Team Putin is talking up fearsome new hardware that could accelerate a nuclear contest not seen since the Cold War.
Russia has a new nuclear missile — one that Zvezda, a Russian government-owned T.V. network, claimed can wipe out an area “the size of Texas or France.”
Actually, no, a single SS-30 rocket with a standard payload of 12 independent warheads, most certainly could not destroy Texas or France. Not immediately. And not by itself.
Each of the SS-30’s multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle warheads, or MIRVs, could devastate a single city. But Texas alone has no fewer than 35 cities of 100,000 people or more.
Moscow’s arsenal of roughly 7,000 atomic weapons—1,800 of which are on high alert—and America’s own, slightly smaller arsenal—again, only 1,800 of which are ready to fire at any given time—plus the approximately 1,000 warheads that the rest of the world’s nuclear powers possess are, together, more than adequate to kill every human being on Earth as well as most other forms of life.
One new Russian rocket doesn’t significantly alter that terrible calculus.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be alarmed. The SS-30 is only the latest manifestation of a worrying trend. After decades of steady disarmament, the United States and Russia are pouring tens of billions of dollars into building new and more capable nuclear weaponry that experts agree neither country needs, nor can afford.
The SS-30 by itself is just slightly more destructive than older Russian missiles. It’s what the new weapon represents that’s frightening. The post-Cold War nuclear holiday is over. And apocalyptic weaponry such as Russia’s new SS-30 are back at work making the world a very, very scary place.