Defense officials fear Russian President Vladimir Putin may flex his military power by testing a massive nuclear torpedo called Poseidon, a report said.
NATO reportedly issued an intelligence report to its members and allies warning that the Kremlin is planning to test so-called “doomsday” nuclear torpedo drones, a senior UK defense source told the Times of London on Monday.
Poseidon is a long-range undersea nuke designed to hit coastal cities at extremely long range by traveling to targets underwater.
Such a test would be carried out near the Ukrainian border in the Black Sea so Putin can prove he is willing to make good on his threat to “use all the means at our disposal,” including weapons of mass destruction, sources told the paper.
The Russian military has also pitched the submarine-based nuclear torpedo as a tactical weapon for use against carrier battle groups and other surface ships.
Recent reports estimate that the weapon is capable of carrying a 2 megaton warhead — more than 150 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and decidedly larger than a tactical nuclear warhead.
Powered by a nuclear reactor and nearly 80 feet long, Poseidon is essentially an uncrewed nuclear submarine with a warhead.
It is unclear what stage of development the weapon is currently in, and if an operational nuclear prototype could be pressed into service. At an estimated 100 tons, it is too large to be launched by all but the newest Russian submarine designs.
A Western diplomat told Reuters Tuesday that NATO had not issued any warnings related to the Poseidon, and the Kremlin denied the report as “nuclear rhetoric” from the West.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine, told reporters Tuesday that Russia’s nuclear posture was apparently unchanged.
“Certainly we always have to take the threat of nuclear use seriously, and so we do,” she said. “But at the same time, at this point rhetoric is only rhetoric, and it’s irresponsible saber-rattling that we see at this point.”
President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone Tuesday, days after Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin claimed to annex four regions of Ukraine — roughly 18% of the country — and vowed to back up his claim with nuclear weapons if pushed.