Russia issued a chilling warning amid speculation the US may return some of its nuclear weapons to British soil for the first time in 15 years.
Discussions over the possibility of Washington relocating some of its nuclear weaponry to Britain began after it was noticed the 2024 US Air Force budget argued in favour of the allocation of $50,000 for a project titled “surety dormitory” at RAF Lakenheath in Surrey.
The item description read: “Current situation: With the influx of airmen due to the arrival of the potential Surety mission and the bed down of the two F/35 squadrons there is a significant deficiency in the amount of unaccompanied housing available for E-4s and below at Royal Air Force Lakenheath.”
The word “surety” included in the budgetary justification package dated March 2023 is normally used within the US Department of Defense and Department of Energy to refer to the ability to keep nuclear weapons safe and secure, the Federation of American Scientists noted in late August.
Seemingly responding to this report, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: “If this step is ever made, we will view it as escalation, as a step toward escalation that would take things to a direction that is quite opposite to addressing the pressing issue of pulling all nuclear weapons out of European countries.”
She continued: “In the context of the transition of the United States and NATO to an openly confrontational course of inflicting a ‘strategic defeat’ on Russia, this practice and its development force us to take compensating countermeasures designed to reliably protect the security interests of our country and its allies.”
This threat comes only weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin said to have deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.
While Western allies haven’t seen evidence of weaponry being moved, if this happened it would mark the first time Moscow has placed nuclear weapons outside of its borders since the end of the Soviet Union.
Speaking in June, Putin claimed Russian tactical nuclear warheads had already been delivered to Alexander Lukashenko’s country.
However, he added, he saw no need for now to resort to using nuclear weapons.
The Russian President and his allies have been threatening nuclear destruction several times since Moscow illegally invaded Ukraine in February last year.
In February, the Russian leader announced Russia would suspend its participation in the 2010’s New START treaty, the last major arms control deal still in place with Washington.
By opting out of it, Moscow stopped allowing Washington to physically check its nuclear arsenal and in turn lost the privilege to do so with the US.
In July, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally of Putin, claimed Russia would be left with no other option but to launch nuclear missiles if Ukraine succeeded in “tear[ing] away” Russian land – referring not just to territories within the Russian borders but also to those annexed by the Kremlin in recent years.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia annexed amid international clamor four provinces of eastern Ukraine its men had managed to partially occupy.