In order to be in a position to unleash a first strike, the United States have taken the following measures: they have introduced what they call “super-fuze” technology to their warheads. This causes detonation to occur on arrival at an optimal altitude over the target, with deviation (trajectory imprecision) factored in, thus enabling less powerful warheads to guarantee destruction of strongly protected target (such as Russia’s missile launch silos). They have also converted some of their Ohio class, ballistic missile launching submarines (each carried 24 Trident missiles) to cruise missiles (each now carries 154 Tomahawk missiles, which are harder to detect and home in on their targets more accurately). Lastly, they are “miniaturising” the warheads (which can now be less powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima), on the (theoretical) basis that missiles that are more accurate, harder to detect and that detonate closer to their targets can be relied on to annihilate Russia’s retaliatory capability – even using less powerful warheads and thus minimising the resulting “nuclear winter” effects. The Russians, meanwhile, as deterrents to a US nuclear attack, have developed innovative weapons whose performance is a closely-guarded secret of State (the US will have to find out the hard way). These include the S-400, S-500, S-550 and A-235 Nudol anti-missile systems and the Peresvet space satellite “blinding” weapons.
Paradoxically, these strategies both feed back into each other, driving a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. To date, the more the United States has relied on a first-strike capability, the more Russia has striven to prepare itself to deter one. From now on, the more the Russians develop the ability to seal off their airspace to enemy missiles, the smaller will be the chances of an effective first strike by the United States – “effective” in the sense of liquidating, in full or at least in large part, Russia’s ability to retaliate; even if only a few missiles do penetrate Russia’s defences, millions will die, making retaliation a certainty (see this article). Accordingly, the window of opportunity for a successful first strike by the US is gradually closing. Given the prospect of Russia’s becoming militarily hegemonic in the future, the United States finds itself racing against time and, with an ever-mounting sense of urgency, feeling compelled to take action before Russia’s shield is complete.