World news EXCLUSIVE: Published March 19, 2019 02:03:08 PM
Russia has sent “squadrons” of nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 strategic bombers
to Crimea in response to the deployment of U.S. Navy Aegis Ashore
missile defense installations in Romania, according to a report in
Russian state-run media.
“The deployment of American missile defense systems in Romania came as a
major challenge, in response to which the Russian Defense Ministry made
the decision to deploy long-range missile-carrying bombers Tupolev
Tu-22M23 at the Gvardeyskoye air base,” Viktor Bondarev, the head of the
Russian Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security, was
quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying Monday.
“This move has drastically changed the balance of forces in the region,”
Bondarev said of the missile defense shield.
While the bombers are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, it is unclear
if those weapons would come with the bombers when they are sent to
Washington views the missile shield, which U.S. and NATO officials
switched on in May 2016, as vital to defending itself and Europe from
so-called rogue states — especially Iran — a claim Moscow has
disputed. Rather, the Kremlin has said, the move is actually aimed at
blunting Russia’s own nuclear arsenal.
U.S. officials have said that despite Washington’s plans to continue to
develop the capabilities of its system, the shield would not be used
against any future Russian missile threat.
That, however, could change after the U.S. departed the
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which Russia formally
suspended its participation in on March 4.
In a statement released Monday, NATO condemned “Russia’s ongoing and
wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea,” and said it was “concerned by
Russia’s efforts and stated plans for further military build-up in the
Black Sea region.”
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the fifth anniversary
of Moscow’s widely condemned annexation of Crimea from Ukraine with a
visit to the Black Sea peninsula.
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[tags nuclear, bombs, russia]