Brinkmanship between the United States and the Russian Federation dramatically escalated at the start of June as the Putin Administration used various channels to publicly warn the Biden Administration about potentially heavy consequences of its continued intervention in the Ukraine War.
The escalation appears to surround a June 1 announcement posted to the White House website stating that Washington intended to spend part of the $40 billion Congress just earmarked to bolster Ukraine on providing Russia’s opponent with the M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System).
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The official announcement was predated by a May 31 Background Press Call by anonymized “Senior Administration Officials” also published on the White House website, where one member of the Administration confirmed HIMARS was en route.
“…that package will contain longer-range systems, specifically HIMARS and munitions that will enable the Ukrainians to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield from a greater distance inside Ukraine and to help them repel Russian advances.”
A range boost
The technology appears to be the U.S. version of the MLRS system already used by Ukraine and Russia. However, The Guardian states HIMARS “has superior range and precision.”
The outlet added that HIMARS carries a pod of six 227mm guided missiles and has a range of 50 miles, and clarifies that the U.S. is not yet intending to provide an alternative version that boasts a 300 mile range.
The Guardian further explains the significance of the donation, “Himars will give Ukraine’s forces the ability to strike further behind Russian lines, and at distances better protected from Russia’s own long-range weaponry.”
“At roughly 80km it generally puts Himars out of range of Russia’s own artillery, while placing the Russian batteries at risk.”
The announcement appears to have provoked Russian officials. On May 31, footage was uploaded to YouTube of Russian Member of the State Duma Alexei Zhuravlev shouting loudly during a broadcast on the Rossiya 1 television program.
Zhuravlev’s comments were anything but restrained, “I will tell you absolutely competently that to destroy the entire East Coast of the United States, two Sarmat missiles are needed.”
The Sarmat missiles referred to are a new hypersonic missile that can carry a payload up to 10 tons that was showcased in a test fire by the Russian Federation in late April.
The Sarmat, which was also inauspiciously nicknamed “Satan II” by western media, has been described by President Vladimir Putin as “invincible.”
The Russian President warned that outside intervenors should “think twice” regarding his country’s military strength and defense capabilities.
Zhuravlev added, “And the same goes for the West Coast. Four missiles, and there will be nothing left.”
He continued, “They think the mushroom cloud will be taller than a high rise. That mushroom cloud will be visible from Mexico.”
Not the first warning
When Russia began its “Special Military Operation” on Feb. 24, in a televised address Putin warned “those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside” in unambiguous terms.
“Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history,” Putin stated.
However, despite an escalating range of Washington-led interventions in what has increasingly become an ostensible proxy war between the International Rules Based Order and Russia and its allies, Putin has yet to retaliate.
All the same, the escalating rhetoric and the threat of heavy and irreversible consequences it carries, has been scary.
The Telegraph reported on May 2 that Russian media had warned the United Kingdom that an underwater nuclear attack that could create a massive tidal wave was a card they were willing to play, if they had to.
A Russian news anchor stated during a piece, “There’s no way of stopping this underwater drone. The warhead on it has a yield of up to 100 megatons. The explosion of this thermonuclear torpedo by Britain’s coastline will cause a giant tsunami wave up to 500 meters high. Such a barrage alone also carries extreme doses of radiation.”
He asked further, “This tidal wave is also a carrier of extremely high doses of radiation. Surging over Britain, it will turn whatever is left of them into radioactive desert, unusable for anything. How do you like this prospect?”
And only days before the HIMARS conflict emerged, Russia demonstrated a test firing of another hypersonic weapon called ZIRCON, fired from a warship in the White Sea and succeeding in hitting a target 540 nautical miles away, reported New York Post.
Russia states the weapon travels at nine times the speed of sound and has a max range of 620 miles.
Toeing with the next step
It can perhaps be said that Russia’s warnings are beginning to feel like the nation is increasingly willing to demonstrate its integrity.
On June 1, the relatively moderate Russia Today published an English-language article titled Russia Sounds Alarm On Risk of Direct Conflict With US where Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov weighed in directly.
The outlet paraphrased Ryabkov in the following fashion, “Washington’s arming of Ukraine with heavier weapons increases the risk of direct US-Russia confrontation regardless of American statements about mitigating such a possibility.”
And directly quoted the Deputy Minister as stating, “Any arms supplies, which continue and escalate, increase the risk of such a development.”
Ryabkov added that his government opines that Washington “maintains its course of what we characterized many times as an intention to wage war to the last Ukrainian, which reflects the goal of inflicting – as they say themselves – the strategic defeat of Russia.”
“This is unprecedented. This is dangerous.”
On June 2, Russian state media TASS published an article highlighting that Konstantin Gavrilov, a delegate leading diplomatic talks in Vienna, also gave Washington a stern warning should Ukraine deploy HIMARS within a range where it can strike Russian soil.
“We resolutely warn the US and its satellites that any such step will be considered as a military attack on our country and will inevitably lead to an unacceptable escalation of the conflict,” he stated.
Gavrilov added, “Any attempts to get even on Snake [Island] will be harshly intercepted.”