On Monday, the director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms control at the Russian Foreign Ministry Mikhail Ulyanov said Russia has the right to place nuclear weapons within its territories including the Crimean Peninsula.
Ulyanov’s statement came as a response to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s comment in a NATO meeting in May.
Klimkin said “The deployment of nuclear weapons in Crimea would be the most serious breach in Russia’s international commitments,” mentioning NATO’s announcement that they were planning to increase air and sea patrols in the region amid an ongoing perceived threat from Russia following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year.
Mikhail Ulyanov said “Russia obviously retains the right if needed to deploy its nuclear weapons anywhere on its national territory, including on the Crimean Peninsula,”
“Of all the factors which are negatively affecting strategic stability, the most significant is the creation of the [US] National Missile Defense program,” Ulyanov added.
“Our position on this matter [US missile defense] has been voiced repeatedly. We need reliable guarantees of what we are told verbally at every corner – that this system is not directed against Russia’s nuclear deterrent. But so far we are told that such guarantees can not be written down on paper and that the system will be created with or without Russia’s backing.”
Ulyanov mentioned that the expansion of NATO causes “huge imbalances” to Russia’s disadvantage.
“All of these negative aspects, which are preventing cuts in nuclear arsenals taking place are not coming from Russia,” he added.
NATO announced expansion plans in eastern Europe including basing command units in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as doubling the size of its rapid response force in the continent in mid-May.
As response to that NATO announcement Russian envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko reminded NATO that Russia reserves the right to move heavy weapons into Crimea.
"Naturally, we will increase our forces in Crimea because NATO countries have stepped up their activities…in the immediate vicinity of our borders," Grushko said, adding that there is no ban prohibiting Russia from deploying weapons in the peninsula.
Countries in the Baltics region have been particularly alert as Russia continues to support separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russian-backed separatists have been fighting for the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic since Ukraine’s former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev in February 2014.
Both Russia and NATO have increased their military exercises in the Baltic region since the Ukraine crisis put the two military giants at odds with one another.
In March, the US sent 750 military tanks, helicopters, and other heavy equipment, along with nearly 3,000 soldiers to the region to participate in a three-month training exercise in a show of strength against Russia.
The sending of heavy military equipment by the US to Latvia was condemned by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said the move was not helping to restore trust between Russia and NATO.
NATO is bound by a 1997 agreement with Russia which prevents it from stationing permanent troops in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia.