The Polish fighters have been spotted in Italy during the exercise, which has been noted by an analyst from Federation of American Scientists, Hans M. Kristiensen. Poland took part in the Steadfast Noon exercise for the first time in history. This participation has been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence – Poland sent 3 fighters and ca. 40 people, who were involved in the event, as Bartosz Węglarczyk, working for the “Rzeczpospolita” daily, reports.
Steadfast Noon exercise is related to the NATO Nuclear Sharing system, which assumes that the member states store the B61 nuclear bombs within their territories, should these be used in case of a conflict. Poland is not a participant, due to the agreements made between NATO and Russia in the 1990’s.
According to the contents of NATO-Russia Act created in 1997, NATO agreed not to have “intentions”, “plans” and “reasons” to deploy nuclear armament to the territory of the member states which have joined NATO, after the memorandum with Russia has been signed. What is more, NATO has carried out procedures aimed at reduction of the nuclear arsenal deployed to Europe. Hans M. Kristiensen states that the Polish F-16 are not capable of using nuclear weaponry.
When assessing the reports regarding the participation of the Polish F-16 in the Steadfast Noon event, one should take into account the fact that Russia, contrary to USA and NATO, expands its nuclear capabilities, e.g. in a form of the Iskander missiles development programme. What is more, contrary to the strategic armament, within the scope it has been developed the Russian arsenal is not a subject of international agreements and proper arms control. Moscow also probably broke the INF treaty, which prohibits Russia from obtaining medium range land-based missiles.
Moreover, the Russian Federation also carries out activities, which may be interpreted as demonstration of capabilities of using nuclear weapons in Europe. According to Anna Dunin’s article published by International Relations and Security Network, during Zapad-2009 exercise the Russian Forces simulated a nuclear strike against targets located within the Polish territory. What is more, back in March 2013, Russian Tu-22M3 bombers, which are capable of using nuclear armament, have executed a simulated attack on neutral Sweden. It is then possible that decision regarding participation in the Steadfast Noon exercise (which probably needed to be accepted by the allies) is a form of response to the increasing tension in the region and aggressive activities Russia had undertaken against Ukraine.