Russia’s new SLBM (submarine launched ballistic missile) failed another test. (Recently there had been a couple of successful test flights, but the program has been beset by embarrasing failures–including a failed test witnessed by then-President Putin.) Given the shambolic condition of the vast bulk of the army, navy, and air force, Russia’s military depends disproportionately on its nuclear forces. These too are aging rapidly, and the country has been counting on the Bulava SLBM to shore up its eroding capability. This abject failure–the missile self-destructed in mid-air–kicks that can yet further down the road.
The excessive reliance on nuclear forces is not a comforting thought, especially in unsettled times with a revanchist, aggressive, and arguably paranoid leadership with its finger on the button. It should be noted, moreover, that the paranoia may stem in part from an acute sense of weakness arising from the decrepit state of virtually all of the nation’s armed forces. Grandiose imperial ambitions and a deep sense of weakness and insecurity are a volatile combination indeed, especially when economic troubles may make foreign adventures a welcome distraction for a nervous, unsettled population.