Strategic Weapons: Where Have All The Targets Gone?

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July 14, 2008: Russia has threatened to aim its ICBMs at Western Europe, for the first time since the Cold War ended. This is all part of a dispute between the U.S. and Russia over U.S. plans to install anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe, to protect Europe from possible Iranian missile attacks. Actually, the U.S. defense system would more likely just reduce the Iranian ability to use their missiles to bully Europe. Since Britain and France have their own nuclear force, an Iranian attack on Europe would be suicidal. Threats, as part of diplomatic maneuvering, are another matter. But Russia interprets all this as a plot against them, to, well, Westerners are unsure what the Russians are afraid of. Apparently it has something to do with the Russian ability to use its ICBMs against Western Europe.

This also raises the question of where are those thousands of land and sea-based ballistic missiles, belonging to the U.S., Russia, Britain and France, are aimed. During the Cold War, it was pretty obvious. But since the Cold War ended in 1991, these nations have been rather coy about how their ICBM and SLBM missile guidance systems have been reset, if at all. There is good reason for this, because despite a post-Cold War treaty that greatly reduced the nuclear warhead arsenals of the U.S. and Russia (from about 50,000 warheads, to less than 10,000), there are still several thousand warheads on missiles that are aimed at something. It is assumed that a lot of the Russian and U.S. missiles are still aimed at their Cold War targets.

Meanwhile, the U.S. upgraded its Minuteman III missiles in the 1990s, so that they can quickly have their targets changed. Also, since the Cold War ended, far fewer missiles are on alert status (ready to fire). The Russians are believed to have very few missiles on alert status (because of the expense).

China and Russia probably still have many missiles aimed at each other. Some Russian missiles are probably still aimed at Western Europe, because the British and French missiles are probably still aimed at targets to the east. Speaking of that, Iran and North Korea have probably earned themselves some more warheads. But beyond that, it's considered a touchy subject. Of course. But the world does wonder.

 

 


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