According to Russian military expert Viktor Baranets Russia has prepositioned offshore nukes ready to strike the US if necessary
The Russians are known for sometimes making crazy claims. For instance while politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky was arguing in favor of preemptive nuclear war so as to prevent a second Operation Barbarossa, he claimed that Russia possessed powerful magnetic weapons which could change the earth’s axis of rotation and in a moment wipe out the US.1
Along these lines and in the context of President Trump’s announcement to increase US military spending, Russian military expert Viktor Baranets has stated that Russia has ‘asymmetrical responses’ to deal with the US military behemoth. In an article for the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid, Baranets claimed that one of Russia’s ‘asymmetrical responses’ involves “quietly ‘seeding’ the U.S. shoreline with nuclear ‘mole’ missiles (they dig themselves in and ‘sleep’ until they are given the command).”2 He then quipped “Oh, it seems I’ve said too much. I should hold my tongue.”
It is not completely clear what Baranets is talking about, but I interpret his comments to mean that Russia has positioned submerged canisters in the oceans offshore of the US, possibly on the ocean floor, and that these canisters house nuclear ballistic missiles that, at a moment’s notice, can be launched against the US. Now of course this is what Baranets is claiming and there is no evidence that he is telling the truth or is in any position to known whether such a Russian weapons system does in fact exist. When asked about the claims Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was dismissive and responded “This sounds strange, to say the least, and so I would suggest that you not take newspaper reports like this seriously.”
However, the concept of having dormant nuclear missile pods prepositioned in the ocean may not be so ludicrous. Take for instance the 1950’s British Blue Peacock project, in which 10-kiloton nuclear mines were to be placed in Germany and which during a Soviet invasion detonated either by wire signal or an eight day timer.3 The project was abandoned and although it was land based, it illustrates that Western nuclear planners were thinking of the prepositioning of nuclear weapons.
More recent and relevant was the US navy considering developing pods filled with supplies to be stored on the ocean floor and when needed a signal would be given to the pod to surface and US naval forces could then make use of the supplies stored within.4 Such a system, if it was proven to be practical and workable, could also conceivably be used to secretly store nuclear weapons, which could then be activated upon command.
There are also reports from the Pentagon that Russia is developing underwater drones, also known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), which could deliver nuclear weapons against US coastal areas.5 Quite possibly Baranets is referring to this weapons program.
To be honest I highly doubt that Russia has deployed either UUVs or pods able to launch nukes at the US. Such systems are not trivial to design and operate, and while Russia has advanced technology I doubt that they are currently that advanced to deploy such weapons. Baranets is probably just talking nonsense, or he may even be partaking in Russian disinformation intended to convince Americans that Russia is more militarily powerful than they actually are.
However, while Russia may not currently have such weapons, this does not mean that they are not interested in developing them or that they are not already developing them. With Trump wanting to significantly expand the US military, including its nuclear weapons arsenal, and if rapprochement is not achieved between Russia and the US, then Russia may consider such nuclear delivery systems as necessary to maintain strategic parity with the US.