Russia has re-installed nuclear-capable missile forces near Ukraine and the Black Sea region by way of making a strategic base situated in Crimea operational again.
The strategic base in question is the underground coastal defense battery known as ‘Utyos’ which had been a Soviet/Russian-operated site until 1996 when it was de-commissioned.
The Utyos site deployed P-35 Progress cruise missiles that, in the even of a major conflict, were to be used against NATO warship fleets attempting to operate in the Black Sea.
It should be noted that P-35 missiles (designated by NATO as ‘Shaddock’) can be armed with both a conventional 1,000 kilogram high-explosive warhead, or a 200 to 300 kiloton capable nuclear warhead.
The idea of the nuclear variant is to effectively obliterate an entire grouping of warships with a single missile.
According to official Russian sources, the Utyos installation – which came back under Russia’s control in 2014 – has recently been re-serviced and there have been successful test-firings of P-35 missiles (still present in Russia’s arsenal).
Given that the conventional warhead variant of the Progress missile is reserved for use by Russian warships, the chances are that the Utyos installation, a fixed ground-base site of major strategic value, will actually possess the nuclear-armed versions of these missiles.
The Russian military reportedly wants to install more modern missiles at the Utyos site during the years to come.
Under the rules of the INF Treaty of 1987, nuclear-armed versions of the Progress missile are forbidden. However, with the United States having pulled-out of this decades-old agreement to pursue development of new short and medium range nuclear-warhead delivery systems, it seems the Russians have felt obliged to reactivate some of their short-range nuclear-capable weapons.
Russia recently argued that nuclear arms control talks were essential to world peace, having warned that it would pursue the reactivation of its short and medium range strategic missile forces if the US started to do so.