Nuclear Weapons To Be Deployed In Crimea?

Sergey Aksyonov, head of the Republic of Crimea, confirmed that he will support Russia’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons on its territory if Moscow moves forward with the plan.

Aksyonov confirmed that Russian nuclear weapons were perfectly safe for Crimea’s environment and that they were the most advanced in the world.

The deployment of nuclear weapons in Crimea would further consolidate Russia’s presence in Crimea. Additionally, Russia could greatly increase its influence in South Caucasus due to the weapons’ range and the availability of long-range bombers.

Strategic bombers in Crimea

Russia deployed 10 Tupolev Tu-22M3 Strategic Bombers to Crimea in support of their latest large-scale military readiness drills. The Tu-22M3 is capable of delivering typical payloads—including nuclear warheads—within 2,500 km.

The Tu-22M3 will most likely patrol the Black Sea and part of the Caucasus. The treaties signed with South Ossetia and Abkhazia enables Russia to freely fly through their airspace and use their airfields to refuel—giving them a wider area of operation.

Making sorties from Crimea would also mean that Russia could extensively patrol the Mediterranean Sea where many NATO warships—SNMG2—are operating. With a speed of Mach 1.88, the Tu-22M3 would also be capable of quickly deploying tactical nuclear strikes in Europe.

Russia could also deploy the famous Tupolev Tu-95 Bear to Crimea. The Tu-95 can reach distance up to 12,550 km and fire nuclear warheads. Although slower than the Tu-22M3, the Tu-95’s range enables the Russian Air Force to cover much more distance. In fact, the Tu-95 would be ideal for Russian sorties in Asia and Africa.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in Crimea

Russia could also deploy mobile launchers such as the RS-26 Rubezh Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in the Crimean Peninsula, enabling them to strategically move the missiles.

The RS-26 Rubezh ICBM could reaach everywhere within the blue section.
The RS-26 Rubezh ICBM could reach everywhere within the blue section. Courtesy of Google Map.

With a range of 6,000 km, the RS-26 Rubezh could be launched and reach every Europeran NATO members within minutes, giving almost no time to counter it.

The deployment of nuclear weapons in Crimea is a pure geopolitical move—enabling Russia to fully control the Black Sea.

The missiles—including the Tu-22M3 payload—would be able to hit any NATO warships in the Black Sea, in case of a future blockade of the Sevastopol naval port, home of the Black Sea fleet.

According to Russia, the RS-26 Rubezh ICBM is capable of easily penetrating NATO defence missile shields—a system widely used on NATO warships.

For short-range tactical strikes, Russia could also deploy Iskander Missiles in Crimea. With a range of approximately 500 km, the Iskander would be ideal to strike targets close to the Russian border while keeping the long-range ICBM for strategic purposes.

Russian Iskander Missile
Russian Iskander Missile

Allowing nuclear weapons in Crimea would also put a lot of pressure on neighbour countries who are currently considering joining NATO. Georgia and Ukraine would be in a delicate position due to the proximity of those weapons and the willingness of Russia to use them as a mean of dissuation.

The international community is not recognizing the annexation of Crimea. Nevertheless, Russia is sending them a clear message; Crimea is now Russia and they will defend it no matter what. With nuclear weapons in Crimea, Russia would be able to “secure” Southern Russia and send a strong message to NATO by strategically placing weapons capable of countering any NATO threats in the region.

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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.