Russian Long-Range Aircraft and Nuclear Missile Exercises: Updates on Strategic Parity and Arms Race

2023-10-25 16:34:34

Long-range Tu-95MS aircraft also fired cruise missiles, which have a shorter range and were sometimes used in strikes in Ukraine.

“Under the leadership of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, a training exercise was conducted (…). Training firings of ballistic and cruise missiles took place,” the Kremlin announced.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu explained in his report that these maneuvers were aimed at simulating the “triggering of a massive nuclear strike by strategic offensive forces in response to an enemy nuclear strike.” His ministry broadcast images on Telegram showing a missile flying into a night sky in a halo of light as well as a bomber taking off from a tarmac.

In a short extract provided by Russian public television, we see Vladimir Putin listening to the report from Sergei Shoigu and that of Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov after these maneuvers. Russian nuclear doctrine provides for a “strictly defensive” use of atomic weapons, in the event of an attack on Russia with weapons of mass destruction or in the event of aggression with conventional weapons “threatening the very existence of State “.

Abandonment of treaties

Wednesday’s exercises come public on the same day that Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, approved the revocation of ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The senators voted for the text unanimously by 156 votes, thus paving the way for its promulgation by Vladimir Putin. There is little doubt about this, the Russian president having been at the origin of this measure.

For Moscow, the abandonment of this treaty aims to “restore strategic parity” with the United States, which never ratified it. This revocation raises fears of an intensification of the arms race. Russia, since the breakup of the USSR, has not carried out such tests. The last, during the time of the Soviet Union, dates back to 1990 and the last from the United States to 1992. Vladimir Putin nevertheless affirmed at the beginning of October that he did not immediately know whether his country was going to resume nuclear tests. Russia has already abandoned several nuclear disarmament treaties in recent years, including the landmark New Start agreement with the United States.

In the summer of 2023, it also deployed tactical nuclear weapons, less powerful than the warheads of strategic vectors, in Belarus, its closest ally and a neighbor of the EU. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov assured Wednesday that his country would only talk about nuclear arms control when Washington, Ukraine’s main military and financial backer, ceased to be “hostile” to Moscow.

Russia, heir to Soviet nuclear power, and the United States between them hold nearly 90% of all nuclear weapons on the planet.

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