Is NATO's nuclear strike exercise badly timed?

Above the skies of Europe, NATO has been practising how the alliance would use nuclear bombs stored across the continent.

Routine for the alliance, the exercise happens every year.

But this year feels different, with Russia's war in Ukraine heightening the fear of nuclear escalation or any confusion that could lead to escalation.

So is it bad timing from NATO?

NATO's Secretary General said it would send "a very wrong signal" if the exercise was cancelled.

"That would be absolutely the wrong signal to send," Jens Stoltenburg said. "Firm, predictable behaviour.

"Our military strength is the best way to prevent escalation."

Watch: Russia's conscripts will return to families 'in a body bag', expert says.

Support for Exercise Steadfast Noon going ahead as planned is that a predictable presence in these moments is why NATO was built.

However,  Vladimir Putin sees that presence as a threat and there's growing public fear of a knee-jerk reaction.

To complicate matters, Russia's own nuclear Exercise Thunder is likely to overlap with NATO's plans.

So how likely is miscalculation, and could Moscow be looking for an excuse to escalate?

Well Hans Kristensen, Director at the Nuclear Information Project, FAS, told Forces News "it would be smart both for the Russians and the West to scale back their strategic and tactical nuclear exercises".

"Accidents, they're always unforeseeable, so it's important to be cautious about what you do in a tense military-political crisis like what we have now," he said.

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