The Norwegian Intelligence Service has reported Monday that Russian warships in the navy’s Northern Fleet have been deployed with tactical nuclear weapons.
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 Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered battle cruiser at the Russian Northern Fleet’s Arctic base of Severomorsk on May 13, 2021. Norway’s intelligence agency said in a new report that Russia’s Northern Fleet has gone to sea armed with tactical nuclear weapons.
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.
“With weakened conventional capability, the importance of nuclear weapons for Russia has increased significantly,” the report said. “The Russian strategic and regional deterrent forces have thus become increasingly important for the Russian military power.”
The agency’s assessment concluded that Russia will continue to maintain and further develop its nuclear arsenal in the coming years.
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.”