Steadfast Noon, a NATO nuclear deterrence military exercise, begins today.
Fourteen member states and up to 60 aircraft will participate in the annual drills, which will last thirteen days and take place in the airspace over Belgium, the North Sea and Britain. They come just ahead of Russia’s annual Grom exercises, where Moscow is expected to test its nuclear-capable bombers, submarines and missiles.
Steadfast Noon takes place in light of continuing Russian military setbacks in Ukraine, raising concerns among analysts and world leaders that Moscow’s rhetoric on resorting to its nuclear arsenal is more than hyperbole. Indeed, while Russia is unlikely to launch a strategic nuclear strike against Ukraine or a NATO country, it has almost 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons at its disposal. These slightly less catastrophic armaments could range from a fraction of a kiloton to 50 kilotons in strength, rendering them more suitable for limited tactical military objectives, such as attacking troop deployments.
In any case, the human and political costs of turning to nuclear weapons in any capacity is likely to remain a deterrent. Exercises like Steadfast Noon also help emphasize NATO’s intent to respond militarily to any extreme action by Russia, a posture it has maintained since the start of the invasion.
Nick is the Director of the Daily Brief and a contributing Senior Analyst to it. An attorney, his areas of expertise include international law, international and domestic criminal law, security affairs in Europe and the Middle East, and human rights.