A senior Pentagon official says Russia is “playing with fire” by threatening to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal in response to a rising military presence by the United States and its NATO allies in Eastern Europe.
“Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire,” US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said on Thursday.
“Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation,” Work said before a House Armed Services subcommittee, The Independent reported on Friday.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Moscow would add more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles, able to overcome even the most advanced anti-missile systems, to the make-up of the Russian nuclear arsenal this year.
“Senior Russian officials continue to make irresponsible statements regarding its nuclear forces, and we assess that they are doing it to intimidate our allies and us,” Work said. “These have failed. If anything, they have really strengthened the NATO alliance solidarity.”