Ever since 2015 when images of a Russian nuclear torpedo first leaked on state television, the world has asked itself why Moscow would build a weapon that could potentially end all life on Earth.
While all nuclear weapons can kill thousands in the blink of an eye and leave radiation poisoning the environment for years to come, Russia’s new doomsday device, called the “Poseidon,” takes steps to maximize this effect. If the US fired one of its Minutemen III nuclear weapons at a target, it would detonate in the air above the target and rely on the blast’s incredible downward pressure to crush it. The fireball from the nuke may not even touch the ground, and the only radiation would come from the bomb itself and any dust particles in air swept up in the explosion, Stephen Schwartz, author of “Atomic Audit” previously told Business Insider.
But Russia’s Poseidon reportedly uses a warhead hundreds of times stronger, and perhaps even as strong as the largest bomb ever detonated. Additionally, it will come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea, rendering it uninhabitable for decades.
In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon can end a continent.
Even in the mania at the height of the Cold War, nobody took seriously the idea of building such a world-ender, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute told Business Insider.
So why build one now?
Davis calls the Poseidon a “third strike vengeance weapon,” meaning that Russia would attack a NATO member, the US would respond, and a then devastated Russia would flip the switch on a hidden nuke that would lay waste to an entire US seaboard.
According to Davis, the Poseidon would give Russia a “coercive power” to discourage a NATO response to a Russian first strike.