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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Denies Report of Nuclear Weapons Deployment

The Russian military on Thursday insisted that U.S. media reports of nuclear weapons being transferred to a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea were wrong, and Russian analysts said such a deployment would be senseless.

The alleged transfer of tactical nuclear weapons, first reported Wednesday in The Washington Times, "doesn't correspond with reality," said Anatoly Lobsky, a spokesman for the Baltic Fleet. "The Baltic Sea has been declared a nuclear-free zone, and the Baltic Fleet unfailingly fulfills it commitments."

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, U.S. media reports said the compact but powerful battlefield weapons had been transferred to a naval base in the Kaliningrad enclave, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania and provides Russia with access to the Baltic Sea.

The bombs were designed for a new type of short-range missiles with a firing radius of about 70 kilometers, according to the Washington Times report - enough to hit targets in Lithuania, one of the three former Soviet republics in the Baltics that aspire to membership in the NATO alliance.

They could also strike targets in Poland, which joined NATO in 1999 in the face of fierce Russian opposition.

Polish Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski on Thursday called for international inspectors to verify Moscow's claim that it had not deployed nuclear weapons.

"Poland needs to monitor the situation in Kaliningrad on a day-to-day basis and it is doing that," Komorowski said on Poland's Channel One public television. "Verification will include pushing for international inspection, which is a usual thing."

Some U.S. officials believe the deployment of such weapons would be a tactic for increasing pressure on NATO to withdraw all tactical, or short-range, missiles and other nuclear weapons from Europe. Russia has long argued for their removal, but NATO continues to maintain some nuclear bombs for aircraft based in Europe.

The Washington Times report cited unnamed U.S. arms control officials as speculating that the deployment was Russia's way of testing the resolve of President-elect George Bush.

But Russian military analysts questioned the logic of such a deployment, particularly the choice to station ground-based nuclear weapons at a naval base.

"If they did bring tactical nuclear weapons for training or some other purpose to Kaliningrad, they would most likely be naval, like torpedo warheads," said independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.

"There's no need to bring air force or missile weapons to the enclave," he said, because their potential targets could just as easily be hit with missiles based on Russia's mainland. Kaliningrad is about 400 kilometers west of the rest of Russia.

Yuri Gladkevich, an analyst at the independent Military News Agency, said Russia had nothing to gain politically from the deployment. Ditching nonbinding arms agreements from the early 1990's, which were intended to limit tactical nuclear weapons deployment in Europe, would only invite the ire of European countries and the United States.

He contended that the news reports were based on disinformation, an intelligence leak intended to influence policy for the incoming Bush administration or to demonstrate to America's European allies that Russia remained a threat.

Also Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of violating the START I arms-reduction treaty by failing to destroy all stages of its MX missiles. Under the 1991 treaty, the United States agreed to abandon the MX program.

There was no immediate response from Washington to the statement, which alleged that the United States is destroying only the first stages of the missiles. Russia has previously objected to uncontrolled MX scrapping procedures, saying that it raises doubts that the missiles are being completely liquidated.