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Atlas Triumphant – Russian Nuclear Capability Today

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Although the Cold War is over, and now the most prevalent threats to national security are conventional and asymmetric in nature, nuclear weapons will always remain an integral part of international security, in addition to being a political and diplomatic tool.

Aside from the United States, Russia has the most sophisticated nuclear capability and delivery platforms. This article will examine Russian nuclear capabilities, the evolution of nuclear doctrine in Russia, comparing it to other nuclear-capable states, and make predictions as to the role of nuclear weapons in Russia in the near future.

Russia is an officially recognized nuclear weapon state, as identified by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The Russian Federation has several types of warheads and multiple types of delivery systems capable of transporting them. The Russian government “has been a strong supporter of nuclear nonproliferation treaties and regimes, and bilateral arms control treaties and initiatives with the United States have helped reduce the Russian arsenal substantially from its Soviet-era peak of about 40,000 warheads to approximately 4,300 according to a March 2013 estimate.” (Profile for Russia, 2015) Russia has a nuclear triad similar to that of the United States. A nuclear triad refers to the delivery systems of strategic nuclear weapons, typically launched by air, land and sea. In the case of Russia (and the United States), they have and use strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) as the three pieces of their nuclear triad.

According to the most recent data exchange in March 2015 as part of the New START treaty, Russia “deploys 1,582 strategic warheads on 515 intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. The actual number of deployed Russian warheads is likely higher since the treaty counts one strategic bomber as one operational deployed warhead, even though, for example, the TU-95 MS16 bomber can carry up to sixteen weapons. One open-source estimate from January 2015 put the actual number of operational Russian warheads at 1,900.” (Profile for Russia, 2015) Russia also has 305 ICBMs of five different variants. Collectively, their ICBM fleet could field 1,166 warheads. Three of their Soviet-era variants are being decommissioned, however, including the SS-18, SS-19 and SS-25, with replacements coming into service by 2022. These replacements include the creation of road-mobile ICBM launchers and an ICBM that contains multiple, independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs). (Profile for Russia, 2015) ICBMs can be launched quickly: a mission time of 30 minutes or less for an ICBM to be launched from Russia to the United States is realistic. (Nuclear Weapons, 2008)

While strategic rocket forces play the primary strategic role in the nuclear triad, the sea-based platform takes a less obvious, but no less important, role. In January 2015 Russia reported that its active strategic ballistic missile submarine fleet consisted of two Delta III subs in the Pacific Fleet, five Delta IV subs in the Northern Fleet, and one 995 Borey-class sub in the Northern Fleet. The Delta III submarines carry 16 SLBMs, each with three warheads. These subs are also being slowly being phased out in favor of the newer Delta IV-class subs. The Delta IV-class carries 16 SLBMs, each with the capability of carrying four warheads. The newest subs, the Borey-class subs, will have the ability to house sixteen SLBMs, with each SLBM able to carry up to six warheads. (Profile for Russia, 2015) SLBMs can be launched even more quickly: depending on their locations, SLBMs can reach their target in 15 minutes or less. (Nuclear Weapons, 2008)

The last arm of the strategic nuclear triad is air-based assets. In Russia, they have two heavy bombers that are capable of carrying out a nuclear mission: the Tu-95 Bear and the Tu-160 Blackjack. The Bear has two variants, the MS6 and the MS16. It is uncertain as to the number and operational status of their nuclear bomber fleet, as Russia does not declare this information under arms-control agreements. An open-source estimate made in January 2015 estimates that Russia has 55 Tu-95s and 11 Tu-160s. These assets can launch long-range missiles (air-launched cruise missiles, or ALCMs), short-range missiles, and gravity bombs. (Profile for Russia, 2015)

Tactical (non-strategic) nuclear weapons also make up a significant portion of the nuclear arsenal. However, Russia has never disclosed the amount and types of weapons they possess in this category. A March 2014 estimate puts the amount of Russian tactical nuclear weapons at 2,000. Scholars believe that these warheads are stored at facilities scattered about the country and are not mated to delivery systems.

The United States and Russia have the greatest involvement and greatest concern by far for the safekeeping and responsible holding of nuclear weapons. They have also had both the greatest rivalry and, paradoxically, the most cooperation concerning nuclear weapon matters. Through international treaties, international organizations, and several summit conferences, the United States and Russia have slowly cooperated on matters of nuclear security. Both countries have advocated for nuclear non-proliferation and have reduced the number of their strategic nuclear weapons. The other nuclear weapon states as recognized by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) are the United Kingdom, France and China. Four other states known or believed to have nuclear weapons are India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. Both countries, the US and Russia, recognize the seriousness of the prospect of nuclear war, whether between each other or secondarily via some form of proxy war, and have agreed in the past that nuclear war is unacceptable. (Profile for Russia, 2015) And while both countries have always exhibited remarkable restraint in terms of honoring that commitment, the fact remains that both nuclear doctrines for these two countries contain stipulations and conditions upon which either may employ and feel justified to use nuclear weapons.

As one of the most powerful nuclear countries in the world, Russia will always carry an enormous potential problem to American national interests. Russia’s nuclear triad consists of sophisticated and capable delivery systems for all three legs: land, air and sea-based operations. It has a significant number of non-strategic nuclear weapons, as well, which are unaffected by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties made with the United States. Depending on how and where these assets are utilized the Russian Federation may have a nuclear capability even more disconcerting to the international community than its formal triad. To date, Russia has maintained its tradition of being a responsible member of the nuclear club, even if always being ready to verbally remind the global community of its capabilities. What remains to be seen is how might new conflicts and tensions on the global stage – Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, DAESH, Iran – put new dynamics into play between the world’s two nuclear superpowers. As this article shows, Russia is still a force to be reckoned with on the nuclear front. Forgetting that could be extremely hazardous to the global community’s health.

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Defense

A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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Defense

Aspects of the American maritime strategy

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Let’s start from a premise that should be completely obvious from a strategic point of view: Any maritime strategy, whether the English one – from the eighteenth century to the Second World War – or the American one, is necessarily a long-term strategy and therefore requires long-term investments by looking for where it is possible to anticipate future challenges. We think in this regard of the nuclear aircraft carriers of the Gerald Ford class whose first series should be put into place next year. If the United States has decided to invest substantial resources in the context of the projection of maritime power this depends on the need to consolidate its naval power, consolidation possible both thanks to the economic and financial power they have at least until today and thanks to technological innovation. (let’s think both of the fact for example that the USA is the only nation that builds catapults for flat deck aircraft carriers and to the fact that with the new class of Ford aircraft carriers the Navy will equip itself with electromagnetic catapults that will be able to increase by about one third the current capabilities of the catapults).

Of course, such large investments on the aircraft carrier front are certainly not accidental since these play a fundamental role of traditional deterrence – both in the sense of being able to threaten armed intervention in the event of a crisis – and of nuclear deterrence as long as the aircraft departing from the aircraft carriers being equipped with nuclear weapons, albeit with low potential, they play a very important deterrent role. In short, the aircraft carrier allows the use of gradual or flexible deterrence.

But in order for the US naval power to be effectively consolidated – especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific and therefore as a function of anti-Chinese containment – today as yesterday (we allude to the cold war) the American military infrastructures present in key strategic junctions on a global level allows it to exercise its naval power effectively: the strengthening of the military partnership with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines must be read just as a renewed interest on the part of the American in the fundamental role of naval power. all these reasons together can only lead us to define the United States as a real modern thalassocracy.

It is no coincidence, on the other hand, that the Obama administration has turned its attention to East and South Asia starting from the realization that the future of the world is at stake in these geopolitical contexts.

In fact, on the front of economic competition with China, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed in 2016, a treaty to which – among others – Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, excluding China. Barack Obama has spelled out his foreign policy program, called The Obama Doctrine, rejecting isolationism and supporting multilateralism. In other words Obama has explicitly pursued the tradition of realism embodied by “senior” Bush and by Scowcroft military interventions, too often supported by the State Department, the Pentagon, and think tanks, should only be used where America is under imminent and direct threat. In an environment where the greatest dangers are now climate, financial or nuclear, it is up to US allies to shoulder their share of the common burden. While agreeing that the relationship with China will be the most critical of all, his political program emphasizes that everything will depend on Beijing’s ability to take on its international responsibilities in a peaceful environment. If it did not do so and allowed itself to be conquered by nationalism, America will have to be resolute and take all initiatives aimed at strengthening its multilateralism in the function of anti-Chinese containment. It is therefore very likely that the current US president Biden will carry out a strategy of this nature.

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