Russia’s decision to withdraw its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty prompts concerns about another nuclear arms race, especially in light of Russia’s increased military presence in the Arctic and the ongoing war over Ukraine.
Russia President Vladimir Putin says the country doesn’t intend to resume nuclear weapons testing, but does need to achieve parity with the United States.
The nuclear test ban treaty, which is signed by 177 countries (without Russia), may be in severe jeopardy. The treaty is not actually in force because six countries, including China and the United States, have signed it, but not ratified it, and three major nuclear powers — North Korea, India, and Pakistan — haven’t even signed it.
But in spite of what Putin is saying about not ratcheting up nuclear arms, last week the Russian military revealed that it had launched a successful intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry nuclear warheads from a submarine called the Emperor Alexander III. The test was conducted in Russia’s White Sea, and hit a testing range in the Kura Missile Test Range of eastern Kamchatka, some 3,442 miles away. The test may have occurred in late October.
It’s not the first intercontinental missile launched by Russia and won’t be the last, but it comes at an interesting time in world geopolitics.
In 2017, the submarine Yuri Dolgorukiy launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Barents Sea at Kura targets in Kamchatka, again from an underwater position. Kamchatka is about 1,540 miles from Dillingham, Alaska.
As the nuclear test ban treaty appears to be crumbling around the edges, and as Russia amps up its nuclear missile capabilities, Alaska has missile tracking capabilities at Clear Space Force Station, about 300 miles north of Anchorage, and interception launching capabilities at Fort Greely, 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Ground-based Midcourse Defense) destroys intercontinental ballistic missiles in mid-course to defend the United States.
In September, Russia fired cruise missiles at mock targets in waters between it and Alaska, which Moscow said was an exercise to protect its shipping routes in the Bering Sea. That exercise involved submarine-launched missiles, as well as ship- and land-launched ballistics. About 10,000 Russian military personnel took part in the exercise, which was observed by U.S. Coast Guard.