US postpones ballistic missile test in response to heightened tensions with Russia

Amid sky-high tensions with Russia as the nation continues its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Defense Department announced Wednesday it would delay a scheduled ballistic missile test.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the decision came from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of defense has directed our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, scheduled for this week, to be postponed,” Kirby said at a news conference.

Kirby said the postponement was meant to show that the U.S. is a “responsible nuclear power.”

โ€œThis is not a step backwards in our readiness, nor does it imply that we will necessarily cancel other routine activities to ensure a credible nuclear capability,โ€ he said.

โ€œWe remain confident in our strategic posture,” Kirby added, “and our ability to defend the homeland, and our allies, and our partners remains fully intact and ready.”

As Kirby noted during the press conference, the decision came days after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his nation’s nuclear deterrent forces on alert Sunday. The Russian leader explained his move by citing “aggressive statements” and sanctions from NATO countries over his invasion of Ukraine, Axios reported.

Speaking Wednesday, Kirby said Putin had taken a “dangerous and irresponsible and … unnecessary step.”

“Such provocative rhetoric and possible changes to nuclear posture involving the most consequential weapons in our respective arsenals is unacceptable,” he said.

But at least one Republican doesn’t agree with the Biden administration’s response.

“Disappointing @SecDef decision to cancel routine unarmed reliability test of Minuteman III in the face of Russian bluster,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted.

“Test is critical to ensure our nuke deterrent stays effective. Deterrence means projecting strength & resolve โ€“ not sacrificing readiness for hollow gestures,” he added.