A previous test-launch of the Tsirkon missile from the frigate "Admiral Gorshkov" sailing northern waters. Photo: Russian Northern Fleet

Norway’s intelligence warns of Russian nuclear deterrent, but underlines no tactical nukes on surface warships

Confusion over the wording of a report text about Russia’s deterrence and the particular threat posed by tactical nuclear weapons makes the Norwegian Intelligence Service now clarify the statement.
February 16, 2023


The Barents Observer, along with other media like Newsweek and Politico, earlier this week reported about the FOKUS report, an annual threat assessment, hinting that Russia’s Northern Fleet subs and surface warships again could be sailing with tactical nuclear weapons onboard.

If true, that would have been a dramatic change in policy by Russia which officially brought its arsenal of naval tactical nukes to onshore storage as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between Mikael Gorbachev and George Bush back in 1991.

“There was room for different interpretations of the text,” says spokesperson with the Intelligence Service Ann-Kristin Bjergene to the Barents Observer.

The service clarifies that it is the strategic nuclear weapons that gain importance in Moscow’s deterrence.

The original paragraph in the report is now changed and instead underlines that there are no changes in regard to armament on surface warships.

The Intelligence Service now writes:

“As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, Russian conventional capability is weakened. This means that Russia’s strategic weapons gain increased importance. In this context, the Northern Fleet’s strategic submarines are a core capacity because they are armed with nuclear weapons. We do not see any changes in the armament of Russian surface warships in the Northern Fleet.”


One sentence on tactical nuclear weapons remains in the updated report text:

“Tactical nuclear weapons pose a particularly serious threat in several operational scenarios that may involve NATO countries.”




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