Below is the video with English subtitles of Putin’s remarks prior to an August 23rd special meeting with his security council about the implications of Washington’s recent testing of a missile off the coast of California that violates the recently dissolved INF Treaty.
The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin.
A full transcript of the remarks are available in English here.
The day before, Russia and China convened an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council about this same issue. Russia was represented at the meeting by its deputy Ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy who made some of the same points as Putin above:
Washington apparently planned to leave Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty long before announcing its withdrawal from the 1987 agreement back in February, Polyanskiy added, since this is the only way it could have tested a new ground-launched cruise missile that violated the accord mere weeks after it officially expired.
The launcher used in the test was the same one installed in Aegis Ashore missile defense batteries in Romania and Poland. When the first of those systems was placed in 2016, Moscow expressed its concerns over their capability to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles in violation of the INF treaty. The US assured Russia at the time the Aegis systems did not have such features.
“Now these suspicions are confirmed,” Polyanskiy said.
The Russian envoy also warned that the US was putting the world on a path toward a new and more dangerous nuclear arms race due its reckless quest for preeminence. He also criticized Washington’s European allies for being too timid to stand up for the treaty before Washington unilaterally withdrew.
Meanwhile, the nuclear-related explosion that occurred on the White Sea of northern Russia a couple of weeks back was initially assessed by the US intelligence community and most of the establishment media as involving the test of a nuclear-powered missile known as the Burevestnik. However, that assessment is turning out not to represent a unanimous view.
An August 15th article by RFE/RL discussed the emerging skepticism among some independent experts and analysts that rather than a Burevestnik, the explosion may have involved a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG).
The case for the Burevestnik explanation is supported by Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists:
“Most of the evidence about the Arkhangelsk event points to the Burevestnik program being the culprit,” Ankit Panda, a nuclear expert at the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists, told RFE/RL in written comments. “This assessment is shared by the U.S. intelligence community.”
Panda noted the Nyonoksa test site’s resemblance to others where the Burevestnik is known to have been tested and the involvement of scientists affiliated with the Sarov nuclear-research institute.
“We also see signs that the Serebryanka” — a nuclear-fuel carrier that was present during previous Burevestnik tests and could potentially be used to transport a nuclear device — “was situated near the incident site.”
But the RTG explanation is seen as a possibility by other experts.
Edwin Lyman, acting director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety Project, told RFE/RL on August 16 that he was “initially skeptical” that the accident involved a Burevestnik system because such an event would generate a range of different fission products, some of which are fairly dispersible and could be detected in trace amounts far away.
“It’s not just the radiation level, but the type of radiation,” he said, and to date nobody has reported the presence of radioactive iodine, which would indicate a reactor accident….
….Andrei Zolotkov, head of Bellona-Murmansk, the Russian chapter of the Norway-based Bellona Foundation independent environmental monitor, wrote to RFE/RL on August 15 that “there is no final conclusion, because the information is presented in doses and in an often contradictory way.”
All that is clear, he said, is that the accident was related to the testing of a “nuclear device” at a military site.
Zolotkov gave two alternative scenarios: an accident involving either “a small-sized nuclear installation or a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG).”
Military weapons expert Scott Ritter just weighed in on behalf of the RTG theory in an article earlier this week in The American Conservative. Ritter explains that Russia has been looking to utilize autonomous delivery systems for weapons in which the missiles can be installed in canisters and fired from the ocean floor or other locations remotely. The bug in this system that the Russians have been trying to work out is how to power missiles with these “autonomous” delivery systems since the “power supply for any such system must be constant, reliable, and capable of operating for extended periods of time without the prospect of fuel replenishment.”
An RTG, which acts as a kind of nuclear battery using Cesium-137, was the possible solution that was being tested. An RTG system creates energy by converting the heat released by radioactive decay of materials. Ritter goes on to explain this in the context of the August 8th explosion in Russia in which detection of Cesium-137 and its byproducts rather than radioactive iodine as well as the limited spread of radiation are major clues as to what happened and what didn’t happen:
On August 8, a joint team from the Ministry of Defense and the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, subordinated to the State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), conducted a test of a liquid-fueled rocket engine, in which electric power from Cesium-137 “nuclear batteries” maintained its equilibrium state. The test was conducted at the Nenoksa State Central Marine Test Site (GTsMP), a secret Russian naval facility known as Military Unit 09703. It took place in the waters of the White Sea, off the coast of the Nenoksa facility, onboard a pair of pontoon platforms.
The test had been in the making for approximately a year. What exactly was being tested and why remain a secret, but the evaluation went on for approximately an hour. It did not involve the actual firing of the engine, but rather the non-destructive testing of the RTG power supply to the engine….
….When the actual testing finished, something went very wrong. According to a sailorfrom the nearby Severdvinsk naval base, the hypergolic fuels contained in the liquid engine (their presence suggests that temperature control was one of the functions being tested) somehow combined. This created an explosion that destroyed the liquid engine, sending an unknown amount of fuel and oxidizer into the water. At least one, and perhaps more, of the Cesium-137 RTGs burst open, contaminating equipment and personnel alike.
The Russian Meteorological Service (Roshydromet) operates what’s known as the Automatic Radiation Monitoring System (ASKRO) in the city of Severdvinsk. ASKRO detected two “surges” in radiation, one involving Gamma particles, the other Beta particles. This is a pattern consistent with the characteristics of Cesium-137, which releases Gamma rays as it decays, creating Barium-137m, which is a Beta generator. The initial detection was reported on the Roshydromet website, though it was subsequently taken offline.
Specialized hazardous material teams scoured the region around Nenoksa, Archangesk, and Severdvinsk, taking air and environmental samples. All these tested normal, confirming that the contamination created by the destruction of the Cesium-137 batteries was limited to the area surrounding the accident.
Read Ritter’s full article here.