The Russian arsenal scares the West, not just because of its nuclear warheads. The risk of escalation seems increasingly real. Should we worry?

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With the war showing no signs of appeasing its devastation and the climate of negotiations now steadily traveling along the tracks of tension , peace in Ukraine seems increasingly distant. The latest threat launched by Vladimir Putin to the West, considered co-belligerent of Ukraine for having sent weapons and war material , also comes to further stir the waters .

If Russia is threatened, it could respond swiftly ( is there really a risk of World War III and nuclear escalation? We talked about it here ). The warning sounds even more alarming, if linked to the “Tsar’s” belief that the West constitutes “a threat to the very existence of his country”. But what are these “secret” means that the Western allies do not possess? What weapons does the Russian army really have at its disposal?

Means “never seen before”: which ones and how dangerous they are
From nuclear warheads to super intercontinental missiles , passing through submarines and chemical and biological weapons : the Russian war arsenal is certainly one of the most formidable in the world. When he gave his last threatening speech, Putin certainly had in mind the Sarmat , tested last week (here we talked about the…). An intercontinental missile which, according to the Russian president, “has no equal in the world” and which is “capable of evading any defense system”.

Beyond the propaganda and the threat, the Sarmat is indeed a fearsome weapon. It is a ballistic missile with atomic capability that can hit the United States in a very short time. A 200-ton “monster” capable of carrying 15 nuclear warheads and dropping them along a flight path of up to 18,000 kilometers.

Then there are the now famous hypersonic missiles, such as the Kinzhal and the Avangard . Russia has already used them in Ukraine to destroy enemy weapons depots. They are vectors that follow different trajectories than intercontinental ones and that reach a speed at least five times higher than that of sound (6,190 km per hour). Translated: in an hour I am able to hit practically a target anywhere in the world. Among the hypersonic devices there is also the Zircon , with a range of action ranging from 500 to a thousand kilometers.

However, the Kremlin’s missile equipment does not end here. The list also includes nuclear-powered cruise warheads, such as the Burevestnik . It is a technology that you don’t have a lot of information about. It is estimated that it has a range of between 10 thousand and 20 thousand kilometers and that it proceeds at low altitude ( here we are talking about which weapons Italy will send to Ukraine ).

Not just missiles: what other weapons can Putin deploy?
The Russian Armed Forces can also count on submarine military vehicles . In this category the Poseidon stands out which, as its name indicates, is an underwater vector that can travel up to a thousand meters deep at a speed of 70 knots. It is able to proceed unmanned, autonomously, with autonomous propulsion. Its cobalt-60 nuclear warhead can hit both naval formations and coastal targets, causing damage inland.

Speaking of bombs , the most dangerous seems to be the so -called Fab-3000 , which ended up in newspapers around the world in the early days of the siege of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol (here we have explained how…). It is a super device that contains a significant amount of explosives, with a destruction range of 46 meters and a scattering radius of the fragments of 260 meters. Not only. They would be able to penetrate armor up to 288mm thick

In addition to missiles and nuclear warheads, during the various phases of the conflict in Ukraine – since 2014 – there has often been talk of biological weapons and chemical weapons ( here is what we know about chemical weapons in Putin’s hands ). Russia knows them well, since it has endorsed their use in Syria by the troops of ally Bashar Al Assad . The extreme danger of these weapons lies in the mix between high explosive content and gas or toxins capable of spreading the chemical agent or contagion. In the first case, suffocating agents such as chlorine could be used,blister agents that affect through inhalation and contact, nerve agents . In the case of biological weapons, however, one of the main threats appears to be anthrax (or carbuncle). Western intelligence has repeatedly feared the possibility that Putin could use them in this phase of the war.

The Nuclear Threat: Should We Be Worried?
After the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan , the whole world raised its right hand swearing that such a tragedy would never happen again. But then came the Cold War , which behind the mutual nuclear threats of the opposing blocs of the United States and the Soviet Union built a deadlock on which to keep the peace and avoid World War III . They call it “Mad” , an acronym from the English “Mutual assured destruction” , also called the theory of mutual assured destruction. Put simply: the large-scale use of nuclear weapons would result in the complete annihilation of the attacked country, but also of the attacker).

Today, however, much, if not everything, seems to have changed. Putin’s constant references to the Russian atomic arsenal seem to archive the concept of nuclear deterrence . And the available newspapers do the rest (here you can find the ranking and the list of countries with the most nuclear weapons in the world).

However, the opportunity for nuclear war seems decidedly impractical . The “Mad” theory continues to appear valid and real especially in Washington and Kiev, according to which there are no concrete signs of such a degeneration of the conflict. And, although the CIA warns the danger of underestimating Putin’s threats, it is appropriate to make a distinction between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

Tactical weapons and strategic weapons
In the second half of the last century, the nuclear weapons with which the United States and the USSR could have hit each other were of a strategic type : that is to say, they could be used directly from one’s own territory with devastating effects. An effective deterrent, which has made it possible to maintain relative peace.

Current tactical nuclear weapons , on the other hand, have a shorter range and strike over shorter distances. We are talking about smaller bombs than the classic ones, with a range of about one and a half kilometers. In the Russian arsenal there are about two thousand of them , all still to be “triggered” ( Putin’s war is also economic: this is why he cut off the gas in Poland of Bulgaria ).

Be careful though. Because the smallest Russian nuclear weapon already has an impressive charge: it reaches up to one kiloton , the equivalent of a thousand tons of TNT. The largest bomb can reach as much as 100 kilotons . To get an idea: the Little Boy atomic bomb , which killed 146,000 people in Hiroshima , had a charge of 15 kilotons . Not only that: these warheads can be launched with means that multiply their range and speed. As Corriere della Sera recalls , the systems are essentially two:

  • Kalibr missiles : 6.2 meters long and with a range of 1,500-2,500 kilometers.
  • The Iskander-M system : it is activated from the ground and has a range of 400-500 kilometers.