Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: The Devil in Charge

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The “NEW COLD WAR” that began with the United States (US) withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 continues rapidly and deeply. The quiet and dangerous developments that have occurred since that time have become more apparent with the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Most recently, Russia’s readiness to deploy the SARMAT weapon system reveals the extent of the danger.

Since 2002, while the United States has taken important steps in both defense and offensive systems, Russia, which sees these moves by the United States as a significant threat to its national security, has accelerated its efforts in this field. As a matter of fact, on March 1, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced to the international community the new weapon systems they developed in response to the US withdrawal from the 1972 treaty. Efforts have been accelerated for the use of SARMAT missiles, which Putin described as ‘invincible,’ or hypersonic missiles like ‘ZIRCON’ or ‘KINJAL,’ which he referred to as ‘unstoppable’ by the Russian Armed Forces. Indeed, in March 2022, it was claimed that Russia used the Kinjal hypersonic missile in Ukraine. Considering the weapon systems of the United States, these weapons, which are much superior in terms of quality, albeit fewer in number compared to the Cold War period, have actually been an indication that the NEW COLD WAR that started in 2002 will again be based on nuclear weapons.

One of the most striking of these weapons is the RS-28 SARMAT MIRV thermonuclear missile, which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) calls “SATAN II”. SARMAT missiles, whose test in April 2021 is said to have been successful, are considered to be the world’s longest-range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile with a range of 18,000 km. Weighing 210 tons, with liquid fuel technology and fast enough to hit London in 3 minutes, these missiles can carry between 10-15 nuclear warheads and one missile is capable of destroying an area the size of the UK or France.[1] The weapon is capable of carrying multiple Avangard hypersonic cruise missiles. When introducing the weapon, Putin described it as “there is no such weapon in the world yet and there will not be for a long time”. [2]

SARMAT significantly increased Russia’s strategic and political power, which was reflected in Russia’s rhetoric. As a matter of fact, Russia started to implicitly threaten Britain with nuclear weapons in the face of Britain’s harsh rhetoric and support for Ukraine during the Ukrainian invasion. For instance, at the end of April, a Russian channel aired a simulation of a SARMAT missile striking the United Kingdom, and the program’s host went even further, openly threatening the United Kingdom by claiming that a SARMAT missile could wipe the entire country off the map. [3]

After the simulation showing the complete destruction of the UK by SARMAT missiles on Russian TV, there were reports in the British media about Directed Energy Weapons or Laser Weapons being used to counter Russia’s missiles, [4] clearly indicating the extent of the arms race. Russia’s statement that its work on the SARMAT missiles is a response to the US’s Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) [5] program also highlights the scale of the arms race. Again, Putin’s talk of developing hypersonic weapons powered by nuclear energy with no flight time limit revealed a different dimension of the danger. [6]

On the other hand, SARMAT’s ability to fly in different trajectories prevents it from being neutralized by Missile Defense systems. Indeed, Putin has stated that the weapon can penetrate all existing missile defense systems.[7] This capability, in turn, will require further development of the US-led Missile Defense Systems and will ultimately lead to an even more rapid repetition of the Cold War-era arms race.

In conclusion, the escalating crisis and global competition between Russia and the West are encouraging nuclear armament. Within this context, the gradual withdrawal of bilateral or international agreements established during the Cold War era regarding nuclear weapons and the removal of legal barriers to armament are accelerating the arms race. Indeed, Putin’s claim that ‘Russia developed these weapons after the United States withdrew from the 1972 ABM Treaty [8] underscores the importance of international agreements concerning nuclear weapons once again.

On August 2, 2019, the United States withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, removing restrictions on the deployment of these weapons. Russia has recently deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. It will come as no surprise that tactical nuclear weapons, which are not subject to any binding treaty, are now increasingly deployed in the Eurasian region by both the United States and Russia The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons by Russia near the Finnish border, especially following Finland’s potential NATO membership, and the increase in the number of tactical nuclear weapons by the United States in five European countries (Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium) will mark a new era, aiming to reduce Russia’s conventional force deployment costs along its expanded NATO borders.

The only remaining treaty in force between the United States and Russia on nuclear weapons is the “NEW START” Treaty, which was extended for 5 years in January 2021. Russia suspended the treaty in February 2023. [9] The recent abrogation of the last nuclear arms treaty between the US and Russia will put an end to the quantitative limitation of nuclear weapons and an unimaginable nuclear armament, including strategic nuclear weapons, will become inevitable. In this case, it is expected that new SARMATs will enter the inventory and many more than the contracted limit of 800 will be deployed and ready for use.

[1] “Putin Threatens to Deploy New Satan II Nuclear Missile – Which Can Reach Britain İn Just Three Minutes – By the End Of 2022”, Daily Mail,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[2] Elsa Buchanan, “Vladimir Putin Vows to Deploy Satan 2 Nukes by End of Year as Russia Threatens NATO State Over Blockade”, The Sun,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[3] “Putin Horror as Russian TV Shows Simulation Of 3-Minute Nuclear Strike On UK”, Express,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[4] “Wiping The UK Off Map – Russia’s 200-Ton Monster Missile Threat Takes London by Storm; Britain Responds”, Eurasian Times,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[5] “World’s Largest Missile Being Prepared for New Tests in Russia”, Global Times,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[6] “Putin Threatens US Arms Race with New Missiles Declaration”, The Guardian,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[7] Elsa Buchanan, a.g.e., (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[8] “Putin Threatens US Arms Race with New Missiles Declaration”, a.g.e., (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

[9] “Russia’s Putin Signs Law to Suspend New START Nuclear Arms Treaty”, AA,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.09.2023).

Doç. Dr. Şafak OĞUZ
2019 yılında Doçentlik unvanını alan Şafak OĞUZ, Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri’ndeki (TSK) 23 yıllık hizmetinden sonra 2021 yılında emekli olmuştur. Görevi esnasında Birleşmiş Milletler (BM) ve Kuzey Atlantik Antlaşması Örgütü (NATO) bünyesinde de çalışan OĞUZ, Kitle İmha Silahları, Terörizm, Uluslararası Güvenlik, Uluslararası Örgütler ve Barış ve Çatışma Çalışmaları konularında çalışmalar yapmaktadır. OĞUZ, halen Kapadokya Üniversitesi İktisadi, İdari ve Sosyal Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde öğretim üyeliği görevini sürdürmektedir. İyi derece İngilizce ve Almanca bilmektedir.