We’re not going to bite at analyzing the Paris attack while it’s still not all wrapped up. Unlike the guys whose output is already set for tomorrow’s newsstand (image right), we are not under a deadline on this. We’ll just offer several points and move on to news from Russia.
- Initial media reports are almost always wrong. This has been ameliorated somewhat by the press’s discovery that they can pluck stuff off twitter, instead of from the twits on their staff. Some press don’t get that — NBC, for instance, had Bryant Gumbel all concerned about the fate of Al Gore’s Who Wants Me To Be A Bigger Billionaire telethon. (Gore fans, relax; ManBearPig lives).
- Initial body counts are almost always high. This attack seems rather poorly synchronized and disorganized compared to the record holder among these small arms attacks, the one in Bombay. Ergo, this attack is probably not going to break Bombay’s record body count (160).
- The attack is visibly and obviously another amish attack mohammedan sacrament. As a GEICO ad might say, if you’re an imam you incite murder, that’s what you do. That means tomorrow you can expect stern warnings about the coming backlash against peaceable Muslims. These backlashes are always descending, but they never seem to take tangible form — they’re vaporware. Kind of like peaceable Muslims.
- We’ve already seen the usual politicians unleash their Platitude Generators, Crises For Use in, Mark VII, talking about “our shared values.” Know who doesn’t share those values? If you guessed the schmos with AKs and the splodydopes in guncotton waistcoats, give yourself a cookie.
And that’s all we’re going to say about it, right now.
Meanwhile, in Sochi, Russian Federation….
Because something really interesting happened in Russia this week. A “leak” showed a classified briefing slide about a previously unannounced underwater-launched weapon. The “leak” has been extensively promoted on government-controlled news site Russia Today (rt.com).
That’s a leak? On a state-controlled broadcast?
The slide describes a stealthy, 1.6-meter diameter, long-ranged torpedo which carries a ~5-20 megaton nuclear and radiological warhead, designed to persistently irradiate entire regions of a coastal target nation. In fact, Status-6 has a claimed autonomous range of over 10,000 kilometers, which really puts it more into the class of an autonomous undersea vehicle — if it’s real.
According to the slide it can be carried by two new Russian sub types, which just saw themselves elevated on free world target lists. The warhead is supposedly capable of both nuclear destruction and of persistently irradiating an entire enemy coastline, suggesting a dirty bomb or cobalt bomb. The US and USSR agreed in principle during the initial 1970s talks for the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty not to deploy such doomsday weapons, but they never wrote that into the agreement, and the treaty has lapsed.
It turns out, Bill Gertz wrote this program up based on a Pentagon leak to him two months ago, noting that the DOD had code-named the Russian port-buster Kanyon.
Russia is building a drone submarine to deliver large-scale nuclear weapons against U.S. harbors and coastal cities, according to Pentagon officials.
The developmental unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, when deployed, will be equipped with megaton-class warheads capable of blowing up key ports used by U.S. nuclear missile submarines, such as Kings Bay, Ga., and Puget Sound in Washington state.
The US has dismantled all of its multi-megaton warheads as part of the Obama Administration’s program of unilateral nuclear disarmament. It retains a small stockpile of 1.2 megaton B83 bombs, but those too are scheduled to be decommissioned.
In the Soviet era, a torpedo called T-15 could deliver a megaton warhead to a harbor. All such torpedoes are believed to have been decommissioned, but Status/Kanyon is a more capable, modern update of this old Soviet concept — if it is real. Gertz notes that, despite indicators of coastal mapping by Russian AGI vessels, deployment of a strike UUV is probably years away.
Using such a warhead against a civilian target is arguably a violation of international law, but that doesn’t seem to faze the Russian leadership. If the warhead even exists. If the torpedo or AUV really exists. Because a propaganda leak is equally effective if the “secret weapon” is real, or if it is notional.
Of course, if it was a leak, and this is something real, the guy responsible is probably going to be a test pilot on one of these torpedoes. Hals und beinbruch, Ivan.
Why the “Leak”?
This “leak” appears from here clearly as a brush-back pitch thrown at the United States and its allies. Yet it seems likely to be counterproductive, if that is really its intent. It would raise the stakes of antisubmarine warfare, a much neglected field in the shrinking US Navy, and inspire countermeasures that Russia really, really wouldn’t like.
But we’re probably looking at it the wrong way. That’s not leaked for our benefit. Its target audience is, in our estimation, inside Russia. The message is: we are strong, we are invincible, nobody had better mess with us. It is a bluff, yes, but he’s bluffing his own people, not the Americans.
For Some Good Information
In addition to Bill Gertz’s column mentioned above, read Jeffrey Lewis’s posts at Arms Control Wonk:
Don’t neglect the comments. He has some astute and technically proficient commenters.
He also wrote a column in Foreign Policy that transcended the usual soporific house style:
At the risk of understating things, this project is bat-shit crazy. It harkens back to the most absurd moments of the Cold War, when nuclear strategists followed the logic of deterrence over the cliff and into the abyss. For his part, Putin seems positively nostalgic.
What sort of sick bastards dream up this kind of weapon? Whether or not the Russians ever build it is almost beside the point. Simply announcing to the world that you find this to be a reasonable approach to deterrence should be enough to mark you out as a dangerous creep.
Of course, then Lewis makes his own bat-guano-crazy argument, that rather than develop a military response to this thing, or (giving him the benefit of the doubt), in parallel to the military response, we need to “think about making better use of international norms against nuclear weapons.” Yes, because Vladimir Vladimirovich is as impressed with “international norms” as his role model Josef Vissarionovich was with the Pope.