Putin sends chilling message with use of hypersonic missile to destroy munitions storage facility in Ukraine

Those who call for Putin’s assassination or who label him a war criminal, implicitly threatening prosecution should he lose power in Russia, might want to think twice about cornering him. Not only is he ruthless and cold-blooded, but he also has – and is willing to use – weapons for which we have no adequate defense. That’s the message that I believe he was sending when he employed for the first time ever Russia’s hypersonic Kinzhal (“Dagger”) missile to destroy a large armaments storage facility in Ukraine at Ivano-Frankivsk in Galicia, near the Polish border.

Air-launched Kinzhal missile being carried by a MiG 31K interceptor

Kremlin.ru CC BY 4.0 license

The BBC reports:

Russia's military has fired a hypersonic ballistic missile and destroyed a big underground arms depot in western Ukraine, the defence ministry in Moscow has said.

If confirmed it would be Russia's first use in this war of the Kinzhal, or Dagger, ballistic missile launched from the air, most likely by a MiG-31 warplane. (snip)

President Putin boasted last December that Russia was leading the world in hypersonic missiles, which are hard to track because they can change direction while mid-flight.

Russia posted a video of what it said was its missile strike on the arms depot in Deliatyn, a village in south-western Ukraine only 100km from the border with Romania.

Some dismiss the escalation on the grounds that Russia is believed not to have many of the missiles in inventory:

"It's a sign of showmanship. Even if it's used we should consider it as an isolated moment because Russia doesn't have a large number of these missiles," said Dominika Kunertova of the Center for Security Studies in Zurich.

I certainly hope that’s true, because there is no effective defense against it, since it flies far faster than any missile available to intercept and destroy it. The Dagger is also nuclear capable.

Clint Ehrlich sees the use of the Kinzhal as a warning:

Russia's use of the Kinzhal in Ukraine is similar to Trump's use of the MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) in Afghanistan in 2017. In both instances, the point of the weapons deployment was not the immediate combat effect. The goal is to menace other adversaries by demoing a system.

Putin's decision to use the Kinzhal is more escalatory than Trump's use of the MOAB, because the Kinzhal is nuclear capable.

Due to its extreme range, it is a "carrier killer" – capable of wiping out an entire U.S. Carrier Strike Group.

It is impossible to overstate what an advanced system the Kinzhal represents.

The West acted like China's test of a hypersonic glider was a "Sputnik moment."

But the Kinzhal achieves hypersonic speed + maneuverability throughout its flight, not merely in the terminal phase.

Mark Wauck sees the escalation as a warning to others aiding Ukraine:

Poland and Romania should probably be earnestly reconsidering their service as proxies for America’s war on Russia. In particular, they may want to reconsider the stationing of US missile launchers on their territory and the transshipping of weapons and munitions through their territory to Ukraine. The use of the Kinzhal was a clear signal that Russia will see this war through to its end.

I do not have any faith in Putin’s restraint in using nuclear weapons if he feels backed into a corner. Rather than threaten his life should he lose the conflict, I’d rather offer him an attractive path out of the war, a negotiated settlement with Ukraine.

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