NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Russia has developed new “military capabilities” which “lowers the threshold” for the country to use nuclear weapons.
In an interview with German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle, published on Wednesday, Stoltenberg addressed the military threat posed by Russia to members of the transatlantic defense alliance.
“I won't go into specifics describing what kind of intelligence about Russian weapons we have.
But Moscow is developing new military capabilities, both conventional and nuclear, which lowers the threshold for Russia's use of nuclear weapons in a potential conflict,” he remarked.
He said that NATO was responding to Russia’s increased military capabilities by implementing the “biggest reinforcement to our collective defense” and deploying troops to NATO allies in Poland, the Baltic and Black Sea regions.
“We want to send a clear message to any potential adversaries that NATO is there to protect all allies against any threat.
The main reason why we do this is not to provoke any conflict, but to preserve the peace,” he said.
Stoltenberg’s comments come as NATO leaders prepare for a July summit in Brussels amid increasing tensions between the U.S. and its European allies.
European officials told The New York Times on Tuesday that they fear President Donald Trump will use the summit to again berate European leaders for what he regards as unfair trade practices and not meeting their defense commitments.
Trump will afterwards fly for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and they warned of the impact on the alliance of Trump leaving under a cloud before meeting the Russian leader, who NATO has accused of attempting to destabilise the alliance.
At the summit, member states are to discuss plans backed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a fighting force capable of rapidly reinforcing NATO “spearhead” units in eastern Europe
In May, Putin bragged that Russia had developed a new nuclear powered missile with unlimited range, but U.S. officials told CNBC that the Kremlin was yet to perform successful multiple tests of the weapon.
Last year Russia recorded its first drop in military spending since 1998, spending 3.9 trillion rubles ($61 billion) on defense, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.