Active Tsirkon missiles cause anxiety among NATO allies

Jessie Castellano, Staff Writer

Could the creation of a Russian missile lead to another arms race? On Oct. 6, after concluding extensive testing, the Russian Federation launched its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. This test is the first time the missile operated properly and hit a target at sea. For Russia, the test’s success is a unifying moment of pride, but the rest of the world eyes Russia with consternation.

The missile reached an extraordinary speed of over 6,000 miles per hour, making it the first missile to meet the speed designation Mach 8 – representing eight times the speed of sound. The chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Valery Gerasimov asserted that these flights and tests will continue. The plan is now to equip both warships and submarines with this new high speed missile. Russian President Vladmir Putin calls it “a great event not just in the life of our armed forces, but for all of Russia.”

This was only the first attempt of the launch with a desirable outcome. Previous tests, beginning in early 2019, had been unsuccessful and even resulted in the deaths of multiple Russians. In August of 2019, seven people were killed in a test at the missile site. These missiles are highly dangerous, not for their hypersonic speed, but for their agility. They can maneuver themselves along moving courses and fly through fickle flight paths.

It may be a celebrated event for Russian people, but will not be looked upon positively in the eyes of other NATO member nations, especially the United States and China. With the element of surprise, power and speed of hypersonic missiles, there is little to no defense against these new types of machinery.

So what does this mean for the United States? In February 2020, both the United States and Russia decided to suspend their participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which effectively precludes another arms race by holding signatories to strict guidelines on possession and deployment of nuclear weaponry. The withdrawal of these two countries may lead to much more than a new hypersonic missile war, and could even spell nuclear war. These treaties were put into place for a reason, which was to protect all countries and citizens involved; if disregarded, a hypersonic missile race could indicate the introduction of nuclear warheads and create a larger externality to the conflict, not just for the United States, but for all participants of NATO.

During the cold war era, a constant nuclear arms race haunted the lives of the Soviet Union and the United States, both pursuing policies of brinkmanship to cow their opponent. This type of competitive spirit could could be extremely costly for the people living in both countries. Much of the disputes occurring between the United States and Russia come from speculation in development of missiles, which leads to distrust and potentially catastrophic consequences.

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