Until now, one could hardly imagine NATO deploying nuclear weapons in the Baltics, the only NATO territory neighboring on Russia. But now Russia’s Foreign Ministry is strongly concerned for such a possibility.
What is the reason for this concern? In fact, there are two them. The first is NATO’s practice of joint use of nuclear weapons. Today the Americans are teaching to use nuclear weapons even allies who have no such weapons. The second reason is that planes that can carry nuclear bombs keep arriving in the Baltics to be deployed very close to the Russian border.
A few days ago, ZDF Frontal 21 reported that the Buchel air base in Germany is being prepared for receiving B61−12 nuclear bombs. The source said that the US Congress was ready to give money for adjusting the bombs to the planes available in the German base. Besides these bombs Germany also has several dozens of US nuclear weapons left here since the times of the cold war despite the nonproliferation treaty.
Spokesman of the German Defense Ministry Gero von Fritschen refused to comment on this report. But the reaction of the Russia’s Foreign Ministry proves that this news is not a lie. Spokesperson of the Ministry Maria Zakharova is concerned that states having no nuclear weapons are learning to use it. “This is contrary to articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” she says.
Obviously, it will not be a problem for NATO to send planes with nuclear bombs from Germany to its Baltic bases in Emari and Sialiuai. They in NATO know that should there be a conflict, they will not be able to retain the Baltics using ordinary weapons. Recently Foreign Policy published an article saying that shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Pentagon revised its plan of action in case of a war with Russia and one of the changes concerns the Baltics. According to Senior Defense Analyst at the RAND Corporation David Ochmanek, the Americans are worried that what NATO has in Europe may prove to be not enough.
According to Foreign Policy, in June 2014, a month after he had left his force-planning job at the Pentagon, the Air Force asked Ochmanek for advice on Russia’s neighborhood ahead of Obama’s September visit to Tallinn, Estonia. At the same time, the Army had approached another of Ochmanek’s colleagues at Rand, and the two teamed up to run a thought exercise called a “table top,” a sort of war game between two teams: the red team (Russia) and the blue team (NATO). The scenario was similar to the one that played out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: increasing Russian political pressure on Estonia and Latvia (two NATO countries that share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian-speaking minorities), followed by the appearance of provocateurs, demonstrations, and the seizure of government buildings. “Our question was: Would NATO be able to defend those countries?” Ochmanek recalls.
The results were dispiriting. Given the recent reductions in the defense budgets of NATO member countries and American pullback from the region, Ochmanek says the blue team was outnumbered 2-to-1 in terms of manpower, even if all the U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Europe were dispatched to the Baltics — including the 82nd Airborne, which is supposed to be ready to go on 24 hours’ notice and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“We just don’t have those forces in Europe,” Ochmanek explains. Then there’s the fact that the Russians have the world’s best surface-to-air missiles and are not afraid to use heavy artillery. After eight hours of gaming out various scenarios, the blue team went home depressed. “The conclusion,” Ochmanek says, “was that we are unable to defend the Baltics.”
With such a conclusion, it will not be a surprise if NATO uses its last decisive trump in the form of a nuclear weapon.
Arrival of Warthogs
NATO destroyers have patrolled the Baltics since 2004 but it was just recently that the Pentagon decided to deploy in Europe twelve А-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Postimees reports that six of them arrived in the Estonian base of Emari in Sept and were involved in the Atlantic Resolve drills. And these are not the first planes involved in drills in Estonia. The previous drills in Aug-Sept involved eight A-10s.
Two MQ-1 Predator with 70 men arrived in the Latvian air base of Lielvarde in Aug. According to Business Insider, the drones are supposed to collect intelligence for A-10 Thunderbolt IIs or even F22s.
Nicknamed as Warthog, A-10 has been in use in the US since the 1970s. According to the Fiscal Times, the US air command has long planned to replace them with B-1s and F-35s but the legislators are not yet ready for this. And so, the planes will be sent to Europe to keep off Russia.
According to CNN, the A-10, also known as the "Warthog," was designed in the 1970s to support ground troops in Europe against the tanks and armored vehicles of the then-Soviet Union. “Though the jets can carry a variety of bombs and missiles, they are best known for their nose-mounted, seven-barrel 30 mm Gatling gun that can fire almost 4,000 rounds per minute, enough to quickly blow apart a tank,” CNN says.
But what Russia is concerned about is that A-10 can carry nuclear bombs. In case of necessity, such a plane can fly from Estonia to the Russian border in just a few minutes. Near Estonia Russia has lots of strategic facilities and big cities, like St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov. In case of attacks, the Russians will not be passive but a nuclear bomb is a different story. Even one such bomb if dropped can have really horrible consequences.
Of course, this is contrary to all existing treaties. But the Americans have always neglected treaties they no longer needed.
Vyacheslav Samoylov, specially for EADaily