Up until now, most of the back and forth between Washington and Moscow over intermediate-range missile treaties and the development of new strategic weapons has sounded like little more than saber rattling. But recent developments are starting to make the situation seem a bit more dire. According to some military analysts, Russia’s next generation of cruise missiles would be nearly impossible to intercept and could reach their targets so rapidly when fired from submarines that there would be little or no time to respond. This raises the grim prospect of the Russians actually considering the viability of a first strike on the United States in a nuclear exchange. (Free Beacon)

News reports from Russian media over the weekend indicate that the hypersonic cruise missile highlighted in President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 20 state of the nation address is being contemplated for use in a first strike against targets in the continental United States.

This was the second year in a row that the Russian leader used the occasion of his annual presentation to a joint session of the Russian state parliament to threaten the use of nuclear-capable, “doomsday” weapons against the United States…

“In a wartime situation, no Russian naval vessel could approach this close to the U.S. and still survive, so the only interpretation is that Tsirkon is now being planned as a first strike weapon. The only plausible scenario is one in which these ships or subs would approach an unsuspecting U.S. coastline and then the Tsirkons would be launched in a surprise attack,” said one expert.

Putin was talking about the NPO Mashinostroyeniya 3M22 Tsirkon missile. This isn’t one of the long-range monsters that can travel vast distances and might be more easily intercepted. Its range is just a little over 600 miles, so it would need to be launched from a ship or, more likely, a missile capable submarine. This means they would have to be parked not too far off of our coasts, but we’ve got a lot of coastline.

This story is too much of a flashback to the ugly days of the cold war when there were constant discussions of whether or not either America or the USSR would ever consider a first strike and if we could survive it. Fortunately, the general consensus was that neither of us could survive, so nobody would pull the trigger first. This theory of Mutually Assured Destruction has prevented mushroom clouds from covering the world for a long time now.

It’s also the reason that I’m not going to go into a full panic attack over Putin’s speech. The reality is that Putin won’t launch first even with his new hypersonic weapons because we would still do the same thing to Russia even if both of our coasts were nuclear wastelands. We have even more subs than they do and our boomers are always out there lurking. The Russians may be able to find some of them, but not nearly all. And after losing contact with the United States military command for a certain number of hours they would pop up near the surface and launch a counterstrike that would turn Russia’s cities into hell on Earth.

Still, it’s good that we have people keeping an eye on these technological developments. If the Russians are going to continue to pursue these avenues of military hardware advancements, we’ll probably need to spruce up our own systems a bit. Probably long overdue anyway.