Here we go with the unleashing of the new Cold War arms race 2.0: the United States has just tested a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of over 500km — previously banned under the now defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty — just after Putin recently said Russia will be forced to deploy banned missiles if the US does.
The Pentagon on Monday confirmed a flight test of a “conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile” which happened on Sunday, and released video of the launch.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the DoD press release said.
The test occurred at a range on San Nicolas Island, California, the Pentagon said Monday. The missile was reported as successfully hitting a target of more 500km (310 miles) away.
Crucially this comes on the heels of both the United States and Russia formally withdrawing from the landmark 1987 treaty which banned missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,000km.
At the start of August US Defense Secretary Mark Esper had indicated plans to deploy previously banned missiles in Asia or the Pacific region:, “It’s fair to say, though, that we would like to deploy a capability sooner rather than later,” Esper said during a prior trip to Australia. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”
WATCH: U.S. flight-tests ground launched Tomahawk variant off of California in a test that went "more than 500km", a first since the end of the INF treaty earlier this month. Notable that they chose the Tomahawk as the original ground-launched version of it was killed by INF pic.twitter.com/aIPKRFHdvC
— Jeff Martin (@JeffMartinDC) August 19, 2019
Putin had told a gathering of his defense chiefs days following news of the US deployment plans for Asia: "In our opinion, the United States’ actions, which have led to the termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, will inevitably entail devaluation, undermine the entire global security architecture, including the strategic offensive arms treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," he told the council, according to a Kremlin press service statement.
"This scenario means the resumption of an unrestrained arms race," Putin emphasized.
Russia's defense ministry recently reiterated that it would refrain from deploying mid- and long-range missiles unless Washington did first.
The Pentagon's new missile test could mark the beginning of precisely such an "unrestrained arms race" which characterized the worst fears of the Cold War era.