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U.S. accused of taking out Russian nuclear missile early warning system in latest escalation
By Cassie B. // May 29, 2024

Fears are growing that a major escalation could be on the horizon in the Russia-Ukraine conflict following a Ukrainian drone strike on a Russian radar station for tracking nuclear missiles that some Russian officials believe the U.S. was behind.

This week, Ukraine hit the high-tech Armavir radar station in the border area of Krasnodar. The system provided Russia with conventional air defense but also played a key role in its nuclear warning system. It has also been used to track the long-range ATACMS missiles that the U.S. supplied to Ukraine.

Officials in Kiev have already acknowledged their responsibility for the attack, confirming over the weekend that they targeted the facility.

A senior researcher for the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich, Mauro Gilli, said that he believes the move was a tactical success because it means Russia will have to redeploy its air defense systems. It also sent a message that no military site in Russia is untouchable.

However, many other analysts in the West have expressed reservations about the move and believe that Ukraine should not target any Russian nuclear infrastructure.

Federation of American Scientists nuclear arsenal expert Hans Kristensen said: “Not a wise decision on the part of Ukraine.”

Norwegian military analyst Thord Are Iversen agreed, saying that the move was “not a particularly good idea… especially in times of tension. It’s in everyone’s best interest that Russia’s ballistic missile warning system works well.”

Russian senator does not believe Ukraine could have carried out attack without U.S. help

Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian senator and member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, believes the U.S. should be considered directly responsible for the hit. He said that it is very unlikely that Ukraine could have carried out such a strike on its own without any involvement from the U.S., adding that military superiority over Russia is something the U.S. has sought for many years.

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He said that attacks like this one on key elements of Moscow’s nuclear umbrella could cause the entire worldwide nuclear security architecture to collapse.

Referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he said that “the U.S. has commissioned a crime by hiring an irresponsible bandit” to attack what he described as a nuclear early warning system. The radar station has been in operation since 2013 and can detect incoming ballistic and cruise missiles at a range of 6,000 kilometers, keeping track of as many as 500 targets at once.

He said that the U.S.’s “deep involvement in the armed conflict and total control over Kiev’s military planning means that the version that the U.S. does not know about Ukrainian plans to strike Russia’s missile defense system can be discarded.”

Russia has not yet made any official comments about the attack, which came not long after it started carrying out tactical nuclear missile exercises in the Southern Military District, which includes Russian regions bordering Ukraine as well as Crimea. The drills are widely being interpreted as a warning to Western officials who are increasingly implying they could deepen their involvement in the war.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has not backed down on its insistence that Ukraine avoid using Western weapons for cross-border strikes, although U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently hinted that a change of policy on this particular matter could be forthcoming. Some Ukrainian military commanders have complained that Russia is building up its forces just across the border knowing that Ukraine would not be able to strike them.

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