This is a very disturbing but thought-provoking article, I encourage it to be read in its entirety, I can only quote sound-bites:
**A widening rift between Moscow and Washington over cruise missiles and increasingly daring patrols by nuclear-capable Russian submarines threatens to end an era of arms control and bring back a dangerous rivalry between the world’s two dominant nuclear arsenals.
Tensions have been taken to a new level by US threats of retaliatory action for Russian development of a new cruise missile. Washington alleges it violates one of the key arms control treaties of the cold war, and has raised the prospect of redeploying its own cruise missiles in Europe after a 23-year absence.**
On Boxing Day, in one of the more visible signs of the unease, the US military launched the first of two experimental “blimps” over Washington. The system, known as JLENS, is designed to detect incoming cruise missiles. The North American Aerospace Command (Norad) did not specify the nature of the threat, but the deployment comes nine months after the Norad commander, General Charles Jacoby, admitted the Pentagon faced “some significant challenges” in countering cruise missiles, referring in particular to the threat of Russian attack submarines.
Those submarines, which have been making forays across the Atlantic, routinely carry nuclear-capable cruise missiles. In the light of aggressive rhetoric from Moscow and the expiry of treaty-based restrictions, there is uncertainty over whether those missiles are now carrying nuclear warheads.
Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and a failing economy, Vladimir Putin is putting increasing emphasis on nuclear weapons as guarantors and symbols of Russian influence. In a speech primarily about the Ukrainian conflict last summer, Putin pointedly referred to his country’s nuclear arsenal and declared other countries “should understand it’s best not to mess with us”.
The Russian press has taken up the gung-ho tone. Pravda, the former mouthpiece of the Soviet regime, published an article in November titled “Russian prepares a nuclear surprise for Nato”, which boasted of Russian superiority over the west, particularly in tactical nuclear weapons.
Peter Roberts, who retired from the Royal Navy a year ago after serving as a commanding officer and senior UK liaison officer with the US navy and intelligence services, said the transatlantic forays by Akula-class Russian attack submarines had become a routine event, at least once or twice a year.
“The Russians usually put out a sortie with an Akula or an Akula II around Christmas … It normally stops off Scotland, and then through the Bay of Biscay and out over the Atlantic. It will have nuclear-capable missiles on it,” he said.
Roberts, who is now senior research fellow for sea power and maritime studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said the appearance of a periscope off the western coast of Scotland, which triggered a Nato submarine hunt last month, was a sign of the latest such Russian foray.
He said the Russian attack submarine was most likely heading for the US coast. “They go across to eastern seaboard, usually to watch the carrier battle groups work up [go on exercises].
With both the US and Russia modernising their arsenals and Russia investing increasing importance its nuclear deterrent, Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said we are facing a period of “deepening military competition”.
He added: “It will bring very little added security, but a lot more nervous people on both sides.”