The United States is starting the Global Thunder 2018 strategic nuclear forces exercise on Monday, a US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) spokesperson has confirmed to Sputnik. According to a Russian military analyst, these drills are not only about training routines and testing new weapons systems.

Speaking with Sputnik, Alexey Leonkov, a military analyst and editor at the “Arsenal of the Fatherland” magazine, pointed out that the Global Thunder drills are in line with Washington’s recently announced program to modernize its nuclear forces.

“In addition to training goals, this exercise is also aimed at evaluating which weapons the Pentagon would need to further modernize and improve,” Leonkov said.

However, according to the analyst, the drills are also pursuing another important goal.

“Since the US is a nuclear power, it is clear that drills of this kind are some sort of a signal to three countries, namely Russia, China and from now on also to North Korea,” Leonkov said.
Earlier, STRATCOM spokesperson Maj. Brian Maguire told Sputnik that Global Thunder 2018 is kicking off on Monday and added that Washington has notified Moscow about the beginning of the drills.

“Under provisions of New START, the United States and Russia are required to notify each other of major nuclear exercises, so Russia was notified of this exercise in advance. We do not have a similar agreement with China that requires advance notification,” Maguire said.

On Friday, the command said in a press release that the exercise is “designed to exercise all STRATCOM mission areas and assess joint operational readiness.”

“The scenario for Global Thunder integrates a variety of strategic threats to our nation and calls upon all the USSTRATCOM capabilities that would be provided to geographic combatant commanders in a real-world crisis, including space; cyber; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; global strike; and ballistic missile defense assets,” the spokesperson said.

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Sergei Kislyak, a Russian senator and former ambassador to the US, said that the current US nuclear forces drills are “alarming” but “not a threat” to Russia’s security.

“It’s as if the US is continuing its claim on the role of global political gendarme. This is an alarming sign, taking into account the structure of the offensive strategic forces being built by Washington,” Kislyak told Sputnik.
Last week, Russia also held nuclear forces drills, in which Russian President and Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin took part. During the drills, coordination was practiced between Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, nuclear submarines of the Northern and Pacific Fleets and the long-range aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces.

Kislyak pointed to an important difference between the Russian exercise and that by the US military.

“While our drills are aimed at maintaining Russia’s own security, the Americans, going by the statement of their officials, will practice multidimensional efforts to influence their potential enemy at anytime and anywhere around the world,” the Russian lawmaker said.

Moscow has repeatedly criticized the Pentagon’s plan to create prospective systems for a prompt global strike which presupposes the implementation of the concept of joint use of offensive and defensive weapons. According to Russian military officials, this plan is “yet another factor proving Washington’s intention to destroy the existing balance of power and to ensure its strategic dominance.”

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