We’ve been worried about the Russian nuclear threat for years. Does Putin have a secret plan to attack us?
Last week, a botch Russian nuclear weapons test resulted in a massive radiation leak. Analysts are comparing it to the 2011 Fukushima radiation leak in Japan, which threatened thousands.
But the Fukushima leak was triggered by an earthquake and resulting tsunami that forced the nuclear reactors to meltdown.
Between 500 and 2,000 people died as a result, but apparently none due to radiation exposure. Most people died due to their prolonged dislocation and as a result of building and infrastructure collapse.
In the case of last week’s incident, human failure was the cause. The Russian military was testing a nuclear weapon on a sea platform – and it exploded. And massive radiation exposure is a real threat.
A nearby fishing village has been evacuated after radiation levels were detected at 16 times the safety threshold.
The weapon that exploded was likely the nuclear-powered cruise missile (known to NATO as “Skyfall”) which was first revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018 during his annual State of the Nation address.
In that address Putin boasted that the Skyfall had unlimited range, allowing it to circle the globe unnoticed, bypassing the enemy’s missile defense assets to strike unnoticed.
Despite much skepticism about Putin’s claims, the Soviet military was beginning to have greater confidence in the weapon.
Previous tests were held several hundred miles offshore, the latest was close to a populated area.
U.S. and NATO officials have taken the Skyfall threat seriously. Some analysts have compared the missile to a terrifying American weapon concept from the 1960s known as the “Flying Crowbar.”
The Flying Crowbar was capable of flying at hypersonic speeds with an almost indefinite range. It was equipped to scatter radioactive exhaust and nuclear bombs for most of its flight cycle.
Skyfall has most of the same capacity, including the ability to spew radioactive exhaust. Needless to say, this is not a “defensive” weapon. Some consider it a “doomsday” weapon.
The Skyfall disaster is likely to draw attention to Russia’s increasingly dangerous nuclear arsenal as well as to a recent shift in Russian nuclear strategy toward the development of a pre-emptive strike capability.
In his 2018 address, Putin pointed to four other weapons systems that would bolster Russian capabilities in unprecedented ways.
The new Russian arsenal includes an ultra-fast and deep-diving nuclear-powered drone submarine called the Poseidon which Putin said: “would carry massive nuclear ordnance.”
Mark Schneider, a leading defense analyst, has called the Poseidon a “weapon of genocide.”
A single Poseidon “would release more fallout than the entire U.S. strategic force even if we used it in the most destructive manner” Schneider noted in the May 29, 2019 issue of the National Interest.
The big question, as always, is whether the Russians, despite their boats, really have the capacity to launch such weapons.
Moreover, comparisons between US and Russian nuclear weapons systems invariably indicate that US systems are far more accurate and reliable.
“We love accuracy,” Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, a leading arms control expert, says. America’s ideal nuke is “a tiny little nuclear weapon we’ll fly right through the window and blow up the building.”
Meanwhile, the Russians would rather put 10 warheads on the building and level the whole city, civilians and all, he suggests.
And it may not even be another country’s city. The Russians, ever since the infamous Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, seem perfectly capable of putting their own people at risk.
Last week’s accident which Putin seems anxious to cover-up may be the latest example that the Russians like to rattle a saber – only to stab themselves in the leg.
So far, despite their prodigious plans, the only real targets of Russian nuclear capabilities are other Russians. In a war with his own people, Putin seems to be winning