The recent radioactive explosion in Nyonoksa, Northern Russia, is widely known in defense circles as the botched test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile. But NATO has been conspicuously muted in its response, sources told Insider, despite being certain of the true events.
Frustrated officials allude to Trump’s friendly overtures to re-admit Russia to the G7 group of nations as confounding its capacity to properly condemn President Vladimir Putin.
“Shooting nuclear reactors into the sky at Mach 8 poses a danger to everyone, not just Russian scientists,” a source expressed to Insider.
NATO has closely monitored the situation since this month’s radioactive explosion in Nyonoksa, Russia. According to sources in the alliance, it was quickly concluded that the explosion was part of a reckless test to develop new experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile.
But NATO has felt incapable of taking a hard line with Russia over this new weapons program in part due to US President Donald Trump’s somewhat disturbing friendly approach to Russia, three NATO officials confided to Insider.
According to these officials who spoke on conditions of anonymity as they are not authorized to discuss the issue on the record, NATO agrees with prevalent assessments that the August 8 explosion at a military facility near Nyonoksa was part of a nuclear weapons program. The blast reportedly killed five scientists and flung radioactive fallout into the air that was detected even in Western Europe. But it has still not provoked a strong international response.
Each official stated that NATO was unlikely to directly confront Russia since the incident has occurred at a time when multiple strategic issues from Syria to Ukraine to election interference already upset relations.
“Developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile to carry and deliver nuclear warheads is obviously something that concerns NATO,” commented one military intelligence official based at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Nevertheless, the official claims that Trump’s recent suggestion to reinstate Russia to the G7 group of developed economies has limited NATO’s ability to respond robustly. The United States is NATO’s single largest partner and funder, so NATO officials feel intimidated at the idea of expressing an opinion that might look like criticism of Trump’s friendliness toward Russia.
“Putin wants back in the G8 but he’s testing wildly irresponsible weapons systems that are essentially limited to offensive capability,” remarked another NATO official based in a western European capital.
All three sources confessed that they were moved to speak out due to the apparent reluctance by political leaders in NATO member states to strongly condemn the failed Russian test and demand answers about the alleged program from Putin.
“At each turn with Putin, each time he pushes the West with a test like this — or an assassination in Berlin as we are seeing today — the response from NATO is either soft or superficial,” stated the Brussels-based official.
(The Berlin incident the official referred to is still under investigation, but many suspect ties to the Russian state. Russia has denied involvement.)
He continued, “But to follow this disastrous aggression with Trump suggesting reinstatement with the G-8 means that Putin doesn’t need to fear new sanctions and even with tests like this he might get old sanctions lifted. The current leadership of the West appears to be OK with ignoring this incident in favor of focusing on other concerns. But shooting nuclear reactors into the sky at Mach 8 poses a danger to everyone, not just Russian scientists.”
The US had considered developing a similar nuclear-powered system for delivery of nuclear weapons in the 1960s but the project was abandoned owing to the dangers of testing. The scheme was also deemed irrelevant as a deterrent for a nation that could already deploy thousands of nuclear warheads.
Attempts to contact NATO’s press office for an on-the-record comment on its handling of the Russian explosion has not received any response.