | February 14, 2023
Warships in the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet have been deployed with tactical nuclear weapons, the Norwegian Intelligence Service said in a report released Monday.
The intelligence agency noted the presence of the weapons on the vessels in its annual report. It is believed that this is the first time in 30 years the fleet has gone to sea with the nuclear weapons on board.
“A central part of the nuclear capabilities is located on the North Fleet’s submarines and surface vessels,” the report said.
Norway’s intelligence went on to describe the “particularly serious threat” that Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons pose to NATO countries.
“In addition, Russia has, among other things, underwater capabilities, anti-satellite weapons and cyber tools that can threaten Norway and NATO,” the report said.
The Soviet Union’s Northern Fleet warships often went to sea equipped with nuclear weapons during the Cold War, Politico reported. But the latest development reportedly marks the first time the Russian Federation has deployed the ships with nuclear weapons.
Norway’s report also detailed the increased importance of nuclear weapons for Russia now that the nation’s defense budget is set to increase by 34 percent in 2023.
Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has mostly avoided direct talk of using nuclear weapons during Russia’s war in Ukraine, which will reach the one-year mark on February 24, Kremlin officials like Dmitry Medvedev—the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former president of Russia—and various members of Russia’s state-controlled media have floated the possibility of using nuclear weapons in recent weeks.
In a January post on his Telegram channel, Medvedev invoked the possibility of nuclear war should Russia be defeated in Ukraine.
“Defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,” he wrote.
Norway’s intelligence report warned about the dangers of NATO being directly drawn into the war in Ukraine due to “unintended incidents.”
“Russian decisions are characterized by a strong distrust of Western intentions. This perception has been significantly reinforced as a result of the West’s reaction to the invasion of Ukraine,” the report said. “Both the likelihood of misunderstandings between Russia and NATO and unintended incidents increase, which in turn increases the risk of escalation.”
Newsweek reached out to the ministries of foreign affairs for Norway and Russia for comment.