A U.S. analyst says Russia may be putting a new type of missile into launch-ready position, despite its link to an intensifying nuclear feud with Washington.
The country's defense ministry last week published a photograph that appears to show soldiers handling an Iskander-K cruise missile canister at a base near Luga, about 75 miles from Estonia, nuclear-arms expert Hans Kristensen said in a Wednesday assessment. The Russian image went public just days before the United States formally accused Moscow of breaking a Cold War arms-control treaty by test-firing a ground-launched cruise missile with comparable capabilities.
The U.S. State Department has not publicly named which missile it believes Russia launched in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and Moscow has denied committing any breach of the pact.
"News media reports and other information indicate that the violation possibly concerns the Iskander-K," wrote Kristensen, who heads the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Russia already has deployed a shorter-range, ballistic-missile variant of the weapon, called the Iskander-M.
Asked recently whether Russia is now also fielding the Iskander-K, one senior government official "did not want to say," Kristensen wrote. The FAS analyst added, though, that Moscow's top defense official last year said the military had begun deploying Iskander weapons in complete packages, rather than in "piecemeal" form.
The vague comment by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu "could indicate that the Iskander units are being equipped with both the Iskander-M ballistic missile and Islander-K cruise missile, and that Luga is the first western missile brigade to receive them," he wrote.
In his analysis, Kristensen joined other arms-control advocates who cautioned Washington against pulling out of the missile regime in response to the possible violation.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.