Russia Threatens to Arm Submarine with Nuclear Doomsday Devices

In December, I wrote about Vladimir Putin threatening to develop new weapons if the United States withdrew from the INF Treaty, and, in February, that's exactly what Donald Trump did. Weeks later, Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. if Trump deployed intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

At the time, I noted: "This is theater, as the withdrawal from the INF treaty was specifically to justify rebuilding Russia's nuclear arsenal. It's also gravely serious, because once Donald Trump is of no further use to Putin, those weapons will still be armed and pointed at the U.S."

After all, Stalin and Hitler were allies once, too — until they weren't.

And when they weren't anymore, they really weren't.

So this is troubling, for that reason among eleventy-seven others: Russia Says It's Going to Arm a Submarine with 6 Nuclear 'Doomsday' Devices.
Russia will deploy what's been described as the deadliest nuclear weapon ever aboard mysterious submarines by 2020, Russian state media said, citing a Russian defense-industry source.

The "Poseidon" nuclear-powered torpedo — reputed to carry a 100 megaton nuclear warhead and meant to erupt underwater for maximum effect — will reportedly deploy aboard the Project 09852 sub Belgorod, which is a converted nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub expected to go on combat duty in 2020.

...The weapon is said to use a warhead, perhaps the strongest ever, designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea, and render them uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia's Poseidon could end a continent.
There is still a strong incentive for Russia never to use this weapon, if it does indeed exist and is capable of what's suggested here, and it's the same disincentive as always — living on the same planet as a continent destroyed by nuclear radiation is a lot less safe than living on the same planet as a continent that has not been destroyed by nuclear radiation.

But obviously, the threat remains. And this is a very serious threat.
Russia will reportedly not operate the mysterious submarine alongside its regular armed forces or other nuclear-powered subs. The Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research will run the ship, according to H.I. Sutton, who said the Belgorod would conduct covert missions with a smaller submarine in tow.

"Russia operates a small number of very small, nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of diving in excess of several thousand meters," Andrew Metrick, a research associate in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in 2016.

"It's probably the most shadowy part of the Russian undersea apparatus," he added.

The new Belgorod submarine is "not operated by their navy. It's operated by a separate branch of their ministry of defense," Metrick said.

In addition to six Poseidon torpedoes that experts say could wipe out almost all life on earth, Metrick and Sutton speculated the Belgorod could carry a smaller sub that could dive deeper to cut undersea cables and dramatically disrupt international communications and national economies.
This is not the first time we've heard of Russia's capacity and possible intent to cut undersea cables. From April 2018:
[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Cristina Maza at Newsweek: Will Russia Cut Underwater Internet Cables? Military Leaders Warn Suspicious Naval Activity Could Have Catastrophic Consequences.
Russian activity near underwater internet cables is causing concern once again, as a U.S. naval commander warned this week of suspicious activity unlike any seen since the Cold War.

Russian ships have allegedly been lurking near the underwater cables, sparking concern that Moscow might be planning to either cut the cables completely or use them to intercept communications.

Around 400 fiber-optic cables are responsible for transporting data for most of the world's emails, text messages, and phone calls. Cutting several of the cables at strategic points could have a major impact on communication channels worldwide. General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. European Command, told Congress in March that Russian naval ships and submarines are poking around the cables.

It's unclear exactly what the Russian submarines are doing, but experts have said they suspect Russia is collecting information that would allow it to tamper with the cables quickly if a major conflict broke out.
By way of reminder: Russian diplomats, presumed to be Russian intelligence agents, have been "waging a quiet effort to map the United States' telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps preparing for an opportunity to disrupt it," and Russia has developed "a cyberweapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life."
Meanwhile, as I noted in February, Russia was/is planning an experiment in which it would "disconnect the country from the internet" in order to collect information relevant to a law introduced in the Russian Parliament in December 2018, which "mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet."

Or, you know, in case Russia disconnected the rest of the internet from itself and everyone else.

The threat posed by Russia's "doomsday" nukes is real and scary. It's so real and so scary, in fact, that possibly no other military would dare to challenge any submarine carrying the "Poseidon," even if it is carrying "a smaller sub that could dive deeper to cut undersea cables and dramatically disrupt international communications and national economies."

I am no military expert, so I honestly don't know if or how Putin can be effectively contained if he's got this sort of weaponry.

The West's best bet might be figuring out how to build a time machine and then using it to go back in time and meaningfully address Putin's aggression back when he was "only" directing it at Georgia. Then Crimea. Then Ukraine. Whoooooops.

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