Dave DeCamp Military Nuclear War

Russia Says US Lowering ‘Nuclear Threshold’ By Upgrading Nukes in Europe

The US is replacing its B-61 nuclear bombs at air bases in Europe with an upgraded version.
“A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart. (Released to Public) Location: BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, LOUISIANA (LA) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) DoD photo by: SSGT PHIL SCHMITTEN Date Shot: 1 Dec 1986”. United States Department of Defense (SSGT Phil Schmitten), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com

A Russian official said Saturday that the US is lowering the “nuclear threshold” by sending an upgraded version of its B61 nuclear bomb to NATO bases in Europe.

The B61 is the US’s primary thermonuclear gravity bomb, and it is being modernized into a newer weapon known as the B61-12. Politico reported last week that the US told NATO allies at a recent meeting that it is deploying the B-61-12 to Europe to replace older bombs by this December, a faster timeline than the originally planned spring deployment.

“We cannot ignore the plans to modernize nuclear weapons, those free-fall bombs that are in Europe,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.

The US has approximately 100 B61s currently stored at air bases in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Turkey. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the B61-12s carry a lower yield and are more accurate than older B61s.

“The United States is modernizing them, increasing their accuracy and reducing the power of the nuclear charge, that is, they turn these weapons into ‘battlefield weapons,’ thereby reducing the nuclear threshold,” Grushko said.

The B61s deployed in Europe are part of the US’s nuclear arsenal that are considered tactical weapons, which have smaller yields than strategic ones. The US has an estimated 200 tactical nuclear weapons, while Russia is said to have about 2,000. US tactical nuclear weapons range from between 0.3 and 170 kilotons (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons).

The plans to deploy the B61-12s to Europe by December have puzzled experts as the accelerated timeline does little but raises tensions with Russia. The Pentagon insists its B61-12 plans have nothing to do with the current situation and denies the characterization of the Politico report.

“Modernization of US B61 nuclear weapons has been underway for years, and plans to safely and responsibly swap out older weapons for the upgraded B61-12 versions are part of a long-planned and scheduled modernization effort,” a Pentagon spokesman said, according to Reuters. “It is in no way linked to current events in Ukraine and was not sped up in any way.”

Another part of the B61-12 upgrade is that it will allow the bomb to be carried by all US and allied bombers and fighter jets. The revelation of the planned deployment came as NATO was holding its nuclear Steadfast Noon exercises, which are due to conclude on Sunday. The drills were hosted by Belgium and involved 14 NATO members and about 60 aircraft that simulated dropping nuclear bombs.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

* indicates required
Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.


  1. The USA’s deployment of all these nukes all over their “allies in Europe” is surely against the NPT and certainly is the opposite of what we all need-peace and cooperation. Why does the USA never want any action except punishing others it has decided are enemies?

  2. Everybody alive can see through this lie. The timing of the announcement is transparent. All of this because the US wants to put offensive weapons on Russia’s border–absolutely mind blowing. But let’s hope that our minds are the only things that are blown.

  3. Where in the world is the backbone of any leader! Not one has the moral courage to tell Biden and the USA to go to hell. This is utterly shocking Europe is now nothing more than a 51st state as they lead all to nuclear war. Biden has to be even dumber than Trump, at least Trump did not go out of his way looking to provoke a global nuclear war and even met with North Korean leader Kim. Leaves dismayed that I would praise Trump for even his limited diplomacy.

  4. Nice breathless article with topical piccies and pushing all the right hoohah buttons, but does anyone actually believe Russia’s allegations that the US is “lowering the nuclear threshold”?

    If so, I’d like to draw people’s attention to this article: https://www.jstor.org/stable/48591311?seq=7#metadata_info_tab_contents

    From which I copied the following excerpt:

    “Russia after all, maintains a significant arsenal of non-strategic nuclear weapons. It includes a number of dual-capable systems, such as aforementioned precision-strike cruise missiles and air/misslie defense systems that perform nonstrategic nuclear missions. In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Western analysts have pointed out statements made by Russian officials that seem to highlight that dangers presented by Russian nucelar weapons and noted increased Russian exercises, potentially with nonstrategic nuclear weapons.
    Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons are a topic of extensive debate among the Western analytical community, and even the authors of this essay diverge on this issue. A number of prominent Western analysts, including Brad Roberts in this volume of Daedalus argue that Russia envisions a fruitful first-and-limited use of nuclear weapons, and approach which they describe as an ‘escalate-to-de-escalate’ or ‘escalate-to-win’ doctrine”

    Combine this with Russia’s allegations that it’s “entitled to use all and any weapons to defend Russian Territory” right after announcing it had annexed large parts of the Ukraine. Seems a perfect fit to the current situation, doesn’t it?

    Who’s looking as if they have been training and preparing to use nuclear weapons as a an escalation route and a supplement to convnetional forces if that seems indicated?

    No-one had mentioned nuclear weapons during the conflict until Mr. Putin did, right when it had become clear that his conventional army is being defeated. Isn’t that a much more serious way of ‘lowering the nuclear threshold’ that upgrading bombs?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: