The US military confirmed it had carried out routine tests of unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The military had delayed the testing of the ICBMs on two occasions this year, with the US Defence Department saying the postponement of tests “exemplified how a responsible nuclear nation should behave”.
The delay came in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with a second postponement announced following the escalation of tensions around Taiwan.
In March, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the international community saw Putin’s actions in Ukraine as “dangerous and irresponsible”, but Washington wished to be clear not to be “misconstrued”.
Mr Kirby said: “So, in an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention of engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of defence has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed.”
He added: “We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power.”
Earlier this month, Putin said there could be no victory for either side in the event of an escalated nuclear war.
He said in a statement: “We proceed from the fact that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be unleashed, and we stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the world community.”
Such rhetoric was a dramatic U-turn from the nuclear threats waved by the Kremlin in the initial stages of the invasion.
Shortly after Russian forces crossed into Ukraine, Putin warned the international community that any interference would “lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history”.
This was widely interpreted as a reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which was put on high alert.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also referred to the possibility of nuclear war as “serious” and “real”, with Belarus President – and staunch Putin ally – Alexander Lukashenko warning of the nuclear “abyss” ahead if escalation continued.