Russia's Doomsday Way of Diplomacy and War

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Vladimir Putin’s March 1, 2018, televised warning that Russia is developing new nuclear super-weapons — including POSEIDON, a doomsday machine with a 100-megaton TSAR warhead — may signify the world is closer to the nuclear brink than most in Washington think. (See: "POSEIDON: Russia’s New Doomsday Machine" on

Moscow has an affinity for doomsday weapons — and for revealing their existence in a crisis.

100-megaton TSAR was tested on October 30, 1961, partly as an act of nuclear diplomacy, one year after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pounded his shoe on his desk (October 12, 1960) to seize the floor at the United Nations and warn the West not to provoke the USSR. “We will bury you!” Khrushchev warned, when both sides were building nuclear fallout shelters and nuclear war was considered imminent.

The dramatic TSAR test and Cuban Missile Crisis led to the first U.S.-USSR arms control agreement, the Limited Test Ban Treaty (October 10, 1963) prohibiting atmospheric nuclear testing. This began an arms control process enabling Moscow to catch-up and eventually surpass the United States in nuclear offensive and defensive capabilities.

30 years after TSAR, and after dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Russia continued practicing doomsday diplomacy with another doomsday machine — DEAD HAND.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, when Russia was at its weakest, in 1993 hardliners attempted a coup against Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Fighting raged in Moscow’s streets. An ever paranoid Russian General Staff feared U.S. exploitation of the calamity — even a surprise nuclear attack.

Amidst this crisis, on October 8, 1993, The New York Times reported warnings from Moscow that Russia has a doomsday computer called “DEAD HAND” (officially PERIMETR) that would automatically launch strategic nuclear forces, in the event Russia’s president and top military leaders are killed in a surprise attack.

Most analysts assess the evidence really does support the existence of Russia’s DEAD HAND system for launching a nuclear doomsday automatically. In 2011, Russia’s Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces, General Sergey Karakaev, affirmed the continued existence of DEAD HAND, which reportedly is being upgraded in 2018.

DEAD HAND would automatically launch a nuclear retaliatory strike, based on sensors that would detect blast and thermal effects from nuclear explosions on Russian territory.

Another Russian doomsday machine is known to exist called VRYAN (the Russian acronym for “Surprise Nuclear Missile Attack”). VRYAN, a computer, would predict, based on thousands of intelligence indicators, when the U.S. is preparing to make a nuclear attack — so Moscow can launch a preemptive strike.

Let us hope DEAD HAND and VRYAN are not wired together to make a preemptive first strike — automatically.

So why another doomsday machine now? What crisis is at hand that has moved Moscow to announce the existence of POSEIDON and its 100-megaton bomb?

That the answer is not obvious signifies just how dangerously unpredictable is Vladimir Putin’s Russia. While few in the West see any crisis that would warrant nuclear war, Moscow obviously thinks otherwise.

A warning to those who would try to impose a Syrian no-fly zone on Russia, who would have the U.S. intervene in Ukraine against Russia, who would wage economic warfare to try dethroning Vladimir Putin — be mindful that Russia’s way of warfare is total annihilation.

Historically, since Tsar Ivan the Terrible (1565-1572) Moscow’s way of warfare has been doomsday for the Mongols, for Napoleon, for Hitler, and for “enemies” domestic too.

Ivan the Terrible exiled, tortured, and executed 12,000 of his own nobles at the hands of his roving terror henchmen, the Oprichniki. Imperial Russia’s secret police, the Okhrana, through their ruthless cruelty gave birth to Vladimir Lenin and helped set the stage for the Russian Revolution. Lenin’s Red Terror and Stalin’s Great Terror, through the Cheka and NKVD (predecessors to Putin’s KGB) killed 20 million innocents.

Moscow has been a doomsday machine to its own people. The Kremlin is no less dangerous to us.

How dangerously paranoid is a regime that thinks it must imprison an all-girl punk rock band for praying to the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin?

Pussy Riot was right to pray — and so should we that President Trump can find a way to de-escalate and reset relations with Russia on a more constructive course, or at least on a course heading away from doomsday.

Cocky fools, unread in Russian history, who are eager to “challenge Russia” and “poke the Bear” over matters merely tangential to core U.S. interests are no friends of the Free World or of collective humanity at this dangerous hour.

The challenge President Trump inherited from President Obama is extraordinarily difficult. Appeasement will only encourage Russian aggression. Trump must be strong during one of the most perilous times in U.S. history, when Obama has left U.S. military forces and the nuclear deterrent at their weakest in decades, while avoiding confrontation at least until the U.S. can rebuild its strength.

Ironically, President Obama’s neglecting U.S. nuclear deterrence while questing for a utopian “world without nuclear weapons” has bequeathed to President Trump and our children a dystopian legacy — the New Cold War and Russia’s doomsday bomb.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports,

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