It could be a further dramatic piece confirming Russian intentions for an all-out operation Ukraine but also the triggering element of a new, very dangerous arms race: Moscow, writes the New York Times, is ready to test a nuclear-powered missile with technology that makes it a deadly weapon.
After the increase in the defense budget by 70% for 2024 and the operations on the ground that see up to 10 thousand men massed in Bakhmut, the hypothesis of an expansion of the Russian arsenal, specifically on the atomic front, is naturally a source of red alert. The American newspaper reconstructed the threat through satellite images of a remote Russian base in the Arctic, highlighting that the movements of planes and vehicles within and near the site are similar to those carried out for the tests of two missiles in 2017 and 2018.
In the last two weeks, US surveillance planes have also been spotted in the area and alerts have been detected warning pilots to avoid nearby airspace, the New York Times wrote. The reference is to 13 tests conducted by Russia between 2017 and 2019 for the Burevestnika missile that exceeds the definition of intercontinental because the nuclear propulsion engine makes the autonomy potentially unlimited. Those tests all ended unsuccessfully, according to a report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit group specializing in arms control. Accidents can be frequent and deadly: A missile launched in 2019 crashed and then exploded during a recovery attempt, killing seven people, according to U.S. officials.
The dangers are in fact considerable in the testing and development phase, as underlined by Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, quoted by the New York Times, who however believes that it is not yet clear whether the Burevestnik missile has been tested again after 2019: in his opinion, however, even in the event of a successful test, it will take years before the missile can be considered operational.
According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative report, the missile is a weapon intended to be used in extreme, apocalyptic scenarios, such as in response to a wave of nuclear attacks against Russia. And it could potentially destroy large urban areas as well as military targets, experts assure. To give greater concreteness to the Burevestnik hypothesis there is a speech by Vladimir Putin in 2018 – the New York Times still recalls – in which the deadly missile was mentioned among the strategic weapons together with others such as the Kinzhal ballistic missile and the hypersonic vehicle Avangard.
On that occasion the Tsar stated that that arsenal would be able to overcome all existing US defenses. And he added, addressing the West: “You have failed to contain Russia.”