Russia is inching closer to the deployment of a new missile that can target all of Europe with nuclear or conventional warheads, according to defense officials.
The new missile, the SSN-30A, with Russian President Vladimir Putin behind the wheel, has allowed Moscow to reemerge as an existential security threat, Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned Thursday.
Russia "is a very, very significant threat," Carter told reporters at the Pentagon. "And I think a point that they've made, but I would certainly make: Russia poses an existential threat to the United States by virtue simply of the size of the nuclear arsenal that it has."
The new naval missile, nicknamed the "Kalibr" missile, can be fired with both nuclear and conventional warheads and can put most of Europe in it's cross-hairs when fired from a naval ship in the Black Sea, Pentagon officials stated, noting that the long range version of the missile can reach targets between 620 and 923 miles, while the shorter range version can hit targets at distances of up to 180 miles, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Officials also warn of a cruise missile variant that appears to violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (the treaty that forbade the use of SS-20 missiles).
A test for the missile was conducted earlier this month, revealing that it also has the potential to strike both ground and water-based targets.
"This system is about ready to be deployed," said one official who voiced concerns for U.S. interests and those of allies in Europe. "It allows the Russians to cover most of Europe from the Black Sea on naval vessels."
Pentagon officials expect to see the new missile installed on both submarines and surface ships, including the new type 885 Yasen class submarine, older submarines and cruisers, and newer models of destroyers.
To make matters worse, naval vessels equipped with SSN-30As could also be deployed from the Black Sea to Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea bordering Poland and Lithuania, in order to shift its range of influence.
In the face of this potential threat, experts believe that the U.S. has no viable response.
"Thanks to 25 years of bad decisions on nuclear deterrence, we have no comparable capability," Former Pentagon nuclear strategy expert Mark Schneider said.
"The Obama administration in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report announced the elimination of the nuclear-armed version of the Tomahawk submarine launched cruise missile," he added. "If Putin attacks one of the vulnerable NATO states, the Kalibr will likely be one of the main threat weapons used to try to deter a NATO counter attack. Granting Putin a monopoly on almost all types of tactical nuclear weapons is plain stupid."
A brief update into all of Russia's current affairs can be reviewed HERE.