WASHINGTON • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decided to postpone a ballistic missile test scheduled for this week to avoid escalating tensions with Russia.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby made the announcement Wednesday, days after Russian President Vladimir Putin upgraded the nuclear posture within his country and threatened any intervening country would face “such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
“In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention of engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the Secretary of Defense has directed our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, scheduled for this week, to be postponed,” Kirby explained.
He did not specify when the test would take place.
“This is not a step backwards in our readiness, nor does it imply that we will necessarily cancel other routine activities to ensure a credible nuclear capability,” Kirby added. “We remain confident in our strategic posture.”
Putin, on Sunday, ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent force on alert and cited “aggressive statements” from NATO countries that pushed him to put the forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
Austin’s decision was met with criticism from at least one Republican on Capitol Hill.
“Disappointing decision to cancel routine unarmed reliability test of Minuteman III in the face of Russian bluster,” GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on social media.
“Test is critical to ensure our nuke deterrent stays effective. Deterrence means projecting strength & resolve — not sacrificing readiness for hollow gestures.”
Russia invaded Ukraine a week ago, and much of its progress toward its goal of capturing Kyiv has been thwarted by a handful of problems, including a stronger resistance force than anticipated, Kirby explained.
A senior defense official said Tuesday that shortages of food and fuel supplies have contributed as well.
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