Amid rising tensions with US, Russia moves to activate ‘Nuclear Train’

Moscow/Washington: Considering the rising tensions with the United States and NATO, Russia has started taking steps towards initiating the Nuclear Train again. Russian military analysts have indicated in that direction. Previously, during the Cold War between Russia and the United States, the former had activated a railway missile network. The system was developed to make missiles untraceable to the satellites of the United States and other western nations, and enable the movement of nuclear weapons to any corner of the country.  

President Donald Trump had announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces or INF Treaty, signed with Russia, in 2019. Next month, the arms control deal – New START will also expire. The two agreements are believed crucial for controlling nuclear weapons and advanced missiles between the two nations. As the agreement nears an end, the United States and Russia have ramped up activities for developing nuclear weapons and advanced missiles. Last year, the two nations were found to have tested certain advanced missiles and nuclear weapons.  

Russia has started making significant amendments to its nuclear policy. According to its new nuclear deterrent policy, Russia will retaliate to any non-nuclear attack with a nuclear response. President Vladimir Putin had informed of the decision. Besides, Russia stated it had to make the amendments given the modifications to the United States’ nuclear policy and the changing geopolitical scenario. The activation of the nuclear train appears in line with the strategy.  

In the 1980s, the nuclear railway network was developed by what was then the Soviet Union. Russia had developed the RT-23 Molodets, an independent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), to enable its transport through the railway. A total of 12 separate trains were designed for transporting the arsenal. Also, 200 firing points were constructed at different locations across Russia. The trains were deployed to three divisions of the Russian military.  

The nuclear trains were operational for 15 years between 1987 to 2002. Russia had claimed that even the United States could not trace them. The country had decided to shut the trains when it signed the START Treaty with the United States. Around 2015, Russia showed signs of activating the network again. However, in 2018, Russia stated that it had put the project on hold due to the unavailability of sufficient funds.  

Nevertheless, after developing new nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles last year, and then conducting a spate of tests, Russia initiated steps to reactivate the nuclear train. Renowned Russian military analyst, Alexey Lenkov, and Vladimir Avehsyveh had hinted at it. Avehsyveh asserted that the network could become completely active in the next two to five years. Moreover, with NATO military movements rising near their borders, Russian analysts have warned that the nuclear train could become a potent solution. 

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