Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces and the new arms race

The Tu-160 “Blackjack” supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber
The Tu-160 “Blackjack” can carry up to 12 Kh-101 cruise missiles, which are difficult to detect and defend against. Russia is currently working on an upgraded version (source: dpa)
  • The Kremlin has prioritized modernizing Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces
  • Russia has developed some dangerous weapons, but is still being outpaced by the U.S.
  • Using nuclear weapons to deescalate a conflict is still part of Russian doctrine
  • Arms control mechanisms are breaking down, making conflict more plausible

Those who claim the Cold War is back found grist for their mills on February 1, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States would suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Signed in December 1987 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the INF treaty was widely regarded as a major stepping stone toward bringing an end to the Cold War.

The U.S. claims that in early 2017, Russia deployed a ground-launched, intermediate-range 9M729 cruise missile (a variant of the Novator RK-55 Relief, a land-based version of the naval Kalibr cruise missile), representing a violation of the treaty. Although the Kremlin had long contemplated pulling out first, it still reacted angrily, rejecting the U.S. claim.

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