Washington says Moscow has informed it of routine nuclear exercises, reducing the risk of miscalculation amid mounting fears Moscow may go nuclear in the Ukraine fighting.

Washington says Moscow complied with agreements to inform the United States of tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Washington says Moscow complied with agreements to inform the United States of tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. (AP Archive)

Russia has notified the United States about its plans to carry out annual exercises of its nuclear forces, the US government said, a move that Washington said lowers the risk of miscalculation at a time of "reckless" Russian nuclear rhetoric.

The United States said on Tuesday it expects Russia to carry out test launches of missiles during its annual "Grom" exercises of its strategic nuclear forces, noting in the past it has fired inter-continental ballistic missiles.

Under the New START Treaty, Russia is obliged to provide advance notification of such missile launches, US officials say.

"The US was notified, and, as we've highlighted before, this is a routine annual exercise by Russia," spokesperson Air Force Brigadier General Patrick Ryder announced at a news briefing.

The drills present a potential challenge to the United States and its allies, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has openly threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia in its unravelling offensive in Ukraine.

Russia on Tuesday also took allegations to the UN Security Council that Ukraine is preparing to use a "dirty bomb" on its own territory, an assertion flatly dismissed by Western and Ukrainian officials as misinformation and a pretext for escalating the conflict.

Western officials have expressed confidence in their ability to discern the difference between a Russian drill and any move by Putin to make good on his nuclear threats.

'Tactical' nuclear weapon

At the US State Department, spokesperson Ned Price stressed the importance of compliance with such notification requirements.

"While Russia engages in unprovoked aggression and reckless nuclear rhetoric, these notification measures do ensure we're not taken by surprise and reduce the risks of misperception," Price said.

With Ukrainian forces advancing into Russian-occupied Kherson province, threatening a major defeat for Moscow, Russian officials phoned their Western counterparts on Sunday and Monday to communicate their allegations about a "dirty bomb."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the allegation showed Moscow was planning such an attack with an explosive device laced with radioactive material, and seeking to blame Kiev.

But questions are also circulating about whether Moscow might use a lower-yield "tactical" nuclear weapon.

US President Joe Biden warned Moscow on Tuesday that such a move would be an "incredibly serious mistake."

"I'm not guaranteeing you that it's a false flag operation yet, we don't know. But it would be a serious mistake," Biden said.

The comments come as relations between Moscow and Washington have hit lows not seen since the Cold War as Russia continues to pursue what it says is a "military operation" in Ukraine.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies