Norway: Russian Warships Carry no Tactical Nukes
The Norwegian military intelligence announced that the earlier reports indicating that the Northern Fleet vessels carry tactical nukes had been untrue, "Barents Observer" reports.
The announcement on the reported deployment of nuclear weapons on warships by Russians referred to an intel report. The reports indicating that phenomenon have been published by Newsweek, Politico, Barents Observer, and several other media outlets, including the Polish Press Agency, Defence24.pl, and Jerusalem Post.
It turned out that the aforesaid interpretation of the new Norwegian intelligence report is untrue. Speaking to Barents Observer, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian intelligence admitted that the source text of the report left a lot of room for interpretation.
The authors were indicating the growing role of the Northern Fleet warships, when it comes to the deployment of nuclear weapons, within the context of weakened conventional capabilities of the Russian Forces, following the War in Ukraine. That, however, did not mean that the Northern Fleet vessels (with the exclusion of the strategic submarines with nuclear missiles) received nuclear warheads. Nuclear weapons have become much more important for the Russians, whose hands are at the moment tied by the war in Ukraine.
The submarines, and surface combatants that carry no strategic ballistic missiles, but are armed with Kalibr cruise missiles instead, can still utilize nuclear weapons. Ever since the 1990s, tactical nuclear warheads have been placed in permanent storage facilities, not on warships. And as for now, nothing seems to suggest that this situation would change.
As PISM's analyst Artur Kacprzyk said, the NATO and USA authorities made clear signals that despite the harsh rhetoric, no changes were observed in the functioning of the Russian nuclear weapons, following the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian nuclear weapons storage facilities are probably being monitored by NATO.
The monitoring of the nuclear weapons storage facilities remains highly important, as when Iskander's tactical nuclear warhead is placed in a warship-borne launcher, it is almost indistinguishable from conventional weapons. If the Russians decided to make such a move, NATO would need to implement extra security measures, and the risk of escalation would grow.
This has not yet happened or been observed. The situation was inspired by the Norwegian intelligence report, or a fragment of that report (other fragments mentioned the fact that no changes happened to Russian deterrence), and the media interpretation shows how easy it is to be misled, even in matters of key importance. Let us add that Politico and Barents Observer have since made serious changes to their original articles, and they no longer suggest that a deployment of nuclear missiles happened. The original narrative, however, was widely circulated in the public sphere.