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Russia announces new nuclear weapons tests just days after Trump-Putin summit

Testing of Russia's Burevestnik nuclear-powered missile. (Russian Ministry of Defense/Released)
July 20, 2018

Just days after the summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Russia has announced new tests of nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the progress of their weapons testing, according to The Hill. The announcement revealed the ground testing of the Burevestnik nuclear cruise missile and subsequent plans for flight tests, along with a high-powered laser weapon Peresvet and the underwater nuclear drone Poseidon, among others.

Regarding the Burevestnik missile, the defense ministry said: “The program of the system’s pop-up tests has been completed with the positive results, which makes it possible to switch to preparations for the flight trials of the Sarmat missile complex.”

The missile is said to have unlimited range capabilities, the ability to continually change its trajectory, and it evades missile defense systems. It is also nuclear powered and capable of remaining in the air indefinitely. It is also capable of low-level flights to make it difficult to observe.

The defense ministry said the missile “is invincible to all the existing and advanced air and missile defense systems.”

“Launching systems are also being designed, while technological processes to manufacture, assemble and test the missile are being improved. This range of work will make it possible to start designing a totally new sort of weapon—a strategic nuclear complex armed with a nuclear-powered missile,” the ministry added.

It is unclear whether or not the Burevestnik missile will violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The treaty prohibits nuclear and conventional missiles with range capabilities of 310 to 3,420 miles.

Other tests were carried out on the hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, which yielded an increased range of 1,800 miles.

The defense ministry released numerous videos to boast their missile capabilities, only censoring a few missile parts and workers’ faces.

The announcement of weapons tests followed Putin’s remarks calling for talks with the U.S. on their nuclear weapons treaty. He pointed out that the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will soon expire.

In March, Putin made a public address on Russia’s nuclear goals.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” he said.

He added, “You have failed to contain Russia.”

Russia has reportedly upgraded their nuclear facilities, and satellite images confirmed an expanded facility in Kaliningrad.

The announcement so soon after the Trump-Putin summit suggests that Russia was eager to show off its latest nuclear developments after the two leaders discussed nuclear arsenals at the summit.