Russia on Wednesday tested a new long-range missile that should improve its ability to penetrate missile defense systems, the military said, in Moscow’s latest warning to Washington over the deployment of a missile shield in Europe.
The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was successfully launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia and its dummy warhead landed on target on the Kamchatka Peninsula on the Pacific coast, the Russian defense ministry said.
The new missile is expected to improve Russia’s offensive arsenal, “including by increasing the capability to overcome missile defense systems that are being created,” the ministry said in a statement.
Russia opposes a missile shield the US and NATO are deploying in Europe, saying it would be able to intercept Russian warheads by about 2018, weakening Moscow’s nuclear arsenal and upsetting the post-Cold War balance of power.
The US says the system is intended to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia, but the Kremlin has rejected those assurances and stepped up criticism of the system, to be deployed in four phases by about 2020.
Last year, then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev outlined the steps that Moscow was taking to neutralize the perceived threat, including upgrades to the nation’s offensive nuclear arsenal.
Russia and the US are still in talks to agree on a cooperation on missile defense, but Moscow has warned of further measures if no such deal is reached, while Washington refuses to provide binding guarantees its system would not threaten Russia.
At a conference in Moscow this month, senior General Nikolai Makarov said Russia could carry out pre-emptive strikes on future NATO missile defense installations to protect its security.
The European system is to include interceptor missile installations in Poland and Romania, and a radar base in Turkey, as well as interceptors and radars on ships based in the Mediterranean.
Russia usually names its weapons, but the defense ministry made no mention of a name for the new missile. It said it could be fired from a mobile launcher.
Missile defense has troubled ties between Russia and the US since the Cold War.
The dispute over the current project has developed despite US President Barack Obama’s decision in 2009 to scrap the previous administration’s plans for longer-range interceptors.
Western officials say improvements to Russia’s ICBM arsenal undermine Moscow’s argument that the system will present a threat and suggest the Kremlin wants to use the issue as a bargaining chip in broader talks on nuclear arms cuts.