Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III exemplified how a responsible nuclear nation should behave and postponed a long-planned test launch of an American Minuteman III rocket, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said March 2 during a news conference.
Austin’s order is in direct contrast to the irresponsible actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin who directed a special alert of Russian nuclear forces.
“Now, in this time of heightened tensions, the United States and other members of the international community rightly saw [Putin’s actions] as dangerous and irresponsible and an unnecessary step,” Kirby said.
The United States and Russia have long agreed nuclear employment could have devastating consequences. Both nations agree that “a nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought,” Kirby said.
Putin’s provocative rhetoric and his threats of possible changes to nuclear posture involving the most consequential weapons is unacceptable, he said. The United States has not taken any similar steps.
“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 defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed,” Kirby said. “We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power.”
This postponement will not affect America’s nuclear deterrence in any way. “We remain confident in our strategic posture,” Kirby said. “And our ability to defend the homeland and our allies, and our partners remains fully intact and ready.”
In this time of tension, the United States and Russia must bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks, the press secretary said.
Air Force crews test four Minuteman III rockets per year from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. The tests are planned years in advance and publicized to avoid miscalculations. The dummy warheads splash down near Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
A new date for the test has not been set.