U.S. officials and private experts tell NBC News that the new nuclear weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about Thursday were not a surprise to American intelligence analysts. But some of the weapons may not be ready for the battlefield.
That includes an “underwater ICBM” — essentially a nuclear-armed long-range torpedo — that would defeat missile defenses by traveling to its coastal target underwater and exploding to rain down radioactive sludge in what would be the world’s nastiest dirty bomb.
Three U.S. officials said that missile is not operational.
U.S. officials are not agitated about Putin’s big reveal, saying the rhetoric was mostly for domestic consumption and geared toward the Russian election this month.
“The speech was about bolstering his standing in advance of the election,” one official said.
“None of the capabilities displayed today were a surprise to the U.S.,” added a second official.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said, “The American people should rest assured that we are fully prepared.”
Most of the weapons Putin discussed are “credible at the conceptual level,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.