Since February 24, Ukraine has been living under Russian fire and Europe is worried about an outbreak of nuclear conflict. Indeed, from the early days of the war, Vladimir Putin put the forces of nuclear deterrence on alert and never stopped reminding that he could put them to good use if the West intervened directly. The last warning shot was the military exercise that took place Wednesday in the Kaliningrad enclave, during which Russia simulated the launch of nuclear-capable missiles. What are these missiles? What is its range, its strength? Why is the Kremlin showing that it is preparing to use it? 20 minutes Vincent Desports, professor of strategy at HEC and SciencesPo.
What is the Iskander missile?
In detail, Russia on Wednesday simulated “electronic launches” of the Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems with nuclear capabilities, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Let’s take this complex naming word for word. Obviously, no missile left the launch pad and the mock launch was simulated from a distance. Several missiles were involved, with Russia clarifying its fictitious targets (airports, military equipment, etc.). In addition, Iskander missiles are mounted on top of trucks and fired from them, hence the name “mobile”.
There are still two critical components. its size [plus de 7 mètres de haut et un diamètre proche du mètre], the Iskander could carry either a conventional charge, as it has done so far in Ukraine, but also in Syria, or a small nuclear bomb. Finally, it’s a ballistic missile, “which means it rises and then falls again” following a pre-calculated trajectory, he explains 20 minutes Vincent Desports, professor of strategy at HEC and SciencesPo. This contrasts, the former Army general details, with “direct fire weapons” such as tanks, as well as hypersonic “cruise” missiles, guided by the man from start to finish. However, it should be noted that the Iskander missile can be guided by the Global Positioning System (GPS).
What is the range of this type of missile?
“These missiles can be modified to reach Paris, which is precisely why Vladimir Putin installed them as close as possible,” says Vincent Desports in Kaliningrad. But unlike the so-called strategic weapon, such as ICBMs “that can destroy New York in a bomb,” the Iskander missile is a tactical, “battle” weapon, used to destroy specific locations with tremendous accuracy.
Article author Aiming for the top (Ed. Denöel) indicates that the use of this missile is stipulated in the employment doctrine of the Russian forces. “If the tanks are blocked, we change the situation by making a hole in the opponent’s defence,” he says. But with the nuclear warhead on board, the hole is big. The ex-general explains: “If Putin shot the Azovstal plant, there would be nothing left, you have the same pictures as in Hiroshima.”
Can Vladimir Putin Really Use a Nuclear Missile?
“Vladimir Putin is not going to lose without using some of the 6,000 nuclear warheads at his disposal,” Vincent Desports says. The nuclear threat has existed since the beginning of the war to the point that some no longer wonder if a nuclear missile could be launched, but when. “A couple of weeks ago, we heard on TV that the nuclear silos should be opened,” even Dmitriy Muratov, editor-in-chief of an independent Russian newspaper, recently raised his concern. State TV gently prepares minds, making this idea plausible. Yesterday, in parallel with the exercises in Kaliningrad, the “apocalypse plane” that Vladimir Putin was flying in the event of a nuclear conflict flew over Moscow. For the first time since 2010, officially in preparation for the May 9 parade.
So the whole issue is that “Putin is not trapped up to this point,” warns Vincent Desports. Because after the destruction of Mariupol, “unlivable for decades, it is also likely that Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk” will have consequences for the whole of Europe. Because, as the strategy professor reminds us, the radiation precipitation will not stop at the boundary “as with the Chernobyl cloud.”