Russia Says It Can Deploy Nuclear Arms to Crimea

Moscow to bolster military in occupied Ukrainian peninsula

Russia’s envoy to the NATO alliance said on Friday that Moscow will bolster military forces in occupied Ukraine, and is not banned from deploying nuclear arms in Crimea.

“Everything that we do in Crimea fully complies with all obligations of the Russian Federation under international treaties. We do not violate anything, there are no prohibitions on us deploying certain weapons systems,” said Alexander Grushko, the envoy, when asked if nuclear arms would be placed in Crimea.

Grushko also declined to say whether nuclear arms currently are deployed inside the Ukrainian territory forcibly annexed by Russia in March 2014. He made the remarks in a video press conference from Moscow with reporters in Brussels, where NATO headquarters is located.

European Command spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks said Grushko’s comments were “rhetoric” and a “diatribe” that would not alter the NATO position on the issue.

“Russia has illegally occupied Crimea and attempted to annex sovereign Ukraine territory, and any attempt to deploy nuclear weapons to Crimea would be destabilizing,” he said.

A State Department official agreed. Additionally, the official said stationing nuclear arms in Crimea would “violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in breach of [Russia’s] obligations under the U.N. Charter, and to be inconsistent with Russia’s commitments under the Helsinki Final Act and the Budapest Memorandum.”

The military buildup in occupied Crimea is being carried out in response to NATO’s build up in eastern Europe, specifically Poland, and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, where NATO troops are being deployed, Grushko said.

The three nations fear they will be the next target of Russian expansionism under President Vladimir Putin, who is gradually restoring Moscow’s control over several areas that were once part of the Soviet Union.

In March, Mikhail Ulyanov, a Foreign Ministry official, said he did not know if Russia has deployed nuclear arms and was unaware of plans to do so, but stated, “in principle Russia can do this.”

“Naturally Russia has the right to put nuclear weapons in any region on its territory if it deems it necessary. We hold that we have such a right, though Kiev has a different opinion on this matter,” Ulyanov said, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic affairs policymaker, said the Russians have announced a number of military reinforcements in Crimea, including temporary deployments of nuclear capable Iskander-M missiles and Backfire bombers.

Moscow also announced that two new Varshavianka-class submarines will be deployed by the end of 2015, and one Russian general mentioned they would have nuclear torpedoes, he said.

“This is the most significant of the reports,” Schneider said of Grushko’s comments. “To me this suggests that tactical nuclear weapons are there or are going in. They do not have enough manpower for ‘just in case.’”

Full article: Russia Says It Can Deploy Nuclear Arms to Crimea (Washington Free Beacon)

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