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FLASH ALERT: PUTIN TO RESUME PRODUCTION OF INTERMEDIATE AND SHORT-RANGE NUCLEAR MISSILES, RAISING RISK OF POTENTIAL MISSILES DEPLOYMENT NEAR NATO BORDERS 

Benedetta Bisaccia, Martina Sclaverano, Eamon Kobel

Cameron Munoz, Elena Alice Rossetti, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor

June 29, 2024


NATO Ballistic Missile Defence display at NATO summit in Chicago[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to all members of NATO and their civilians following Putin’s announcement that Russia will resume production of intermediate and short-range nuclear-capable missiles. This decision comes after the US deployed similar missiles in Europe and Asia. Putin ordered the immediate manufacturing of these missiles and will determine deployment locations based on strategic needs. The US accused Russia of treaty violations and withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019. In response to US missile deployments in Denmark and the Philippines, Russia resumed its own missile production. This alert signifies an escalation in global military tensions, increasing the likelihood of a renewed arms race.


CTG is on HIGH alert for the potential deployment of these missiles near NATO borders, raising the risk of rapid escalation in a conflict scenario. Putin’s decision will VERY LIKELY escalate military tensions between Russia and NATO, LIKELY increasing arms buildup on both sides and VERY LIKELY enhancing the possibility of a renewed arms race. Putin's decision follows the US deployment of similar missiles in Europe and Asia, LIKELY leading NATO allies to reinforce missile defense systems and increase military expenditures in response. The breakdown of the INF Treaty framework will ALMOST CERTAINLY reduce global stability, VERY LIKELY causing other nuclear-armed nations to reconsider their own arsenals and deployment strategies. Long-term implications include the potential for a new era of nuclear proliferation, with other countries LIKELY developing and deploying their intermediate-range missiles. This recent development will VERY LIKELY strain international diplomatic relations and hinder future arms control negotiations.


Russian President Putin stated that Russia would resume its short and medium-range missiles, including missiles designed to carry nuclear equipment. This type of missile falls under the weaponry prohibited by the 1987 INF Treaty; despite  Russian withdrawal from the treaty in 2019 following the US, Russia temporarily stopped the production of such missiles. The ballistic missiles affected by the ban and that Russia will now resume producing can travel within a range of 500 to 5,500 km. Putin’s statement did not mention the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which have a range surpassing 5,500 km and typically transport nuclear warheads.


According to President Putin, the decision to resume missile production came after the United States resumed manufacturing short– and intermediate-range missiles. This production and the increasing frequency of US bilateral military exercises with other countries like the Philippines and Denmark raised Putin’s concerns. He stated that Russia would start by manufacturing the missiles and later assess the threat level that the country faces, placing and deploying the missiles accordingly.[2]


Analysis

Putin’s statement will very likely exacerbate tensions between Russia and NATO. Russia will likely place its ground-based missiles along the borders of NATO members and states that collaborate with NATO for military agreements and exercises, to deter NATO actions in Ukraine. It is very unlikely that Russia will deploy the missiles as a first strike to avoid direct military confrontation with NATO; Russia will likely aim to escalate the tensions gradually while it strengthens its military arsenal. The production of missiles will likely take several months before the first models are available to deploy, and there is a roughly even chance that Russian manufacturers have already covertly started the production process in the past months to deploy them as soon as possible.


The conflict in Ukraine will likely shift more towards showcasing missile and anti-missile equipment, with NATO very likely aiming to signal to Russia that it could neutralize potential missile strikes. NATO members will likely respond to Putin’s statement by intensifying the frequency and length of joint exercises to prepare their defenses during a Russian attack. The US has a roughly even chance of mentioning or responding to Putin’s statement directly by referring to American anti-missile technology and nuclear capabilities to achieve stability through mutually assured destruction. It is very likely the US will work with the UK and France to coordinate nuclear forces in NATO countries, to posture them in the event of further escalation.

Citizens of NATO countries will likely express their concern with Russia’s decision, as civilians will very likely fear for their safety in case Russia deploys these missiles. European governments will very likely condemn Russia’s actions and accuse it of escalating tensions in the event of Russia placing these missiles near the borders of European countries such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Finland. Countries that sympathize with Russia, such as Belarus, will likely become part of the Russian supply chain for producing


  • CTG recommends that civilians and government officials of NATO countries continue monitoring developments in Russia's nuclear policy and rhetoric surrounding this decision

  • CTG recommends that civilians of NATO countries remain calm and follow the suggestions and recommendations of their respective national security officials regarding this event.

  • CTG recommends NATO officials exercise restrain and maintain diplomatic avenues for dialogue with Russian officials in the event of escalation following the deployment of these missiles


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate, and NATO countries continue pledging weapons and aid against Russian forces. Tensions over nuclear war in Europe have gradually escalated following the Russian invasion in 2022, with Russia adopting a policy of increased nuclear deterrence against NATO support for Ukraine. This decision has additionally exacerbated the security dynamic, and further production and deployment of intermediate-range missiles will almost certainly continue escalation. The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would constitute a major escalation in tensions between NATO and Russia, with a roughly even chance of leading to direct military confrontation and severe humanitarian and environmental damage. It is unclear if NATO countries and Russia would engage in dialogue and negotiations to prevent a first nuclear strike and the consequent retaliation.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that Russia will continue to mobilize nuclear forces to instill fear in civilian populations and increase pressure on European and US democratic institutions to withdraw troops from Ukraine. As the likelihood of Russian nuclear escalation increases, it will LIKELY decrease focus on Ukraine’s ability to recapture Russian-occupied territory and likely increase concerns over whether Ukraine’s territorial integrity outweighs the prospect of direct nuclear and/or military confrontation with Russia. NATO and Russian relations will continue to take countermeasures against each other, with Putin testing the resiliency of NATO policy towards Ukraine.


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[1] NATO leaders tour ballistic missile defense display at Chicago Summit, by Sgt. 1st Class John Laughter, licensed under Public Domain

[2] Putin says Russia may resume global deployment of intermediate range missiles, Reuters, June 2024 https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-says-russia-resume-production-intermediate-range-missiles-2024-06-28/

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