Nuclear hysteria in the media: False reports about Putin’s nuclear ships

by time news
The headlines sound frightening: “Putin positions nuclear ships” is the headline in the “Bild” newspaper. “Warning: Putin is letting the fleet with nuclear weapons run out in the Baltic Sea,” writes the Austrian online portal Express, calling it “events the world has not seen since the Cold War.”

“For the first time in 30 years, Russia is deploying nuclear-armed ships in the Baltic Sea,” warns the Microsoft news portal “msn”. But the dramatic reports are apparently the result of incorrect translations of a magazine – which many media have spread further.

All refer to the current annual report of the Norwegian secret service. It is clear from this that the nuclear deterrence of its northern fleet in the arctic waters of the far north is becoming increasingly important for Russia. “A core part of the nuclear capability resides on the Northern Fleet’s submarines and surface ships,” the report says.

But the report says nothing about a scenario in which Russian warships with nuclear missiles on board are currently being “positioned”.

The reports that Russia has allowed its nuclear ships to sail are probably based on an article in the magazine “Politico” from January 14. The headline of the first version of the article: “Russia uses nuclear-armed ships for the first time in 30 years”. Apparently several media took up the same thing.

The statements have been reversed: now the same “Politico” article quotes a senior researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, Pavel Podvig. He says it is “highly unlikely” that the Norwegian intelligence report could be interpreted to mean that Russia deployed ships armed with tactical nuclear weapons.

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Nuclear weapons expert Frank Sauer also thinks these fears are exaggerated in an interview with ZDFheute: “Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, including those based at sea, are stored centrally. If this fleet had actually been equipped with nuclear weapons, then Western secret services should actually have observed it.”

But why is nuclear deterrence by warships apparently becoming increasingly important for Russia? “The intelligence report also states that the Russian army has dramatically reduced its conventional forces on the Kola Peninsula by a fifth,” explains Sauer. “With nuclear saber-rattling, Russia wants to compensate for its conventional inferiority.”
So nuclear deterrence continues to have top priority for Russia – “that will continue to cause us headaches,” said Sauer. Because Russia is constantly expanding its nuclear capabilities, according to the Norwegian intelligence report.

“There are crazy armaments projects like ‘Poseidon’, a nuclear underwater drone,” explains Sauer. The torpedo presented five years ago is capable of devastating entire coastal regions – through tsunamis and radioactivity. Now, for the first time, a submarine is to be equipped with it. “Even at the worst of the Cold War, you would have thought that was crazy,” says Sauer. “This rearmament has gone completely out of control in Russia.”

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