WASHINGTON – On Thursday, August 8, the explosion of what is believed to be a new nuclear-powered missile killed seven scientists and caused a spike in radiation in the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia. Based on reports, experts believe a facility near the village of Nyonoska was developing the cruise missile unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018, which he claimed could carry a nuclear warhead to any point on the globe.
Responding to the accident, Derek Johnson, executive director of the international Global Zero movement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:
“Fatal accidents, risky posturing, obscene spending, mounting instability and fear – these are all features of nuclear arms racing, not bugs. We can expect to see more of this as the United States and Russia, the world’s two largest hoarders of nuclear weapons, attempt to one-up each other in a Cold War redux that puts the whole world at risk.
“When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia are the world’s worst offenders – both countries are lavishing hundreds of billions of dollars to upgrade their massive arsenals – but this accident in Nyonoska suggests Russia is taking it to the next level. A nuclear warhead capable of incinerating an entire city is bad enough, but slap it on a nuclear-powered delivery system and you’ve got something truly volatile on your hands – to the point of idiocy. There’s a reason the United States abandoned development of similar nuclear-powered cruise missile half a century ago: these things are wildly dangerous, too dangerous even to test.
“Vladimir Putin is pursuing this fantastical weapon to overcome U.S. missile defenses – systems that are oversold to the American public and foreign governments despite their spotty track record. And while Donald Trump’s claim that the United States already possesses a more advanced version of this cruise missile is devoid of fact, his administration is likely to respond by doubling down on unreliable capabilities and dangerous weapons systems that only increase the already unacceptably high risk of nuclear conflict.
“What happened last week in Nyonoksa brings into focus just how dramatically Russia and the United States are moving in the wrong direction. We are straying far and fast from the principle that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ Washington and Moscow would do well to recall the hard lessons of the Cold War – and stop undermining the steady progress that brought global nuclear stockpiles down from a peak of 70,000 in 1986 to fewer than 14,000 weapons today. More nuclear weapons does not mean more security; we have to quickly change our course.
“Reengaging in serious dialogue on nuclear arms control and strategic stability is an immediate place to start. So is extending the 2010 New START agreement and preserving the last remaining check on U.S.-Russian nuclear ambitions. But ultimately, the United States and Russia need to shake this obsession with these weapons of mass destruction and hit the brakes on a nuclear spending spree utterly out of sync with 21st Century security threats; reform their national security doctrines and forces around the principle of No First Use of nuclear weapons; abandon dangerous Cold War policies that keep nearly 1,800 nuclear weapons locked and loaded, ready to launch instantaneously on (potentially false) warning of attack; and bring every effort to bear to advance the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons globally.”