In what appears to be a warning to Finland and its neutral neighbor Sweden to not get too cozy with NATO, Russia test-fired four ballistic missiles in rapid succession from a submarine in the Pacific to a target site in the ocean near Finland. The submarine Vladimir Monomakh, part of the Russian Pacific Fleet, fired the SS-N-23 Bulava (“Mace”) nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on December 12.
The missile test follows less than a week after a Swedish parliamentary majority followed Finland’s example, in voting in favor of adopting a “NATO Option.” The “NATO option, notes Reuters,” would not mean Sweden would apply for membership of the U.S.-led alliance but Sweden would consider it down the road if deemed necessary for security.
Still, the ruling Swedish minority ruling coalition composed of the Social Democrats and Greens remains opposed to any NATO option. Nevertheless, Russia is not happy with Finland and Sweden’s deepening defense ties with each other, and both their evolving links to NATO. And reminding both of them of Russia’s nuclear missile capability is one way to show that displeasure.
Enter the Bulava multiple missile launch.
The missiles traveled 3,100 miles from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Chizha test range, on the Kanin peninsula near the Barents Sea.
As Kyle Mikozami noted, “the missiles streaked along almost the entire length of Russia, from a location north of Japan all the way to a site near Finland. It was the first multi-missile test of the Bulava system since 2018.” The Bulava missile, explains Mikozami — roughly equivalent to the American Trident D-5 submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles — had a troubled early development history, but all missile tests since 2018 have been successful.
The relatively new Monomakh is equipped with 16 launch tubes with 16 Bulava ballistic missiles. Each Bulava carries between four and six nuclear warheads in the 100- to 150-kiloton range, for a total of between 64 and 96 warheads.
But Finland and Sweden aren’t the only targets of the Russian test missile messaging. As Popular Mechanics notes, “Bulava missiles fired from the Sea of Okhotsk can reach most of the United States west of the Mississippi, while missiles fired from the White Sea can reach U.S. territory east of the Mississippi.”