Why Is Russia Deploying Nuclear Weapons to Crimea?

Recently, there has been an uptick in Russian efforts to defend the placement of nuclear-capable weapons, if not actual nuclear weapons, on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed one year ago. Notably, TU-22M3 long-range bombers, which would be able to carry and deliver such weapons, have now been deployed to Crimea. And Russia has also been stepping up its defensive rhetoric regarding conventional weapons deployed to the peninsula (Interfax, March 18). Several factors help explain Moscow’s actions.

One reason is surely connected with the recent snap exercises embracing virtually all of Russia’s western fronts, from the Arctic to the Black Sea. These exercises were meant to signal to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that Russia is not backing down and is, indeed, capable of waging a general European war that could include nuclear strikes from Crimean- and Ukrainian-based systems…