A top Russian General announced on March 13, 2018, that Russia’s military will conduct a second test of its new, most powerful nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile amid rising tensions with NATO.
“The first launch of this missile took place at the end of December 2017. At the moment, preparations are in full swing at the Plesetsk cosmodrome for another pop-up test,” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told state-run media, referring to testing the missile’s systems used to eject from its silo as a “pop-up” test.
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During Putin’s State of the Nation speech on March 1, 2018, he talked up the new system, called the RS-28, or the “Satan 2” by NATO members, while showing footage of its testing.
But like much of Russia’s military hardware, the actual footage only showed an ejection test, and then a computer animation took over to demonstrate the missiles flight path, which has not yet been tested.
When discussing the missile, both Putin and Gerasimov discussed how it could defeat missile defense systems, without mentioning that no one has yet built missile defense systems designed to counter a Russian ICBM attack.
The RS-28 can carry as many as 16 nuclear warheads, or fewer, heavier warheads and possibly decoys or countermeasures, The Diplomat’s Franz Gady reports.
Putin, during his speech, also mentioned that the missile can pair with a hypersonic glide vehicle that would further complicate any attempts at interception.
Putin’s talk of Russia’s new offensive nuclear weapons comes as he seeks re-election on March 18, 2018. Though nobody seriously expects Putin to lose the election where no meaningful opposition is running and he has controlled the media throughout, experts have told Business Insider he’s under pressure to deliver tangible results of his leadership.
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Both the US and UK have called Putin’s talk of new nuclear systems “irresponsible,” while both countries stand ready to condemn Moscow if authorities can prove that a nerve agent attack carried out against a former spy in the UK can be traced back to the Kremlin.
The UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the attack was Russian in origin, and that the UK would retaliate if it proved true.
Additionally, Gerasimov said in separate comments that he believes the US will try to blame a chemical weapon attack on civilians on Syria, and use that to launch an attack against the country, against which Russia would retaliate.