As President Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam to defuse one potential nuclear showdown, America’s perennial rival Russia is upping the ante on the new Cold War’s latest arms race: hypersonic nuclear weapons.
It doesn’t help that a Cold War-era nuclear arms limitation treaty is also in the midst of being dismantled by both the United States and Russia. In recent days, the U.S. has accused the Russians of repeatedly violating the Intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, going so far as threatening to pull out of it entirely. Russia vowed a “tit-for-tat” response to the American declaration.
And now the Russian media are entering the discussion.
No, not the Trololo Guy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, one of Russia’s most influential state-run media channels boasted about the Kremlin’s first strike capabilities against the United States during its Sunday night prime-time recap of the news of the week. The Kremlin mouthpiece specifically mentioned that precision strikes against the Pentagon and Camp David could hit the United States in less than five minutes.
They also mentioned that a U.S. response to the attack would take another 10 to 12 minutes. The Russians cite this advantage due to their positioning of Russian missile subs carrying Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles.
A Tsirkon cruise missile during a test fire.
The Tsirkon missile was first successfully tested in 2015 and has since been developed to reach speeds of eight times the speed of sound. Its operational range is upwards of 300 miles or more. Being so close to the U.S. and capable of such speed would make it difficult to intercept with current U.S. ballistic missile technology. The missile travels covered by a plasma cloud which both absorbs radio waves and makes it invisible to radar, according to Russian military sources.
Tsirkon missiles are at the center of the newly heightened tensions between the two powers. Washington contends the Tsirkon violates the 1987 INF Treaty, along with several other missiles developed by the Russians in the years since. When Washington threatened to redeploy short- and medium-range nuclear forces in Europe, it was too much for Russian state media. That’s when they began lashing out and naming targets.
Other potential targets listed included Jim Creek, a naval communications base in Washington, as well as the Pentagon. Camp David is the traditional vacation home of the sitting American President, and was a clear shot at President Trump. There was no mention of Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, where he spends much of his free time.