Russian Politicians Condemn 'Sick' Pentagon Officials After Nuclear 'Mini-Exercise'

Russian lawmakers have accused the U.S. of trying to normalize the concept of nuclear war by staging a mock exercise simulating a nuclear strike against Russia.

The Pentagon completed a "mini-exercise" last week in which "Russia decides to use a low-yield limited nuclear weapon against a site on NATO territory," to which U.S. forces responded with a "limited" nuclear response.

Russian politicians expressed anger at the exercise, accusing the Pentagon of reckless nuclear fear-mongering, The Moscow Times reported.

Among them was Alexander Sherin, the second most senior member of the lower house State Duma's defense committee. He told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that the American goal was to "get the population used to such an inconceivable conflict resolution scenario as a Russian-NATO nuclear strike."

"The second goal is to intimidate Europe's population and justify the presence of American bases on their territory as guarantors of security," Sherin added.

The deputy of the State Duman, Alexey Chepa, also suggested the exercise was primarily aimed at America's European allies. He described the drill as "a good PR campaign" for the U.S., and part of President Donald Trump's administration's efforts to pressure its allies into higher military spending, RIA Novosti noted.

Sergei Tsekov, a member of the upper house Federal Council's foreign affairs committee, said the American military officials were behaving like "sick people." Federal Council defense committee member Olga Kovitdi branded the U.S. a master of "bluffing and imitations," RBC reported.

Experts warned that the limited nuclear strike—using tactical nuclear weapons—concept is dangerous as it undermines the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction, and makes an atomic exchange more likely.

The Trump administration has signaled its intention to increase research into and production of tactical nuclear weapons to close the gap with Russia, which is believed to have some 2,000 such warheads deployed.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon said it has deployed at least one low-yield nuclear warhead on a submarine.

Nuclear cooperation has been degrading since Trump came into office. The president withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles to 3,417 miles. Both the U.S. and Russia have now tested weapons that would not have been allowed under the accord.

Another landmark agreement—New START—is set to lapse in 2021. Russia has said it will renew the deal in its current form, but the Trump administration is yet to announce its plans.

The deal capped the number of accountable deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 for both the U.S. and Russia and limited the number of deployed nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers to 700. The total allowed number of deployed and non-deployed assets is 800.

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This file photo shows the launch of an unarmed Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on October 14, 2002. USAF/Getty Images/Getty