Updated Feb 18, 2022 - World

Russia announces nuclear drills amid soaring Ukraine tensions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Moscow on Feb. 17.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Moscow on Feb. 17. Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russia's Ministry of Defense announced Friday it would hold military drills with its strategic nuclear forces that will be personally supervised by President Vladimir Putin, according to AP.

Why it matters: The massive drills, which will take place on Saturday and involve practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, come as tensions between the West and Russia are high over Moscow's military buildup around Ukraine's borders.

  • The U.S. has repeatedly said it believes Russia will soon invade Ukraine, with President Biden warning Thursday that an offensive could come "within the next several days."
  • Russia has said it has no plans to invade Ukraine but still continues to position more troops and military equipment near Ukraine's northern, eastern and southern borders.

The U.S. estimates that there are approximately between 169,000-190,000 Russian troops in and near Ukraine, compared with the about 100,000 there were on Jan. 30, said Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, on Friday.

  • "[T]his is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War," Carpenter said

The big picture: Russia said it had planned the strategic drills some time ago, though their announcement comes roughly a day after Russia formally replied to the security proposals the U.S. and NATO presented last month.

  • In its response, Russia said it would be forced to take "military-technical" steps if its security demands are not met.
  • Russia and Belarus have ongoing, large joint military exercises in Belarus and the Black Sea that started on Feb. 10 and are set to end Feb. 20.

Go deeper: U.S. says Putin is putting Ukraine invasion plan in motion

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