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The Russian military has warned that any incoming missile will be treated as a nuclear attack and will meet with immediate nuclear retaliation.
In its chilling threat, seen as being directed at Donald Trump, was published in Krasnaya Zvezda – the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defence.
"Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead," the article read.
The warning by Major General Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin, continued: "The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation."
Moscow has made it increasingly clear that it doesn't rule out using thermonuclear weapons in response to a conventional strike.
The rules of engagement have become increasingly fluid since both Russia and the US have both deployed small "tactical" nuclear weapons in the field and added hypersonic missiles to their armouries.
A hypersonic projectile can cause widespread damage without any explosive warhead just thanks to its sheer kinetic power.
Inside secret underground room where scientists test US nuclear weapons
The Krasnaya Zvezda (which translates to Red Star) editorial states that there would be no way of knowing what type of missile had been fired until it hit, and so it was rational to go with a worst-case response.
Last year, the Pentagon stated its intent to deploy a satellite-based particle beam weapon – similar to the Reagan-Era "Star Wars" weapons system that came close to destabilising world peace in the 1980s.
The neutral beam accelerator technology was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and is currently shelved over cost issues.
But the weapon has passed basic testing and could potentially be put into action quite quickly.
The particle beam could intercept Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles before they could hit their targets. That could theoretically hand the initiative to US forces – enabling them to initiate a nuclear first strike on Russia without risk of retaliation.
While personal relations between Presidents Trump and Putin are atlas on the surface friendly, there are deep tensions between the two superpowers arising from the Afghanistan "bounty" controversy, the Nordstream gas pipeline, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the ongoing problem of cyberattacks traced back to Russia.
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