Ukraine: NATO and EU set to supply ‘more lethal’ weapons
Finland and Sweden took major steps towards becoming the newest members of NATO this week as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to cause concern across Europe. The Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, said on Wednesday that her country, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”. Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson added that there was “no point” in delaying analysis of whether it was right for Sweden to apply for NATO membership. Both countries are well aware of the threat Russia could pose to non-NATO members, especially after a Kremlin figure threatened Finland and Sweden with “military consequences” if they tried to join the alliance.
Russia’s aggression has left many fearing that the world could be headed for conflict between two nuclear powers.
Three NATO countries have nuclear weapons – the US, the UK and France.
The US has 5,550 nuclear weapons, of which 1,389 are active, 2,361 are available, and 1,800 are retired.
Meanwhile, France has 290 active nuclear weapons and the UK has 225.
Russia has the most nuclear weapons of any country, at 6,257.
Of these, 1,458 are active, meaning they are already deployed, 3,039 are available (can be deployed if needed) and 1,760 are retired (out of use and awaiting dismantlement).
NATO news: Three NATO countries have nuclear weapons
NATO news: NATO has a big nuclear weapons arsenal
Overall though, NATO and Russia have similar sized nuclear arsenals.
NATO’s General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, warned Moscow last month that a nuclear war could not be won by Russia.
He said: “Russia must understand that it can never win a nuclear war.
“NATO is not part of the conflict … it provides support to Ukraine, but isn’t part of the conflict.
“NATO will not send the troops into Ukraine… It is extremely important to provide support to Ukraine and we are stepping up.
“But at the same time it is also extremely important to prevent this conflict becoming a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia.”
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Mr Stoltenberg also raised concerns Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine, referencing the Salisbury attack in the UK and use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.
He continued: “Russia has used chemical agents before against their own opposition and also on NATO ally territory in Salisbury.
“And Russia was, of course, part of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. They facilitated and supported the Assad regime, which has actually used chemical weapons several times.
“So we are concerned and that’s also [a] reason why we are ready and we’ll address tomorrow ways to provide support to Ukraine to protect themselves.”
In late February, Putin signalled he was willing to use his nuclear arsenal.
He ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert.
The US accused Putin of “totally unacceptable” escalation and made clear that it would keep up its support of Ukraine and punitive measures on Russia.
Dr Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia, spoke to Politico at the time and was asked whether Putin would launch his nuclear weapons.
She said: “Every time you think, ’No, he wouldn’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would.
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“And he wants us to know that, of course. It’s not that we should be intimidated and scared. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what it is that we’re going to do to head them off.”
Late last month, Russia reasserted its right to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who is deputy chairman of the country’s security council, said Moscow could strike against an enemy that only used conventional weapons, while Putin’s defence minister claimed nuclear “readiness” was a priority.
Medvedev said: “We have a special document on nuclear deterrence. This document clearly indicates the grounds on which the Russian Federation is entitled to use nuclear weapons.
“There are a few of them, let me remind them to you: number one is the situation when Russia is struck by a nuclear missile. The second case is any use of other nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies.
“The third is an attack on a critical infrastructure that will have paralysed our nuclear deterrent forces.
“And the fourth case is when an act of aggression is committed against Russia and its allies, which jeopardised the existence of the country itself, even without the use of nuclear weapons, that is, with the use of conventional weapons.”