On March 1, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin delivered a speech that effectively declared Russia has overwhelming nuclear superiority and war-winning capability against the United States, NATO, and the entire world.
While President Obama neglected modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent, questing for a “world without nuclear weapons” — Russia achieved what the USSR never could against any U.S. president during the Cold War, the holy grail of nuclear superiority, what strategists call “escalation dominance.”
Escalation dominance means being able to prevail with superior nuclear capabilities in any crisis or conflict across the full spectrum of tactical and strategic possibilities.
Dr. Stephen Blank, former Russian security studies professor at the U.S. Army War College noted that Russia’s strategy is “to demonstrate nuclear capability ostentatiously throughout all the stages of any crisis. Should war ensue, escalating to deescalate is part of that process … but … the broader strategy is one of escalation control to inhibit any Western response to attempted Russian faits accompli.”
Escalation dominance also means being able to win without war through nuclear diplomacy, nuclear blackmail, and nuclear terror. Not just during crises, but in the daily lives of nations, states “surrender” to escalation dominance when awesome nuclear threats overshadow every decision — as in NATO’s virtual appeasement of Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine.
Escalation dominance shapes the psychological geography of international relations and world order.
While Obama was content to allow the aged and obsolete U.S. nuclear deterrent and the scientific-industrial nuclear weapons infrastructure to wither away, Dr. Blank describes the nuclear sinews of Russian escalation dominance: “At present, Russia is running over 20 production lines for short, medium, and long-range nuclear weapons that are to be tailored to any kind of contingency ranging from low-yield to high-yield weapons.”
Russia has also deployed Third Generation nuclear weapons designed for special effects — like electromagnetic pulse (EMP), neutron and x-ray kill, and “fallout free” battlefield mini-nukes — that have no U.S. counterparts.
Dictator Putin’s speech is an act of escalation dominance and nuclear blackmail aimed at the United States. His nuclear presentation began with a video of Russia’s Sarmat missile, dubbed by NATO Satan-II: a super-heavy ICBM capable of hurtling a payload 10-20 times heavier than the U.S. Minuteman, including 14 or more megaton-class warheads and penetration aids.
Pavel Felgengauer, often a mouthpiece for Russia’s general staff, provided additional details in a March 1 article, writing, “Sarmat will have an ‘unlimited range’ thanks to taking a so-called suborbital trajectory. While ... ICBMs launched from Russia at the U.S. would have traveled over the North Pole, the Sarmat will pass above the South Pole to arrive from ‘the other side’ thus baffling U.S. missile defenses.”
Satan-II is probably capable of delivering Russia’s new 100-megaton warhead on a south polar trajectory to make a surprise EMP attack blacking-out North America, simultaneously destroying satellites vital to U.S. military and economic power.
Another super-weapon revealed by Putin is a hypersonic maneuverable warhead called Avangard. Felgengauer: “Such a warhead may be attached essentially to any ICBM. During reentry, it will perform high-speed maneuvers to avoid U.S. missile defense systems and then successfully home in to kill its designated target.”
Avangard can impart to Russian ICBMs cruise missile-type accuracy, striking bullseye or a few meters from target. Avangard accuracy would enable Russian ICBMs to destroy U.S. hard targets, like missile silos, with a single very low-yield or even non-nuclear warhead.
Theoretically, just 30 Satan-IIs armed with 15 Avangard warheads could destroy all 450 Minuteman silos — a kill ratio of 15-to-1. If low-yield or non-nuclear warheads are used, Russia could make a disarming first strike cleanly, causing little collateral damage and few civilian casualties.
Another Russian super-weapon confirmed by Putin is a robot submarine armed with a single enormous nuclear warhead for detonation underwater, to destroy aircraft carrier groups, submarines, or inundate cities, described by Felgengauer as an “unmanned doomsday drone.”
Called “Kanyon” by the Pentagon and “Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6” by the Kremlin, according to Felgengauer: “The underwater autonomous torpedo can travel at speeds of up to 85 kilometers per hour (some 56 knots), go as deep as one kilometer, and has a range of up to 10,000 kilometers ... The drone may carry a massive warhead of up to 100 megatons and is designed to destroy, according to Putin, U.S. aircraft carrier groups or ‘coastal infrastructure.’”
Nuclear shockwaves travel much faster and further underwater than through air. So Kanyon’s kill radius against U.S. carriers and submarines is enormous. U.S. missile submarines at sea were the only Triad deterrent relatively invulnerable during the Cold War.
Felgengauer describes Kanyon’s potential if used for doomsday: “The blast would create a gigantic radioactive tsunami, destroying and contaminating large stretches of densely populated U.S. territory, like New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Boston and so on, leaving them uninhabitable for centuries or millenia.”
“Moscow will negotiate with Washington and the West from a position of nuclear superiority,” Felgengauer writes. “Putin called on the West to admit defeat, sit down and negotiate an end of sanctions and a new world order … otherwise its doomsday nuclear super-weapons are ready.”
Welcome to Russia’s new world order of nuclear blackmail.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission. He served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA.