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EXCLUSIVE: Is Ukraine’s new long-range missile technology bringing us closer to WW3? Experts say Putin ‘might try something desperate’ amid US fears it will convince Vladimir to use nuclear weapons


Ukraine’s development of a newly modified cruise missile capable of striking targets hundreds of kilometers from the Russian border has raised fears that Vladimir Putin could resort to the nuclear option if he becomes “desperate “.

Dr. Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said that while the nuclear threat is unlikely, it remains on the table if the Kremlin leader feels trapped amid attacks on Russian cities.

“Russia is unlikely to strike Ukraine or its NATO allies with nuclear weapons simply in response to the use of Neptune missiles – this would mean a response from the West that would surely hasten the fall of the Putin regime .

“That said, if Putin felt his grip on power was slipping beyond his control, he might try something desperate. At this point, one would hope that more sensible forces within the Russian hierarchy would step in to relieve him of his command,” he said.

Separately, former US defense attaché in Moscow and retired US Army brigadier general Kevin Ryan said Washington was alarmed by Ukraine’s new strike capability.

“The US administration fears that successful attacks by Ukraine against Russia could give Putin justification to expand his war in the West or even use nuclear weapons.

“Deploying the Neptune in attacks on Russian infrastructure will lead to an escalation of the war and force Putin and his military leadership to also intensify their attacks on Ukrainian cities.”

This comes after Ukraine last month destroyed a cutting-edge Russian air defense system nestled in the occupied Crimean peninsula, directly hitting the S-400 “Triumf” and blowing it up high in an impressive strike.

State media spokespeople and Putin’s war bloggers denounced the attack, calling it the result of a British-supplied Storm Shadow missile and threatening retaliation against the West for its support of Kiev.

But it was later revealed that the weapon behind the destruction of the S-400 was not a British projectile, but rather a modified version of a Neptune cruise missile – the type that sank the Moskva, pride of the Russian Black Sea Fleet last year.

Ukraine detonated an adapted subsonic Neptune missile in Crimea last month, destroying Russian air defense missiles in a giant explosion that also took out Russian troops.

kyiv's Luch Design Bureau has modified its highly capable anti-ship cruise missiles

Kiev’s Luch Design Bureau has modified its highly capable “Neptune” anti-ship cruise missiles – the type that sank the Moskva, the pride of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last year – to be fired at targets terrestrial

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on the implementation of the Murmansk LNG project, in Sochi, Russia, September 4, 2023.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on the implementation of the Murmansk LNG project, in Sochi, Russia, September 4, 2023.

By converting the Neptune anti-ship missile so that it could be fired from land positions at land targets, Ukrainian engineers gave Zelensky’s army the ability to strike deep inside Russian territory – something that ‘They’ve already shown what they can do with drones – to devastating effect.

Bryden Spurling, senior manager of defense and security research at RAND Europe, told MailOnline that the newly modified missile could allow Ukraine to destroy targets more than 200 miles inside Russian territory with a near-precise accuracy.

“The previous anti-ship version sank the Russian cruiser Moskva. It is therefore a precision weapon with a large warhead. The suggested range for this new land attack version appears to be between 170 and 190 miles – and could possibly reach 225 miles according to some sources,” Spurling said.

He added that the modified Neptune missiles offer a new capability to the Ukrainian armed forces, whose access to Western weapons systems such as the Storm Shadow missiles depends on their exclusive use to defend Ukrainian territory and not to strike across the border.

“Modifying the Neptune system allows Ukraine to complement the Western missiles it has received with a long-range precision missile it can produce domestically,” Spurling said.

“This is another source of supply, which Ukraine can use without the conditions that accompany many Western equipment.”

“This gives Ukraine another tool in the toolbox to strike high-value Russian targets such as air bases, headquarters, logistics nodes, naval installations and key military capabilities.”

Spurling said Kiev was unlikely to carry out a direct strike on a densely populated area with these missiles, but pointed out that Ukrainian drones had already struck government offices in Moscow’s business district.

“This version of the Neptune could strike targets in Russian cities… Ukraine has already shown that it can and will strike Russian territory directly, usually with drones.” The only difference is that this missile has a heavier warhead than most of the drones Ukraine has used against Russian territory so far.

“Despite Russia’s breathtaking rhetoric, it will not want to risk an escalation that could further involve NATO and the West in this conflict.

“But it is possible that if Ukraine used (a Neptune missile) to destroy a particularly important or sensitive target, Russia might feel it needs to step up its efforts.”

Retired US Army Colonel Gian Gentile added that the scale of damage that Ukraine’s Neptune missiles could cause would be impossible for the Kremlin to hide and therefore could undermine Putin’s narrative about the progress of the war.

“Striking targets in Russia with these Ukrainian R-360 missiles brings the war back to the Russian people, especially Russians living in Moscow. So, at the strategic level, their impact is more psychological in that it shatters the myths about the war put forward by Russian state media in a way that no other sort of Ukrainian-led information campaign can. TO DO.

“At the operational level, these Ukrainian R-360 missiles can certainly have a military impact since they can strike Russian airfields, ammunition depots and other sustainment facilities in Russia,” he concluded.

A Neptune anti-ship missile is photographed

A Neptune anti-ship missile is photographed

Last year, one of the Neptune anti-ship missiles sank the flagship Moskva of Vladimir Putin's Black Sea Fleet.

Last year, one of the Neptune anti-ship missiles sank the flagship Moskva of Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea Fleet.

The addition of these tailored Neptune missiles to Ukraine’s arsenal may not be a pivotal moment in the war.

But the increased threat could certainly help bolster Ukrainian ground forces’ efforts to break through well-established Russian defensive lines in Donbass and the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Mendoza said: “A measure like this will not constitute a turning point in the war as such. This will only happen if the Ukrainians manage to break through the Russian front line or if events conspire to push Putin and his party away from the Kremlin.

“However, attacking Russian forces from a long distance will improve Ukrainian military performance and could contribute to a weakening of Russian defenses and morale, which in itself could contribute to a military breakthrough on the front line.

“These tailored missiles can be easily intercepted by the Kremlin because they do not reach the speed of sound, so Putin will have limited concerns about an attack (on Russian cities).” But he will worry about his strategic bases in Crimea.

RUSI associate Samuel Cranny-Evans added that while Neptune missiles may not be as capable as missiles like Storm Shadow, they can still inflict considerable damage and improve Ukraine’s attack capabilities. .

“It is unclear whether (modified Neptune missiles) can fly in a variable cruise profile, which missiles like Storm Shadow do to evade air defenses and detection.”

“If they don’t, Russian air defenses will be able to shoot them down provided they have enough warning.”

“That said, combining missile types is also an effective way to counter air defenses. So, casting Storm Shadow, Neptune, and drones to arrive at the target at the same time would be difficult to counter.

Time will tell whether the newly adapted Neptune missiles will prove an effective weapon to help the Ukrainian armed forces drive Russian occupiers from their territory.

But Ukrainian defense officials said Monday that troops had regained more territory on the Eastern Front and were advancing south in their counter-offensive against Russian forces, while President Volodymyr Zelensky visited two areas of First line.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Kiev’s forces were beginning to conquer more territory around the eastern city of Bakhmut, having retaken about 30 miles of land there since beginning their counteroffensive in early June. wrote Maliar on the messaging app Telegram.

Meanwhile, videos posted Monday on Ukraine’s presidential website showed Zelensky visiting troops in the eastern Donetsk region, where Bakhmut is located, and the Zaporizhzhia region, where Kiev’s forces are trying to advance south , to the Sea of ​​Azov.

kyiv recaptured a number of villages and settlements during its offensive launched three months ago, but its soldiers have been hampered by vast Russian minefields and trenches.

Maliar said last week that Ukrainian troops had broken through Russia’s first line of defense and that the Ukrainian army now hoped to advance more quickly.

But Moscow continued to carry out airstrikes on Ukrainian targets, including port infrastructure, and reported drone attacks on Russian territory.

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