Russia has been in the news lately largely thanks to its attempts to relaunch the Cold War on the internet and its unquestioning support of the Assad regime in Syria. And now it’s grabbed attention for another reason: They’ve debuted the sequel no one wanted to its “Satan” nuclear missile.
The Satan 2, officially known as the RS-28 Sarmat, has been an open secret for a while now as Russia has more or less engaged in the geopolitical equivalent of a marketing campaign. And this is no different, as the first specs were declassified by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau. On paper, the missile is state of the art, able to evade radar defenses and travel far enough to hit the East or West Coast of the US with a payload that could destroy an area the size of Texas.
That said, there’s reason to be skeptical of the Sarmat’s capabilities. The Sarmat has been rumored to have missed several key points on its development timeline, and modern Russia is notorious for making claims about its military capability that are not backed up by fact. Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, for example, has had decades of trouble and was recently widely mocked by military observers as it went through the English Channel belching smoke. Last year, Russia’s Armata T-14 tank debuted at a Victory Day parade only to break down in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum.
Similarly, Russia is notably talking about the Satan 2 right when the original Satan missiles that carry Russia’s warheads are reaching the end of their operational life. So like anything with years of hype behind it, take that hype with a grain of salt. Russia will almost certainly remain a nuclear power, and that’s worrying in light of their recent behavior, but the claims of parity, or superiority, to the US nuclear arsenal will hopefully never have to be proven.