With Regional Tension Mounting, NATO Announces “Nuclear Exercise”

October 16th, 2022 - by Al Jazeera & Steven Starr / Shared Comment

Fourteen of 30 NATO countries will participate in nuclear wattack drills planned before Russia invaded Ukraine.

NATO Chief Says Long-planned Nuclear Exercises to Go Ahead

Al Jazeera & Steven Starr / Shared Comment

(October 11, 2022) — NATO head Jens Stoltenberg says the Western military alliance will go ahead as planned with its annual routine nuclear deterrent exercises, scheduled to be held next week amid rising tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine.

The drills, dubbed “Steadfast Noon”, are held annually and usually run for about one week. They involve fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but do not involve any live bombs. Conventional jets along with surveillance and refueling aircraft also routinely take part.

Fourteen of the 30 NATO member countries join in the exercise, which was planned before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The main part of the manoeuvres would be held more than 1,000km (625 miles) from Russia, said an official from NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“It would send a very wrong signal if we suddenly now cancelled a routine, long-time planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine. That would be absolutely the wrong signal to send,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

“NATO’s firm, predictable behaviour, our military strength, is the best way to prevent escalation,” he said.

“If we now created the grounds for any misunderstandings, miscalculations in Moscow about our willingness to protect and defend all allies, we would increase the risk of escalation,” added Stoltenberg.

With Russian forces retreating under the blows of Ukrainian troops armed with Western weapons, Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised the stakes in the conflict in recent weeks by annexing four Ukrainian regions and declaring a partial mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of reservists to buttress the crumbling front line.

Putin has repeatedly signalled he could use nuclear weapons to defend his country. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would only resort to that if the Russian state faced imminent destruction. Speaking on state TV, he accused the West of encouraging false speculation about the Kremlin’s intentions.

Russia’s nuclear doctrine envisions “exclusively retaliatory measures intended to prevent the destruction of the Russian Federation as a result of direct nuclear strikes or the use of other weapons that raise the threat for the very existence of the Russian state”, Lavrov said.

NATO as an organisation does not possess any weapons. The nuclear weapons nominally linked to NATO remain under the firm control of three member countries: the United States, United Kingdom and France. The alliance’s secretive Nuclear Planning Group will meet on Thursday.

Stoltenberg described Putin’s nuclear comments as “dangerous and reckless” and underlined that the allies “have also conveyed clearly to Russia that it will have severe consequences if they use nuclear weapons in any way”.

“We are closely monitoring Russia’s nuclear forces,” Stoltenberg said. “We have not seen any changes in Russia’s posture, but we remain vigilant.”

Able Archer Nuclear Exercise:
1 Second to Midnight

Steven Starr / Shared Comment

NATO will start its annual nuclear war exercise next week. In the “Steadfast Noon” exercise, the air forces of 14 NATO countries practice a first nuclear strike against Russia from Poland. NATO planes leaving Poland are only minutes away from Russia. The Russian military has to assume that every plane that takes off in this exercise is carrying a live nuclear weapon.  Any mistake made in “Steadfast Noon” could lead to a horrendous outcome, possibly nuclear war.

Today, Biden is talking about nuclear Armageddon, while the US/NATO is essentially at war with Russia. Zelensky has begged NATO for a preemptive nuclear strike against Russia and now NATO will be acting out a first nuclear strike against Russia.

Ritter reminds us of the Able Archer military exercise that took place in 1983, which came at a time of high tensions with the USSR.  The US had placed nuclear-armed Pershing II missiles in Germany that could hit Moscow in 6 minutes.  Able Archer was an exercise practicing a nuclear strike against the USSR, which was made to be highly realistic and included new forms of coded information, radio silences, with heads of state participating.

Some members of the Soviet Politburo believed Able Archer to be a ruse designed to hide preparations for a real nuclear attack against Russia. In response, the Soviet Union readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert.

The Soviet 4th Air Army began loading nuclear warheads onto combat planes in preparation for war. The threat ended with the end of the Able Archer exercise and the US decision not to respond to the heightened alert levels seen in the USSR. Wiser heads prevailed then, but I see little evidence of such leadership today in NATO.

Ritter reminds us that the US has previously canceled the test launch of a Minuteman missile, to make sure that Russia would not misinterpret the launch. Ritter says that NATO needs to cancel the Steadfast Noon nuclear exercise, which includes a mass launch of nuclear-capable aircraft on the Russian border.  At the very least, the exercise should be moved to Spain or someplace farther away from Russia.

“NATO to hold Nuclear Drill Despite Russian Concerns,” The Washington Times, October 12, 2022.

Scott Ritter on NATO’s Nuclear War Games


The level of war propaganda has reached such proportions that the false narratives have become accepted by many anti-nuclear activists and scientists, who don’t question the idea that the only real threat of nuclear war comes from Russia.   This makes useful dialogue difficult if not impossible.

The RAND corporation works hand-in-hand with the Pentagon.  See their 2019 report, “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia“, for some insight on what the US has been doing in Ukraine. The report begins with this paragraph:

This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress—overextend and unbalance—Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime’s political standing at home and abroad.
“Some of the options examined are clearly more promising than others, but any would need to be evaluated in terms of the overall U.S. strategy for dealing with Russia, which neither the report nor this brief has attempted to do.”

I used the “1 minute to midnight” phrase to illustrate the extreme danger we now face with the impending NATO nuclear war games.  The Bulletin created the Doomsday Clock as a means to bring attention to the extreme danger of the US-Soviet nuclear arms race.

But I think it became more of a fund-raising device over the decades after the (first) Cold War ended, as people were conditioned to become oblivious to the constant danger posed by the immense US and Russian nuclear arsenals. Perhaps that will change if we manage to avoid Armageddon (again).

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