The Pentagon announced the cancellation of a previously scheduled test of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told the media that the test was being delayed not to be “misconstrued” by the Russians.
Kirby pointed out that Russian nuclear forces had been placed on a “special alert” last weekend by Vladimir Putin as he was conducting the ongoing invasion of neighboring Ukraine. US officials say they are not clear on how the alert may have affected the actual deployment of Russian nuclear forces. However, the language used by Putin was described as “escalators.”
Kirby said that Putin’s alert is “dangerous and irresponsible” and an “unnecessary step.” He added that “provocative rhetoric” and changes to the posturing of nuclear forces are unacceptable.
A USAF Minuteman III missile test had been scheduled for Thursday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the cancellation of the routine test, similar to others that occur multiple times each year.
Kirby said the decision was taken lightly and was ultimately made to demonstrate that the US is a “responsible nuclear power.” He added that the cancellation is not a “step backward in readiness” and should not imply that the military will cancel any other routine work needed to ensure the nation’s defense capabilities.
Kirby went on to say that during the current “moment of tension,” it is critical that both the US and Russia bear in mind the risks involved in “miscalculation” and take reasonable steps to reduce those risks.
Admiral Charles Richard, head of the US Strategic Command, was asked in a hearing before a House subcommittee on Tuesday if the situation in Ukraine and Putin’s nuclear forces alert could lead to a change in the deployment of American nuclear forces. He responded by saying that he has made no recommendations for any changes and is “satisfied with the posture” of US capabilities.