Across Russia, forty million civilians and military personnel just finished up emergency drills aimed at preparing the general population for nuclear or chemical weapons attacks, the Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Grove reports.
Video shows Russian civilians practicing along with officials and workers in Hazmat suits.
But as troubling as the largest civil defence drills since the height of the Cold War have been, the steps Russia has taken to improve its offensive nuclear capabilities likely overshadow them.
Since the breakdown of US-Russian talks on the fate of Syria, Russia has pulled out of a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with the US citing “unfriendly acts” by the US, it has moved nuclear-capable missiles to its European enclave of Kaliningrad, and it has threatened “asymmetrical” and “painful” actions against the US should it decide to impose sanctions on Russia over Syria.
Additionally, Russia’s state-run media has been ratcheting up anti-American rhetoric lately.
Lev Gudkov, head of the Russian polling group Levada-Center, told the Journal that in Russia, “most people believe that the Third World War has begun, but right now we are still in the cold phase of the war, which may or may not turn into a hot war.”
Indeed in Syria and the Ukraine, Russia has turned away from diplomacy and instead towards military solutions to standoffs with the West. Russia’s recent installation of another missile defence battery in Syria gives the US very few options to intervene without risking serious casualties.
Furthermore, Russia designed its nuclear weapons arsenal as absolute doomsday devices that rain up to ten high-yield nuclear warheads down on targets at Mach 23 in a salvo that the US can’t possibly hope to intercept.
The US has long relied on the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction,” or having a spread out, autonomous, and effective nuclear arsenal that would return fire should another nuclear power attack with the intent of deterring any nuclear attacks. However, the Journal reports that Moscow is now taking steps to ensure that 100% of its population would be sheltered from such an attack.
Far from matching Russia’s aggressive nuclear posturing, the US has had its attentions elsewhere. The US’s long range bomber aircraft, the most visible deterrent of a nuclear arsenal, have mainly been stationed in the Pacific in response to North Korea’s nuclear aggression.
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