– Russia carries out its ‘biggest nuclear army drill in two decades’ (Daily Mail, March 5, 2013):
- Russian nuclear forces tested transport of strategic and tactical weapons
- The Pentagon has said that the tests were just ‘routine’
- But the exercise comes as the US Defense could face further budget cuts
Russia has conducted an exercise designed to test the transport of nuclear weapons near Europe, according to US officials.The drill was the largest of its kind in two decades and was carried out as part of larger military drills last month.
It is said to have sparked concern inside the Pentagon and US European Command but a Defence spokesman played the incident down.
Lt Col Wesley P Miller said that there is ‘nothing to be concerned about because the Russians, like us, have routine exercises and inspections.’
But a US source said that the scale of the exercise and the number of weapons being moved was worrying, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The official added that it comes at a time when the US nuclear complex is in urgent need of an upgrade with defence cuts looming.
But Lt Col Miller said that the US government is still committed to providing an effective nuclear deterrent.
The drills took place between February 17 and 21 and follow an increase in strategic bomber flights by Russian forces off the US Pacific island of Guam and simulated bombing runs against Alaska and California last June and July.
The exercise is said to have involved the secretive 12th Main Directorate of the Defence Ministry, known as 12th GUMO.
Although specific details of what took place are classified, officials say that a large number of nuclear weapons were taken from munitions depots to storage sites.
It is not known whether the Russians notified other forces of their strategic exercises or how the weapons were moved.
But according to the Russian Defence Policy website the drills began with orders for forces to go to ‘higher states of combat readiness and carry out combat training missions’.
Russian army General Valery Gerasima said that the exercise involved several hundred pieces of equipment, 7,000 troops, and 48 aircraft.
The drills also involved moving forces to exercise areas far from normal deployment locations.
Soldiers are said to have ‘performed well’.
According to US intelligence there are three large storage facilities close to Europe, one is close to the border between Russia, Belarus and Latvia.
Two other smaller storage sites are said to be close to Belarus and Ukraine.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in berlin following the exercise but are said not to have discussed the matter.
Under the New START treaty, Russia is required to inform the US of major exercises involving nuclear weapons