Following an announcement last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual State of the Union address, Russia is now about to deploy at least 30 high-tech, underwater nuclear drones that, according to the Russian news agency Tass, would each be “capable of carrying a nuclear warhead with a yield of up to two megatons to destroy enemy naval bases.” A two-megaton nuclear device delivers more than 133 times the explosive force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, by a United States aircraft on August 6, 1945.
The most powerful nuclear weapon currently in the United States arsenal, the B83 thermonuclear bomb, delivers 1.2 megatons of explosive force, according to The Brookings Institute. One megaton is the equivalent of 1 million tons of the explosive material TNT.
But the destruction that would be unleashed by detonating one of the new Russian “Poseidon” nuclear drones underwater was detailed in another Russian newspaper, the Moscow tabloid Moskovskij Komsomolets, or MK, a paper that was founded in 1919 with a reported circulation of 700,000, according to the media industry site Mondo Times.
According to the MK account published on Tuesday, an explosion of a Poseidon drone near a port or coastal area would be catastrophically devastating, largely due to the massive and radioactive tsunami produced by the two-megaton blast.
“The wave from a possible explosion of a nuclear warhead off the coast can rise to an altitude of more than 400–500 meters and is able, on its way, to flush all living things 1,500 kilometers deep into the mainland,” the paper reported.
A 400 to 500 meter-tall wave would rise 1,300 to 1,600 feet high. By comparison, New York City’s Empire State Building stands just over 1,400 feet high at the top of the radio antenna on its roof, according to CNN. And 1,500 kilometers is more than 900 miles, meaning that the nuclear-generated tsunami would “flush all living things” nearly one-third of the way across the United States if it were to crash into a coastal area — according to the MK account.
Late last year, Trump announced, per CNBC, that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, saying that Russia had committed violations. Underwater nuclear devices, however, are not regulated by the INF treaty.
But experts say, according to the Arms Control Association, that simply pulling out of the INF treaty actually serves the interests of Putin’s Russia, “lets Russia off the hook for its violation, and goes against the wishes of allies in Europe and elsewhere who want to preserve the treaty.” Russia would have no “constraints” on deployment of its nuclear weapons if the U.S. cancels the treaty, according to the ACA.