US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the country’s military to postpone a planned test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile after Russian President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert.”
“In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of Defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, scheduled for this week, to be postponed,” press secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.
“We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power,” he added.
In response to aggressive statements by NATO’s leading members, Putin said on Sunday he had ordered “the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty.”
Since then, Russia’s nuclear submarines and mobile missile launchers reportedly staged drills and units of Moscow’s Strategic Missile Forces dispersed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers in forests in eastern Siberia to practice secret deployment.
The US and its NATO allies have failed to raise their own nuclear alert levels in response to Russia’s action.
“Now, in this time of heightened tensions, the United States and other members of the international community rightly saw this as a dangerous and irresponsible and, as I've said before, an unnecessary step,” Kirby said.
“We recognize at this moment of tension how critical it is that both the United States and Russia bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks.”
The Pentagon spokesman claimed that the missile test is not canceled and the US military is “just moving it to the right a little bit.”
Putin announced last week a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region to “defend people” subjected to "genocide" there against government forces, stressing that Moscow has “no plans to occupy Ukrainian territory.”
US President Joe Biden called the Russian action an "unprovoked and unjustified attack," and the American media described it as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two assault by Russia.