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Russia is building a military presence in the Arctic, where it’s testing a new weapon in an area recently that emerged from the ice due to the ongoing climate crisis — to secure its northern coast and open a crucial shipping route from Asia to Europe, according to an initial report from CNN.

And one of the weapons Russia is bringing to bear could unleash “radioactive tsunamis” on coastal cities.

New Russian weapon could flood US coastal cities with nuclear tsunamis

Experts in weapons and western officials have emphasized concerns regarding a specific “super-weapon” of Russia’s: The Poseidon 2M39 torpedo. As of writing, the weapon is undergoing rapid development under Russian President Vladimir Putin, who requested an update on a “key stage” of torpedo testing in February from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu — with additional tests slated for later this year, according to state media, reports CNN.

The stealth torpedo is an uncrewed weapon with an onboard nuclear reactor. It aims to glide past coastal defenses — including the United States’ — along the seafloor. Russian officials claim the torpedo can deliver a warhead of several megatons, which can create radioactive waves capable of making large areas of a target coastline deadly to human life for decades.

Needless to say, this is a very dangerous weapon.

Last November, Christopher A. Ford — who is the International Security and Non-Proliferation’s former assistant secretary of state — said of the Poseidon torpedo: It can “inundate U.S. coastal cities with radioactive tsunamis.”

Russia’s nuclear torpedo is not a ‘paper tiger,’ after all

The weapon is “very real” and rapidly approaching completion. Vice Admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes, Norway’s Head of intelligence, said his agency considers the Poseidon as “part of the new type of nuclear deterrent weapons,” in the CNN report. “And it is in a testing phase. But it’s a strategic system and it’s aimed at targets … and has an influence far beyond the region in which they test it currently.”

The space technology company Maxar snapped satellite images that reveal a distinct and continuous build-up of Russian military bases and hardware along the nation’s Arctic coastline — along with underground storage facilities expected to house Poseidon and other new advanced weaponry. Other items of Russia’s High North area include: MiG31BM jets, bombers, and upgraded radar systems close to the Alaskan coast.

Russia’s Poseidon 2M39 was first announced in 2015, according to CNN. But at the time, it was classified as a “paper tiger,” since experts and officials thought it was intended to up the scare factor of Russia’s military in theory only, but not in practice.

Russian nuclear tsunami torpedo could also bring ecological ruin

However, with Russia moving forward with testing of the nuclear torpedo, and other novel weapons like its hypersonic missiles, officials and experts are beginning to take the weapons seriously.

“It is absolutely a project that will be used to scare, as a negotiation card in the future, perhaps in arms control talks,” said Katarzyna Zysk, an international relations professor of Norway’s Institute for Defense Studies, to CNN. “But in order to do so, it has to be credible.”

“This seems to be real,” added Zysk.

It’s unspeakably horrifying to imagine a bomb triggering a tsunami composed of radioactive water, aimed directly at a coastal city and its inhabitants. But beyond the initial death toll and economic devastation, an attack from a Poseidon 2M39 could also create severe environmental destruction we’d find hard to undo.

“We are ecologically worried. This is not only a theoretical thing: in fact, we have seen serious accidents in the last few years,” said Stensønes, to CNN. “The potential of a nuclear contamination is absolutely there.” We can’t predict the future of sociopolitical schisms. But we also can’t stress enough the world-historical level of change for the worst a strike from this weapon could trigger.

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