international, Russia, new cold war
Ivan Sekretarev/AP
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
speaks during his annual state of the
nation speech in Moscow,
Russia, Nov.

Russia Responds to US Shield With Bulava Missiles

December 02, 2008 11:28 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Russia has declared that it will produce a stockpile of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, in an apparent attempt to counter the planned U.S. missile defense shield.

Russia to Produce Bulava Missiles

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced yesterday that the country will move ahead with the production of Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles following the success of a test launch on Nov. 28. There will be another test launch before 2009, but, he said, “our defense enterprises have started mass production,” according to Reuters.

Russia has said the missiles are in response to the proposed U.S. missile defense system being placed in the Czech Republic and Poland. The United States claims that the shield is meant to protect its allies against threats from Iranian missiles, but Russia sees the shield as a threat to its sovereignty that could be used offensively.

Nikolay Solovtsov, Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Force, said that the United States will not be able to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack “because Russian strategic nuclear forces, including the Russian Strategic Rocket Force, will be capable of delivering a strike of retribution given any course of development,” Russia Today writes.

The Bulava, meaning “mace” in Russia, is a 12-meter ballistic missile that “can carry six to 10 supersonic nuclear warheads, capable of changing speed and course during flight,” Bloomberg reports. It can be deployed only on submarines and can reach an estimated distance of 8,000 kilometers.

Russia has tested the missile several times in recent years unsuccessfully, raising questions about the viability of the weapon.

Background: Medvedev challenges Obama over shield; Cold War tension mounts

Addressing the media in November and flanked by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced he would move to extend his country’s presidential term limit from four to six years.

The announcement, which analysts speculate could result in an extension of power for the current president and Putin lasting until 2024, came as Russia announced that it would move an arsenal of nuclear missiles to their western border with Poland if the U.S. went ahead with plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Both actions, Medvedev explained, were intended to offer “stability and help Russia deal with massive global challenges,” though the missiles appear to be a direct challenge to the Pentagon-sponsored defense shield to be built in Poland.

The announcements, accompanied by sharp words for the United States, whose current policy was called “arrogant” and unilateral, represented a further escalation of regional tensions centered on recent efforts to include former Soviet states and Russian neighbors in Western-sponsored policy efforts, specifically NATO.
Earlier this year, Moldova used this tension to its advantage by asking for regional sovereignty over a disputed region in exchange for promising never to join NATO.
The timing of Medvedev’s address, the day after the U.S. elections, also suggested that his actions were meant as a direct challenge to the next president, Barack Obama.

Although NATO and Pentagon supporters of the U.S. missile defense system have said it is intended for use against a potentially nuclear-armed Iran, Russia has repeatedly expressed displeasure for the system’s close proximity to its borders.

In return, the Russian missiles would be trained directly at U.S. radar and missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic “to neutralize, when necessary,” according to The Washington Post. The missiles would be accompanied by radar-jamming equipment.

Insisting that Russia has no choice but to station the short-range missiles, Medvedev told a national television audience that his hand was being forced by an increased U.S. presence in the region.

“We have told our partners more than once that we want positive cooperation … but unfortunately, they don’t want to listen,” Medvedev was reported saying in the Guardian.

Although Medvedev’s direct warnings surprised some, his actions are only the latest in a series of events seen to increase tensions between Russia and the United States.

A year of sharp exchanges about global expansion and Russia’s increasingly close military and economic relationship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez culminated in an exchange of direct criticism and threats following the incursion of Russian troops into a break-away region of neighboring Georgia.

Following the standoff over Georgia’s South Ossetia region, Russia sent warships to Venezuelan borders, further inflaming the tension between their government and the West.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines