The Kremlin has announced that Russia conducted a military exercise to demonstrate its capability to execute a “massive” nuclear strike. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu disclosed the details of the rehearsal, which involved responding to an enemy’s nuclear attack. He conveyed this information to President Vladimir Putin on state television.
This exercise coincided with Russia’s parliamentary decision to withdraw its ratification of a global treaty that prohibits physical testing of nuclear warheads. Both Russia and the United States regularly conduct nuclear readiness simulations, with Moscow typically holding its own towards the end of October.
The exercises conducted this year focused on the deployment of a significant nuclear strike by Russia’s strategic offensive forces in response to an enemy’s nuclear assault. The Defence Ministry stated that “practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles” were part of these drills. They launched a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from a test site in Russia’s far-east, and they fired another missile from a nuclear-powered submarine in the Barents Sea.
The Defense Ministry also released video footage of the Russia nuclear strike tests. Notably, earlier this month, President Putin claimed that Russia had completed a “final successful test” of a nuclear-powered cruise missile. This experimental weapon, first introduced in 2018, was initially lauded for its potentially unlimited range, although independent verification of this claim is lacking.
Many likely perceive these recent tests as a display of strength by Russia, happening at the same time as the country’s decision to withdraw from an international nuclear test ban treaty. Russia’s parliament passed a law to revoke its ratification of the treaty, aligning its position with that of the United States, which signed but never ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) agreed upon in 1996. The CTBT prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” worldwide.
It’s important to note that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year raised concerns regarding the potential use of nuclear weapons. In June, Russia deployed a first batch of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. President Putin assured that they would only be employed if Russia’s territorial integrity or sovereignty was under threat.
The U.S. government has stated that there is no evidence to suggest that the Kremlin intends to use nuclear weapons in an attack on Ukraine.