Robert Work, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, told the House Armed Services subcommittee that Russia is “playing with fire” with its nuclear weapons rhetoric.
“Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire,” Work declared. “Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation.”
The Kremlin issued a statement claiming Russia has no intention of ever using nuclear weapons on other countries. They did, however, warn the world they own the rights to place these weapons on Crimea, which they illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014. Putin also announced a plan to buy 40 more intercontinental ballistic missiles. These moves forced NATO to review its nuclear weapon policy.
“There is very real concern about the way in which Russia publicly bandies around nuclear stuff,” explained a NATO diplomat. “So there are quite a lot of deliberations in the alliance about nuclear [weapons], but it is being done very slowly and deliberately. We need to do due diligence on where we are.”
On Monday, Lieutenant General Stephen Wilson, the commander of U.S. Global Air Strike Command, said Putin holds too much power and even compared his regime to Adolf Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen so much power put in one person in Russia, and some of the things happening there are troubling and concerning for everybody,” he said, adding:
[They’ve] annexed a country, changing international borders, raising rhetoric unlike we’ve heard since the cold war times, and so lots of people are trying to figure out what is the strategic intent of Russia.
Some of the actions by Russia recently we haven’t seen since the 1930s, when whole countries were annexed and borders were changed by decree.
Work told the committee Russia failed to scare the West, but instead brought “NATO allies closer.” When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, its neighbors, former Soviet states, and satellite states asked for more help from NATO in case Putin made them a target.
Last year, Vice President Joe Biden and NATO leaders promised protection and security, with little concrete results. NATO countries welcomed the news of American weapons and tanks to protect them from a possible Russian invasion.
“We think that at least part of it [Abrams and Bradleys] will be in Lithuania and we are in a process preparing our military infrastructure, so it could be used for such pre-positioning,” claimed Juozas Olekas, Lithuania’s defense minister, continuing:
It is almost ready. We have been in talks with our American allies that it would be purposeful to locate the equipment here on permanent basis, in order to increase our security and support the soldiers stationed here. If the decision is taken, it will be very positive for our security.