November 15, 2019

Russia's Absurd, Explosive Strategy

“The United States and Russia are entering a new arms race, and the costs aren’t just monetary. On August 8, Russian civilians around the remote village of Nyonoksa found themselves downwind of a military nuclear propulsion experiment gone wrong in the White Sea, just outside the Arctic Circle. According to the Russian ministry of defense, a liquid propellant rocket engine had gone awry and exploded.

This by itself was alarming, but not unprecedented: Liquid propellants, long preferred in many Russian missiles, are volatile and have exploded when prematurely brought into contact with oxidizing agents. What made this month’s explosion more significant was Russia’s acknowledgement that a “nuclear isotope power source” was involved. Seven people—including five scientists from Sarov, one of Russia’s secret nuclear complexes—were killed in the explosion. Russian state weather monitors reported heightened background radiation levels around the site and beyond. A press release from a Norwegian monitoring agency a week after the incident noted that “tiny amounts of radioactive iodine”—a common byproduct of the sort of nuclear fission that might take place in a reactor—had been detected in northern Norway.

The exact sort of weapon Russia may have been testing is unknown, but the balance of evidence points to a probable culprit: the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile. Nuclear nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis and his team of researchers out in Monterey, California, have done much of the work in compiling this evidence, which includes the presence of a nuclear fuel carrier ship that was known to have been involved in recovery efforts after a previous failed test of the missile. Known in NATO countries as the SSC-X-9 SKYFALL, the Burevestnik’s atomic propulsion is said by Russian state media to give the missile “almost unlimited range, non-predictable trajectory and high air defense penetration capacity.””

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Venice's misfortunes never seem to stop. The popular tourist destination has been hit by the worst flooding in 50 years this week, resulting in damage worth hundreds of millions of euros. Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said a state of..."

"Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) must be feeling pretty good this week, if by "good" one means "proven right in an allegation anyone of good conscience must always hope will be proven wrong." Omar caught flak earlier this year for calling White House..."

"It was when I found myself perched on our rooftop at dawn in my pajamas, coating the asphalt shingles with Mongolian Hot Oil, that I first wondered whether I had lost perspective. The woodpeckers had forced my hand. Every morning that June, one..."

"Forty-nine years after she died of a heroin overdose at age 27, rock’s doomed diva is on the road again. “A Night With Janis Joplin,” a musical homage to the psychedelic era and its favorite blues singer, returned to its Bay Area roots in mid..."

"The Democratic candidates for President are promising a smorgasbord of new taxes, but why wait until 2021? Last week Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and Virginia Congressman Don Beyer unveiled the Millionaires Surtax Act, a plan to soak the..."

"The streaming wars were already heated, but a new combatant is entering the arena: the Walt Disney Company. Mickey Mouse may be a friendly corporate icon. But the new Disney Plus streaming service could have a decidedly unfriendly impact..."

"Netanyahu’s last resort in a bid to avoid facing a courtroom would be requesting a pardon from President Reuven Rivlin, pending the recommendation of the attorney general. A knowledgeable source close to the senior echelons of the state...."

"There’s a TikTok that’s just a boy saying, “I may be ugly, but at least I’m also … dumb and annoying.” Then he dances while Ariana Grande’s “Successful” plays. It’s extremely funny, and a little bit sad, and I think about it every day. Kids on..."