The Pentagon has announced that the US will postpone a scheduled ballistic missile test originally scheduled for this week to demonstrate the US capability is a responsible nuclear-armed country amid rising nuclear tension with Russia.
“In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention of engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the Secretary of Defense has directed our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, scheduled for this week, to be postponed,” said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
He further stated that the postponement was not a step backward in the US’ readiness to respond to Russia and claimed they remained confident in their current strategic posture.
This announcement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Kremlin’s nuclear forces on high alert amid being on the receiving end of stiff Ukrainian resistance and international condemnation from most of the entire world. Suffering casualties and economic losses due to imposed sanctions, Russia found itself on the ropes and put its nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.” This action from the Kremlin raised international concerns that Russia had the intention to use nuclear weapons.
“We have been prompted to call for an emergency special session as the level of the threat to the global security has been equated to that of the Second World War or even higher following Putin’s order to put an alert [on] Russian nuclear forces. What a madness!” said Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya while addressing the United Nations General Assembly.
In order to avoid any further escalation, the testing of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was postponed to see if there would be any response by Russia to deescalate the nuclear situation it has created. Kirby also stated that the US’ own nuclear forces were not on high alert as responding to Russia’s aggression through nuclear threats would only make the situation more ‘dangerous’ and ‘unnecessary.’
The United States can launch its strategic nuclear missiles from land-based silos about 5 minutes after receiving the order to strike so the Russians being at an alert status would not seriously compromise U.S. security. Russian missiles would take approximately 25-30 minutes to reach the U.S., and as soon as they were launched the heat from their exhausts would be detected prompting an automatic retaliatory response by hundreds of U.S. land-based and submarine-based ballistic missiles carrying more than 1,300 nuclear warheads. Russia would not survive such an exchange.
The Minuteman III is tested about four times a year in order to ensure its operational reliability as the missile is very much an old weapon. This ICBM is currently in service with the Air Force Global Strike Command and has been in service since the 70s. They are currently located in underground silos in 5 western states. These ICBMs can be ready to launch in a matter of a few minutes if ever the US president decides to use them.
“We will always do what is needed to protect and defend our allies, but we don’t think there is any need now to change the alert levels of NATO’s nuclear forces,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “We strongly believe it’s reckless and irresponsible the way Russia is speaking about nuclear weapons,” he continued.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that there was no need to panic about these nuclear threats from Russia as this had been seen before in the past. “This is a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression,” said Psaki.
The Russian aggressive stance on nuclear weapons, while not surprising, is also ironic as it was one of the five Nuclear-Weapon possessing states that signed an agreement to prevent nuclear war and avoid arms races just last January 3. Other members who committed to this were the People’s Republic of China, the French Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of course, the United States of America. Said countries reiterated that they are committed to their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations,
“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented,” said a White House statement.
During his State of the Union address, US President Joe Biden, while not mentioning Putin’s direct order with its nuclear arsenal, stated that the way the US responds to ‘autocracies’ is the real test. “In the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security — this is the real test,” he said. “When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.”
When asked whether Americans should be worried about Putin’s nuclear threats and high gas prices, he simply said that “We’re going to be OK.”
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