Reset Watch

by Andrew Stuttaford

The Diplomat reports:

With the U.S. and Russia deadlocked over a plan by NATO to deploy a European missile defense system, Moscow showed the world what it meant by “technical response” last week by holding what has been described as the most comprehensive test of its strategic nuclear arsenal since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

According to Russian media, President Vladimir Putin, whom critics have accused of overplaying the nuclear threat from the West to boost his political fortunes domestically, oversaw the entire series of tests, which were conducted mostly on Oct. 19. All three components of Moscow’s nuclear “triad” — strategic bombers, land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles — as well as communications and command-and-control systems featuring “new algorithms,” were tested.

The tests included the launch of an RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from Plesetsk in northern Russia — the world’s first operational ICBM base, built in the 1950s — and an R-29R from a submerged submarine operating in the Sea of Okhotsk. Both missiles traveled a distance of more than 6,000km before hitting their targets. Meanwhile, two long-range bombers, a Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” and a Tu-160 “Blackjack,” each fired two nuclear-capable cruise missiles at a test range in Komi, northwestern Russia. All the missiles involved were fitted with dummy warheads.

In a statement, the Kremlin said the strategic nuclear forces exercise was “conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia….”

Not a precursor to Armageddon, of course, but hardly — what was that word — optimal.

On a somewhat related note, I noted this in a recent Finnish report (yes, I have no life) on Estonia’s recent lurch towards support of far closer European integration (emphasis added).

The strengthened EU orientation is partly explained by major regional and global changes. The EU has become more important for Estonia’s national security as a result of decreased U.S. interest in Europe, which coincides with Russia’s increasingly assertive behavior towards its neighbours.

Given Estonia’s difficult history and uncomfortable location, not to speak of today’s increased Russian saber-rattling, it’s easy enough to understand why that country is doing what it is doing (whatever one might think of the wisdom of this shift, itself a complex question), but it is sad to think that a perception of U.S. weakness is playing a part in pushing Estonia on a course that risks taking that Baltic state a long way from the Atlanticism, low tax/free market economics, and budgetary discipline that have all been such splendid features of its renewed independence.