Ukraine Situation Report: Poland “Ready” To Host Nuclear Weapons

Polish President Andrzej Duda has again made the case for his country joining the NATO nuclear-sharing program.

byThomas Newdick|
Poland F-16 nuclear weapons
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)


Poland’s president has said that the country is ready to host nuclear weapons, in the latest indication of the NATO member’s ambition to significantly reinforce its defense posture as it seeks to deter Russia.

“If our allies decide to deploy nuclear arms on our territory as part of nuclear sharing, to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, we are ready to do so,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview published today by the Fakt newspaper.

Duda pointed specifically to Russia’s deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, which you can read more about here, as well as the increasing militarization of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, with which Poland also shares a border.

Discussions about nuclear cooperation between Poland and the United States have been ongoing “for some time,” Duda added.

“I have already talked about this several times. I must admit that when asked about it, I declared our readiness,” the Polish leader said.

As we have explained in the past, the NATO nuclear weapon-sharing agreement is currently entirely centered on U.S. B61-series air-dropped nuclear bombs. The program provides for the forward deployment of these weapons in secure vaults at air bases in multiple member nations. In a crisis where the U.S. and the alliance approves their use, they would then be loaded onto combat jets belonging to participating countries. NATO aircraft capable of employing these nuclear weapons are known as Dual Capable Aircraft (DCA), referring to the dual nuclear and conventional capabilities.

A Weapons Storage and Security System vault of the type used at NATO air bases in Europe, seen here in the raised position holding an older B61 variant. Public Domain/WikiCommons

In related news, Russia has claimed that the actions of the West are increasing the likelihood of direct confrontation between the world’s biggest nuclear powers.

“The Westerners are teetering dangerously on the brink of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned. He referred specifically to the actions of the “troika” of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, in continuing to provide arms to Ukraine as part of a broader goal of bringing “strategic defeat” to Russia.

“Of particular concern is the fact that it is the ‘troika’ of Western nuclear states that are among the key sponsors of the criminal Kyiv regime, the main initiators of various provocative steps. We see serious strategic risks in this, leading to an increase in the level of nuclear danger,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov’s words echoed those of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told Western countries in February that they risked provoking a nuclear war if they sent troops to fight in Ukraine. This came after French President Emmanuel Macron had raised the possibility of NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine, an idea that has not gained wider support.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

The Latest

After prolonged political infighting, the U.S. House of Representatives finally approved a $61-billion military aid package for Ukraine on Saturday. After being held up in Congress for months, the move clears the way for much-needed new ammunition and equipment for Kyiv as the Ukrainian Armed Forces prepare for an expected new Russian offensive.

The package still needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, with a first vote on it expected as soon as Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the Senate to move quickly and suggested today that President Joe Biden has assured him that he will sign the bill as soon as it is approved.

“We really need to get this to the final point,” Zelensky said. “We need to get it approved by the Senate … so that we get some tangible assistance for the soldiers on the frontline as soon as possible, not in another six months.”

“I hope we will be able to stay, and the weapons will come on time, and we will repel the enemy, and then we’ll break the plans of the Russian Federation with regards to this full-scale offensive,” the Ukrainian leader added.

In an interview with NBC News, Zelensky identified the key priorities in terms of U.S. arms transfers, namely more Patriot air defense systems, as well as long-range strike capabilities such as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

“We need long-range weapons to not lose people on the front line because we have — we have casualties because we cannot reach that far,” Zelensky said “Our weapons are not that long-range. We need [that] and air defense. Those are our priorities right now.”

Until Saturday, the package for Ukraine had been in limbo due to resistance from House Republicans aligned with Donald Trump. The aid for Kyiv was part of a wider package that also included funds for Israel and Taiwan. With the budget previously authorized by Congress spent, Washington has only been able to allocate $300 million of military aid to Ukraine this year.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the delay in getting more U.S. military aid to Ukraine was having “real consequences” on the battlefield.

“The Ukrainians have now, for months, been outgunned, roughly one to five, one to 10, depending on what part of the frontline you are talking about,” Stoltenberg told MSNBC. “We have seen that fewer Russian missiles and drones have been shot down simply because they lack air defense systems and also ammunition.”

Predictably, Moscow accused the United States of wading deeper into the conflict, which it was pursuing as a hybrid war directed against Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said it was clear that the United States wanted Ukraine “to fight to the last Ukrainian” and accused it of supporting attacks on Russian sovereign territory and civilians.

“Washington’s deeper and deeper immersion in the hybrid war against Russia will turn into a loud and humiliating fiasco for the United States such as Vietnam and Afghanistan,” Zakharova added.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “The Russian Armed Forces are improving their positions at the front … The money allocated and the weapons that will be supplied will not change this dynamic.”

“They will lead to new victims on the Ukrainian side. More Ukrainians will die, Ukraine will suffer greater losses,” Peskov added.

There is now growing momentum within the European Union to pledge further support to Ukraine.

“As Europeans, we have to step up; we can’t relax, even though the U.S. has passed the aid package,” Latvia’s Foreign Minister Baiba Braže said.

Similar words were provided by her Lithuanian counterpart, Gabrielius Landsbergis.

“We dodged a historic bullet, but unfortunately many more bullets are on the way. Therefore, we can be joyous today, but we have to be prepared for the battle that is coming tomorrow,” Landsbergis said. “We have to continue to speak about how we are going to assist Ukraine further.”

Presuming the Senate approves the funding, the question now is how long it will take for the arms to reach Ukraine.

Some U.S. officials have suggested that there are already weapons waiting in European warehouses, which could be transferred at short notice.

Whatever form the aid takes, and when it might arrive, it is bad news for Russia. There had been suggestions that Moscow was hopeful that no new aid would be approved until the U.S. presidential election in November, at least. Now, Ukraine may even be able to stabilize the front lines, replenishing stocks of munitions that are critically low, while also buying time to expand its own defense industrial capacity.

On the battlefield, there are reports of a major Russian push in the eastern Donetsk region. According to a Ukrainian National Guard officer interviewed by Suspline media, Russian troops are “advancing very successfully” in the direction of Chasiv Yar, a town located roughly 3-6 miles from Bakhmut, which fell to Russian forces in May last year, after months of bloody fighting.

Cherniak continued: “Now, after the Russian military managed to gain a foothold in the Bohdanivka area, they pulled all possible resources there, and have dug in well.”

From the Kremlin’s side, the Russian Ministry of Defense wrote on Telegram Sunday that its forces had advanced toward Chasiv Yar and that they had taken control of the settlement of Bohdanivka, immediately to the west of Bakhmut and around three miles east of Chasiv Yar.

“It must be understood that the outskirts of the city were practically destroyed a year ago, there are no hard fortifications,” the officer, Volodymyr Cherniak, said, in reference to Bakhmut.

“Units of the Southern Group of Forces have fully liberated the settlement of Bohdanivka … and have improved the situation along the frontline,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

The reports from both sides cannot be independently verified.

Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has previously said that Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9, which would coincide with the Victory Day holiday commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

Control of Chasiv Yar — a heavily fortified hilltop town — is especially critical as the Ukrainians have been using it as a forward artillery base. From here, they have been able to offer protection to key cities in the region including Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

A Polish man has been arrested and charged with planning to take part in a possible assassination of Volodymyr Zelensky. Polish prosecutors allege that the man, named as Pawel K., was planning to cooperate with Russian intelligence services on the potential assassination attempt.

Pawel K. is said to have been tasked with collecting information about Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland, which is used by the Ukrainian president.

Reports from Russian sources indicate that Ukraine is making increasing use of caltrops — four-pronged, heavy-gauge steel spikes that disable pneumatic tires — dropped onto roads by drones. According to these accounts, Ukrainian tactics use the caltrops to bring Russian vehicles to a stop, after which they can be picked off by artillery and first-person-view (FPV) drones.

More FPV drones in the next videos, and scenarios that are becoming increasingly familiar on the battlefield: soldiers relentlessly pursued by the explosive-laden drones.

The first footage purportedly comes from fighting near the village of Terny, in the Kramatorsk district, in the eastern Donetsk region. The Russian infantry are seen trying to hide from FPV drones near a knocked-out infantry fighting vehicle. They were reportedly eliminated by a drone strike launched by the Ukrainian 12th Brigade “Azov.”

In this next example, a Russian soldier can be seen dodging three FPV drones, before being killed by the fourth. Viewer discretion is advised.

The topic of the potential transfer to Ukraine of Greek ground-based air defense systems, which we have addressed in the past, has come up again.

According to a report in the Financial Times, both Greece and Spain are coming under increasing pressure from other NATO members to transfer additional air defense systems to Kyiv.

The same report notes that the systems under discussion — more than a dozen in total — include Greece’s Russian-made S-300s and Spanish-operated Patriots.

The Greek and Spanish prime ministers were reportedly urged to donate some of these systems to Ukraine during a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels last week.

“We have been asking all member states to do whatever they can in order to increase the air defense capacity of Ukraine,” said the European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell.

Delivery of the air defense systems, if approved, would go some way toward meeting Ukraine’s increasingly desperate demands for additional weapons to help defend it against Russian aerial attack. As well as the requirements for such equipment over the front lines, the Kremlin’s winter offensive has put additional pressure on Ukrainian cities and — especially energy — infrastructure.

In regard to the Patriot system, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently confirmed that his country has committed to sending a third Patriot system to Ukraine. During a press conference in Brussels, he also mentioned that NATO is looking to transfer six more of these systems to Ukraine. “We have heard about seven additional systems. One of them is ours, and we hope to find six more in the context of NATO,” Scholz explained.

Another Western-supplied air defense system in Ukrainian hands is the French-made Crotale short-range surface-to-air missile. France supplied a pair of towed Crotale NG systems, but these have been seen only very rarely since their transfer.

Not only Ukraine is struggling to field adequate numbers of ground-based air defense systems. Russia’s need for additional air defense systems for the war appears to have been manifested in the diversion of Pantsir-S1 systems from an Iraqi order to the Russian Armed Forces. A video has emerged that shows what seems to be one of the self-propelled surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems that were built for Iraq in use with the Russian military somewhere in eastern Ukraine. It is unclear if the Iraqi order was canceled, or if the orders for Baghdad are planned to be backfilled by additional production. There have been massive disruptions in the exports of Russian weapons, especially in terms of parts and support for existing ones, due to the war consuming the output of Russia's military industrial complex.

A glimpse of potential new equipment for the Russian Armed Forces came during a recent visit to the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Center, near Moscow, by Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Deputy Minister of Defense Alexey Krivoruchko. The officials were seen inspecting a variety of equipment, including uncrewed ground vehicles, light tactical vehicles, an all-terrain vehicle armed with a 120mm mortar, and an artillery fire control system.

Among the latest Russian strikes on Ukraine included a wave of drones reportedly launched from Cape Chauda in occupied Crimea.

The Ukrainian Air Force claimed that its air defense units destroyed five of seven Iranian-designed Shahed-type one-way attack drones and a single Orlan-10 surveillance drone that was launched overnight.

According to what’s claimed to be a leaked presentation, an improved version of the Shahed — known in Russia as the Geran (geranium) — carries a more powerful warhead, weighing 198 pounds rather than the previous 110 pounds, and with optional high-explosive/incendiary and thermobaric types.

Other enhancements reportedly include the addition of Kyivstar SIM cards, in addition to the existing GPS navigation system. In the past, we have reported on the appearance of Shaheds fitted with 4G modems and SIM cards from Ukrainian telecom firms. Our additional reporting pointing out that the ability to dynamically control or at least monitor these drones deep into enemy territory via a cellular data connection would dramatically change how they could be employed.

In a bizarre development, the Kremlin has apparently established specialized military units for members of the Russian elite. In its latest intelligence analysis of the conflict, the U.K. Ministry of Defense gives the example of Alexei Blinovsky, the husband of a well-known Russian blogger, Elena Blinovskaya, who made the decision to fight in Ukraine rather than facing punishment for alleged tax evasion.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense says that Blinovsky was photographed earlier this month while serving in a specially created military unit of the Russian Armed Forces, known as Bars Kaskad. According to the same source, the unit is mainly involved in operations with unmanned aerial vehicles and its personnel usually operate far from the front line. Recruiting to the Bars Kaskad special unit will likely allow members of the Russian elite to bypass the statutory requirements of Russian military service with guaranteed security and potentially win the favor of the Kremlin, British intelligence said.

Denmark has confirmed that it plans to deliver F-16 fighters to Ukraine this summer. The news comes after Argentina confirmed a deal for 24 of the ex-Danish jets at a cost of around $300 million, something you can read more about here.

“Don’t worry; there will definitely be airplanes for Ukraine,” Ambassador Ole Egberg Mikkelsen said in an interview with Ukrainian news outlet Mi-Ukraina yesterday.

Previously, the Danish government had said it planned to donate 19 F-16s to Ukraine. Ukrainian personnel are already training on the aircraft in Denmark.

Three other NATO countries — the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium — have also pledged to provide F-16s to Ukraine, although the exact timelines for their delivery are unclear.

The following imagery goes some way to demonstrating the urgent need for new Ukrainian fighter aircraft.

Based on this footage, as many as three Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters were damaged or destroyed by a Russian missile attack on Dnipro International Airport in the Dnipropetrovsk region, central Ukraine. On this occasion, it appears that the aircraft hit were active, being forward deployed to Dnipro, and were not decoys.

While not in the same category as the F-16 or MiG-29, this Czechoslovak-made L-39 Albatros jet trainer will still be a welcome addition to the Ukrainian Air Force.

A disassembled L-39ZA was delivered recently to Ukraine by Lithuania. This version of the aircraft is described by the Lithuanian military as a light attack aircraft, suggesting that it might eventually be pressed into a combat role, rather than only being used as a trainer.

The video below purportedly shows a German-made Leopard 2 tank being transported to Moscow, where it is claimed that it will be put on display as a war prize. The tank, seen on a transporter, was reportedly captured in Ukraine. Previously, we have reported on other Western-supplied fighting vehicles being displayed in Russia, but this appears to be the first time that an example of one of the advanced Western-made tanks supplied to Kyiv has been seen in Russia.

Some of the next developments as regards the up-armoring of Russian tanks are seen next, following on from the remarkable ‘turtle tanks’ with their shed-like metal covers to help protect against drone attacks. Some of the other developments in this field include improvised armor furnished from wooden crates as well as empty shell cases (the contents of these are not clear). Another extemporized solution appears to consist solely of concrete blocks carried on a frame-like structure.

Finally, the need for other means of protecting Russian tanks is only going to increase as long as troops continue to do the following: harvesting explosive reactive armor (ERA) blocks and repurposing them as warheads for FPV drones. This type of dangerous salvage has been a staple of the drone war in Ukraine.

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