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Ongoing disagreements with the U.S. over how to handle the situation in Syria coupled with the prospect of a hawkish Hillary Clinton White House have Russian leaders preparing for nuclear war, according to international media reports.
Russian defense officials are currently conducting a massive military exercise to examine the logistics of shielding 40 million of its citizens—a little more than the combined population of the country’s 10 largest cities— from nuclear attack using a network of more than 5,000 shelters.
A recent headline from Zvezda, a news outlet run by Russian defense officials, declared that the exercises are necessary because “schizophrenics from America are sharpening nuclear weapons for Moscow.”
Throughout the training exercise, Russian officials will gauge the capabilities of more than 200,000 emergency response personnel and 50,000 pieces of equipment, according to reports from Russian media.
Here’s an outline of the country’s 3-stage defense drill via the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM):
Stage I: organization of civil defense actions
The stage is going to practice notification and gathering of senior officials of federal and regional executive authorities, local governments and civil defense forces, deployment of civil defense management system on all levels, readying civil defense communication and notification system. After the National Crisis Management Center have brought the management signals, all management bodies, state authorities, forces and facilities on duty and people will be notified through notification systems available.
Stage II: Planning and organization of civil defense actions. Deploying a team of civil defense forces and facilities designed to respond to large disasters and fires.
The stage plans to practice deployment of a mobile interagency multi-functional team of civil defense forces and facilities in each federal district in order to carry our rescue and other urgent operations, civil defense actions and to deploy special civil defense units in constituent territories; putting rescue military units, divisions of the federal fire service, rescue units on standby. The stage provides for the team to be reinforced, activation of backup control centers and practicing collecting and exchanging information in the field of civil defense.
Stage III: Organization of actions of civil defense management bodies and forces for response to large disasters and fires.
The stage will deal with the use of the civil defense team to respond to large disasters and fires, setting up aerial and mobile control centers, revising of routes for safe evacuation of people, organization of vital services; taking off fire and rescue units of the federal fire service to put out fires and conduct rescue operations at potentially dangerous facilities, including closed administrative territorial entities.
The drill will rehearse radiation, chemical and biological protection of the personnel and population during emergencies at crucial and potentially dangerous facilities. Fire safety, civil defense and human protection at social institutions and public buildings are also planned to be checked. Response units will deploy radiation, chemical and biological monitoring centers and sanitation posts at the emergency areas, while laboratory control networks are going to be put on standby.
Russian officials say that the country has the capability to protect the entire population of its largest city from attack.
“As a result of the introduction of new approaches to civil defense, an inventory of underground facilities of the city was conducted. The Moscow underground facilities will be able to protect 100% of the population of the city,” deputy head of EMERCOM of Russia in Moscow, Andrei Mishchenko said.
The official went on to urge Russians to familiarize themselves with civil defense plans and the locations of local bomb shelters.
News of Russia’s increased focus comes on the heels of U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s refusal to say whether military officials regard the 7,500-warhead nuclear arsenal as a defense only weapons system.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also been ratcheting up criticism of the U.S.’s foreign policy in recent months.
Putin recently told journalists that they’re unwittingly playing a vital role in a dangerous game.
“We know year by year what’s going to happen, and they know that we know. It’s only you that they tell tall tales to [you]. And you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries,” he said.
“You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger – this is what worries me,” Putin continued. “How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.”
And earlier this year, Putin reportedly told his top military advisors that he believes war with the U.S. is imminent if Clinton is elected.