Missile Launch: Russia Tests ICBM Before Mass Drill Along NATO Border

Yars missile
A Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile system is seen during the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II on the Red Square in Moscow. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russia carried out an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test in the country's remote northwest ahead of a huge war game scheduled to begin later this week that will involve thousands of troops near the Belarus western border with NATO countries.

The launch of the RS-24 Yars missile, a weapon with a reported range of 7,500 miles and capable of carrying a thermonuclear warhead, was necessary to "confirm the reliability" of Russia's missile stocks.

The test missile flew from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk to a military range in Kura in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, more than 3,000 miles away—the standard route and one of the longest possible for Russian forces to test ICBMs within their own territory.

Russia has held a host of small military drills in the lead-up to the upcoming war game with its westernmost ally Belarus, which drew concern from all three Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine, who have likened it to training for war with them or even NATO as a whole. Germany has estimated the drill could involve almost 10 times the number of troops that Russia has claimed will participate, with the total nearer 100,000 than the 12,700 Russia disclosed.

"The set goals were accomplished and all tasks were fully accomplished," the Ministry of Defense said after the test in a statement on Tuesday.

The Plesetsk cosmodrome is rumored to be the testing site for technology launching another ICBM next month—the Sarmat—according to Russian state media, however the military has not officially confirmed the test will take place. Little is known about the upcoming rocket's capabilities beyond the boasts of Russian state news outlets that have claimed it will be capable of dodging U.S. missile defense, and devastate an area the size of Texas or France.

The latest test announcement took place as Russian and U.S. diplomats met to discuss several issues including North Korea's nuclear threat and the future of the treaty limiting the number of Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads.

The treaty has no cap on missile or nuclear warhead tests, but it demands the reduction to 700 deployed ICBMs, submarines and bombers, and a maximum total of 1,500 warheads. It expires in 2021.