An explosion at a missile test center has rekindled anxieties about Moscow’s penchant for secrecy when bad or embarrassing things happen in its national security establishment. Details have been slowly and reluctantly revealed, yet even that drip of information has been enough to heighten concern about what transpired and Russia’s intentions. If the accident occurred during the test of a new nuclear propulsion system, then the government of President Vladimir Putin should be condemned for its recklessness and the threat these new weapon systems pose.
A year ago, Putin announced that his government was developing new weapons that use nuclear engines to hit distant targets and evade defense systems. Among those weapons is a cruise missile that the Russians call the 9M730 Burevestnik or Storm Petrel and which NATO has dubbed the SSC-X-9 Skyfall; another is a giant nuclear-powered torpedo called the Poseidon. Their nuclear engines give them virtually unlimited range and allow them to outmaneuver defenses or to go undetected.
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