NATO: Russian missiles able to target European cities ‘with little warning time’

By Illia Ponomarenko. Published Feb. 12. Updated Feb. 12 at 8:13 pm

A man looks at a Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launcher at the permanent exhibition of military equipment and vehicles at Patriot Park in Kubinka, outside Moscow, on Sept. 8, 2016.Photo by AFP PHOTO / Utkin

BRUSSELS — Russia’s long-standing progress in developing intermediate-range missiles, both nuclear and conventional, and the most advanced supersonic weapons has reached the point of gaining superiority over NATO’s capabilities of the same class.

The situation is growing so serious that, even now, the Kremlin has more non-strategic, dual-capable missiles than NATO allies have either developed or deployed over the last several years, officials from the 29-member security bloc asserted during an off-the-record conversation with journalists at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 12.

“Over the past two decades, Russia has been steadily modernizing its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) forces, replacing legacy Soviet-era missiles with new, single- and multiple-warhead missile systems,” the alliance stated.

“In addition, many of Russia’s medium- and intermediate-ranged missile systems, including Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles, Iskander ballistic missile systems, and its newer SSC-8 missile system, are able to deliver either nuclear and conventional warheads.”

“These are missiles that are mobile, easy-to-hide, and able to reach major European cities with little warning time.”

NATO sees this rapid development as a direct threat to its security — and also as something that “creates deep uncertainty over Moscow’s intentions” and bolsters the risk of escalation or a misperception that could trigger a conflict.

The regional disbalance of the NATO and Russian intermediate-range missile stockpile is now a reality in Europe, the NATO officials admitted, although they noted that this issue does not influence the power balance at the strategic level.

The alliance also noted that the Kremlin is not in the position of being forced to counteract NATO’s overwhelming missile defense that directly jeopardizes Russia’s security: In reality, Russia was already capable of penetrating the Western air defense.

NATO’s conventional buildup of the recent years was also not an excuse for the Kremlin’s missile fever — the alliance started amplifying its eastern flank, particularly by deploying additional troops to Poland and Baltic nations, only as a reaction to Russia’s overt aggression against Ukraine in Crimea in 2014, NATO said.

The most serious concern is now the Russian rapid progress in hypersonic weapons — the most advanced innovation of recent years, which offers the prospect of a brand new class of super-effective missiles that combine the enormous speed of ballistic missiles and the maneuverability of cruise missiles.

Fresh Russian designs of such weapons are known to be capable of sticking to evasive altitudes, which makes them even more effective in penetrating air defense barriers and avoiding being detected.

And Russia’s deployment of new hypersonic weapons is continuing at a rapid pace — as NATO officials noted, as recently as in late December, the Russians finished deploying the first Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles. And in January, they also tested their Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched systems.

The alliance added that, contrary to skepticism from many Western experts, the Kremlin was not bluffing — Russia’s progress in supersonic weaponry is a reality.

Additionally, the Kremlin continues investing in its nuclear stockpile, particularly regarding its 9M730 Burevestnik (NATO reporting name SSC-X-9 Skyfallexperimental nuclear-armed cruise missile, which reportedly has an unlimited range thanks to its nuclear-powered propulsion system.

Moreover, the Kremlin’s steadfast denialism regarding the Nyonoksa radiation accident of August 2019, during which five engineers were killed and three wounded in a failed test of a Skyfall rocket, also shows Russia is carefully avoiding any transparency in its nuclear buildup, NATO officials noted.

Other than that, NATO is concerned about the fact that, during Russia’s military exercises Grom in 2019, both strategic and non-strategic forces were involved in maneuvers for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

Nonetheless, NATO officials reiterated that the alliance would stick to a purely defensive reaction to the Russian developments, particularly by adapting NATO exercises to the new reality, as well as by bolstering its missile defenses, intelligence, surveillance and conventional forces.

They noted that NATO does not seek a new arms race, nor does it have intentions to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe or to mirror Russian behavior.

“But we will also ensure that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective,” they assured.



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