Russian Soft Power

The bad news is that Russia’s latest test-launch of the Bulava sub-based nuclear-capable missile failed. It’s the seventh failure out of 12 tries for the next-gen missile that’s central to Russia’s efforts to modernize its strike capability.

The good news is that the missile, which failed in the third stage while in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, set off an extraordinary spiral light show over Norway. After the UFO scare died down, I imagine people were quite grateful for the display. Score one for soft power.

On a more serious note, for all the alarmism during the Georgia War over the Russian bogeyman, the Russian defense industry is in terrible shape. Combined with the country’s demographic problems and dependence on energy revenue, Russia is looking at a mid-term future of being more an obstructionist power than a true power. For Georgia, Poland or Ukraine, that’s still something to worry about. For the U.S., it’s more about dealing with asymmetric diplomatic threats.

Update: Arms Control Wonk has video of the Norwegian light show, plus video of another sub-based failed launch that gives a pretty good idea of what was happening up there.

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