Russia’s planned test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile might have failed at launch, according to two unnamed US officials cited by CNN. The White House was notified by the Kremlin ahead of the planned test via deconfliction channels, but it’s unclear whether the test was launched while President Joe Biden was in Ukraine or before. The Kremlin was notified of Biden’s trip to Kyiv prior to his departure.
The officials believe that the test was supposed to have been one of the highlights of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address on Tuesday, but the authoritarian leader did not once mention it during his speech, which ran for an hour and 45 minutes. This has thus led the US to assume that it had failed to launch.
Putin did not, however, run short of highlights at his annual address. He announced that Russia will be suspending its participation in the New START nuclear treaty with the US, the last major agreement between the two nations that together hold 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.
The treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the two countries can deploy to 1,550 on missile launchers and heavy bombers for each side. The US last month had already stated that Russia was in violation of the treaty when it refused to allow on-site inspections of its nuclear facilities and ignored requests for discussions on the matter.
The failed test launch was for “Satan II” or “Son of Satan,” a SARMAT intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The liquid-fuelled missile can deliver multiple nuclear warheads with a range of over 6,835 miles. Russia had test-launched ICBMs successfully in the past — the last time in April, which was also for Satan II.
Satan II as a distraction for failures
The April 2022 test, which happened a couple of months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was believed to have been an attempt to move some attention away from Russia’s military failures at the time, including the sinking of the Moskva, the Black Sea flagship. Putin then warned that the missile would “give thought to those who are trying to threaten Russia.”
The new test could’ve also been designed to distract from the continuous failures of his “special military operation” in Ukraine, which marks its first anniversary this week. Russian forces remain in control of about a fifth of Ukraine, but have over the past year suffered through major defeats and battlefield reverses.
In his address, Putin focused his narrative on blaming the West for starting the conflict.
“The people of Ukraine have become the hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in the political, military, and economic sense,” he said.
“They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly because in this case, we are talking about the existence of our country.”
NATO is concerned Beijing might lend Russia a hand (or some arms)
NATO has expressed concern that China may be considering supplying weapons to Russia, which would escalate the war into a larger confrontation — one with Russia and China joining forces on one side, and Ukraine with NATO on the other.
Hours after Putin’s address, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged NATO members and EU member states to continue supporting Ukraine to help defeat invading Russian forces.
“Putin must not win,” Stoltenberg said.
Information for this briefing was found via CNN, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Euronews, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.