Russia’s ‘Nuclear Saber-Rattling’ Under U.S. Scrutiny

The U.S. and NATO are studying the ramifications of Russia’s Cold War-style rhetoric about its nuclear preparedness, America’s ambassador to NATO said, as the Western alliance steps up reinforcement of its eastern borders.

Military chiefs are assessing “the possible implications of what Russia says about it nuclear weapons -- its doctrines, its pronouncements, its rhetoric -- and what we actually see on the ground,” Douglas Lute, U.S. envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.

Since Russia annexed Crimea last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has increased what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last week called “nuclear saber-rattling.” The Kremlin has pledged to increase its number of nuclear missiles as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of its military might.

“We haven’t drawn any conclusions about” the pronouncements “and what are the actions that are implied in our response,” Lute said before a June 24-25 meeting of the NATO defense ministers, who will continue working on plans for NATO’s new rapid-reaction force, drawn up last year in response to Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

The force, which could send its first units to the front lines within 48 hours and complete the deployment within a week, is scheduled to be declared operational in January.

The U.S. is moving tanks, armored vehicles and artillery to eastern Europe, with the measure designed to prevent further military moves by Russia against its neighbors, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Tuesday in Tallinn, Estonia.

The U.S. has not yet considered “counter-deployments” to Putin’s nuclear moves and, along with its NATO allies, currently favors trying to resolve the situation through dialogue, Lute said.

“There’s no move afoot to reintroduce nuclear weapons to Europe which were removed in the aftermath of the Cold War,” he said.

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