Why Russia's Reviving Its Nuke Trains

© Flickr / Peer.GyntThe ICBM RT-23, nicknamed the 'Good Sport' (Molodets)
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Russian "Barguzin" strategic missile trains may become an asymmetric response to NATO's complex European Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system deployed in Romania and Poland, military experts believe.

Russian designers have begun to create new elements of "Barguzin" — Russia's combat railway missile complex (BZhRK) aimed at transporting and launching strategic nuclear missiles.

Citing a military source with the knowledge of the matter, Russian Regnum news agency wrote that the project's exact completion date would be announced in early 2018. Back in 2014, Strategic Missile Forces Commander Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev told journalists that the sketches of Russia's future railway-based missile complex had been finalized.

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It was reported that the Russian Army may receive five Barguzin railroad ICBM systems by 2020. In late February 2016 the head of the Strategic Missile Forces' military education department, Viktor Nesterov, informed Echo Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) Radio that a new generation of ICBM-launching trains would enter the Army service in 2020.

Russian military experts regard the system as a powerful counterbalance against NATO's European Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system deployed by the United States in Eastern Europe.

On Thursday, the Pentagon military officials inaugurated their missile defense base in Deveselu, Romania. The Deveselu base is one of the first major European elements of the US global missile shield. The cornerstone of the military site is an Aegis Ashore missile defense system equipped with an AN/SPY-1 radar and vertical launchers for 24 Standard SM-3 Block IB missiles.

A similar ground-based Aegis system is currently under construction in Poland. The Polish base is due to become operational in 2018.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed Thursday that the deployment of the elements of the US global missile shield in Europe undoubtedly poses a direct threat to the Russian Federation's security.

"From the very beginning we have said that, according to experts — and we are certain of this, undoubtedly — the deployment of missile defense systems indeed poses a threat to the security of the Russian Federation," Peskov told reporters.

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The Pentagon and NATO war planners have been "encircling" Russia since the end of the Cold War seeking to nullify the country's nuclear deterrence capability.  However, with Barguzin nuclear trains the threat would be seriously mitigated.

The crux of the matter is that the Russian BZhRK looks similar to any other ordinary cargo train and cannot be detected by an adversary. The elusive nuke complex also moves constantly across the system of the country's railroads. It is worth mentioning that the Russian railways are ranked second longest globally. In general, the combat railway missile complex can pass up to 1,000 kilometers daily.

The first BZhRKs entered the Soviet Army service in 1987 but were completely decommissioned in 2007 in accordance with the START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty between the US and Russia.

However, the modernized BzhRK Barguzin system does not violate the provisions of the New START treaty signed by Moscow and Washington on April 8, 2010, in Prague.

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Each Barguzin train will be armed with six ICBMs RS-24 Yars which could be brought into firing position within minutes. Furthermore, Barguzins will be also equipped with advanced electronic warfare systems and a sophisticated stealth technology.

Russian military expert Leonid Nersisyan notes in his article for Regnum, that Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in the early 2000s prompted serious concerns in Moscow and forced Russian military planners to seek new ways to counter potential threats.

The other destabilizing factor is the Pentagon's Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept, Nersisyan underscores. The US is developing a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike at targets throughout the world within one hour using hypersonic weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly signaled that Washington's efforts at implementing the European BMD and creating Prompt Global Strike (PGS) weapon systems is dealing a blow to the ongoing talks on nuclear disarmament between the countries.

However, Nersisyan stresses that the Russian BZhRKs will nullify the challenge posed by the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept. 

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