Russia's Northern Fleet is on the move, being deployed while armed with tactical nuclear weaponry for the first time since the Cold War, according to a Norwegian intelligence report.
"A central part of the nuclear capabilities is located on the North Fleet's submarines and surface vessels," the report stated, adding that these tactical nuclear weapons represent a very significant threat to NATO member states.
This comes amid Russia's defense budget increasing by 34% in 2023.
In addition, the intelligence report notes that Russia's conventional military power has weakened.
This is largely due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. This conflict has seen Russia expend large amounts of its stockpile of missiles, artillery, combat vehicles, manpower and more.
This is a point that has been further corroborated by Ukrainian and Western intelligence reports for several months.
For most of the Russian military's arsenal, this means that they need to go deep into their reserve storage and bring out older equipment and weaponry that may be far less effective in the modern day.
But, as the Norwegian intelligence report notes, this is not the case for Russia's nuclear capabilities. These have gone unchanged and its supporting air and naval forces are all more or less still intact.
Now, with conventional military power weakened but nuclear power still the same, Russia's nuclear arsenal has taken on significantly greater importance, the report noted.
What is the status of Russia's Northern Fleet?
And with Russia's nuclear arsenal becoming more important, so too does its Northern Fleet.
Based largely out of the Kola Peninsula, the Northern Fleet has the role of maintaining all naval strategic nuclear forces in a constant state of readiness, as noted on the Russian military's website.
It is also noted by many reports to be Russia's largest marine fleet.
According to the Norwegian intelligence report, Russia's Northern Fleet is set to carry out routine exercises, submarine patrols in the Barents Sea and submarine operations in the Atlantic Ocean.
Regarding the fleet's aircraft, their missions haven't been significantly impacted by the Ukraine war and they're carrying on as usual.
However, Norway warned that Russia's actions, characterized by a "strong distrust of Western intentions," as well as the West's own response to the invasion of Ukraine, raise the chance of misunderstandings breaking out.
This, in turn, raises the possibility of escalation and unintended incidents between Russia and NATO.
Will Russia use nuclear weapons?
The possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons is something many have feared in recent months in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Some experts have indicated that Russia could resort to nuclear weapons if Ukraine seems to be winning the war.
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev also warned that the defeat of Russia in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war.
The increased possibility of nuclear war is one of the reasons why the Doomsday Clock was pushed forward to 90 seconds to midnight, closer than ever before, indicating that a global catastrophe is closer than ever.