Pentagon officials are postponing a Minuteman III ballistic missile test launch this week in order to show that the U.S. is a “responsible nuclear power” following President Vladimir Putin’s order to heighten the readiness posture of Russia’s nuclear forces.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made the decision to postpone the unarmed reliability test.
“We did not take this decision lightly,” chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday. “This is not a step backward in our readiness nor does it imply that we will cancel other routine activities to ensure a credible nuclear capability.”
Mr. Austin decided to delay the launch in an effort to demonstrate that the U.S. has no intention of engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, Mr. Kirby said.
“It is a wise and prudent decision by the secretary to send a strong, clear, unambiguous message to Mr. Putin,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “Our ability to defend the homeland, our allies, and our partners remains fully intact.”
Halting the missile test has drawn criticism from some Republicans on Capitol Hill. Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said he was disappointed by Mr. Austin’s decision to cancel the test of the aging Minuteman III in the “face of Russian bluster.”
“Deterrence is about projecting strength and resolve - not sacrificing readiness for hollow gestures,” the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a Twitter message. “These tests are critical to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent remains effective.”