The Pentagon is very much aware of the tremendous heavy metal Russia may unleash if provoked to the limit by someone like Erdogan. Let’s roll out an abridged list.
Russia can use the mighty SS-18 – which NATO codenames “Satan”; each “Satan” carries 10 warheads, with a yield of 750 to 1000 kilotons each, enough to destroy an area the size of New York state.
The Topol M ICBM is the world’s fastest missile at 21 Mach (16,000 miles an hour); against it, there’s no defense. Launched from Moscow, it hits New York City in 18 minutes, and L.A. in 22.8 minutes.
Russian submarines – as well as Chinese submarines – are able to launch offshore the US, striking coastal targets within a minute. Chinese submarines have surfaced next to US aircraft carriers undetected, and Russian submarines can do the same.
The S-500 anti-missile system is capable of sealing Russia off from ICBMs and cruise missiles. (Moscow will only admit on the record that the S-500s will be rolled out in 2016; but the fact the S-400s will soon be delivered to China implies the S-500s may be already operational.)
The S-500 makes the Patriot missile look like a V-2 from WWII.
Here, a former adviser to the US Chief of Naval Operations essentially goes on the record saying the whole US missile defense apparatus is worthless.
Russia has a supersonic bomber fleet of Tupolev Tu-160s; they can take off from airbases deep in the heart of Russia, fly over the North Pole, launch nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from safe distances over the Atlantic, and return home to watch the whole thing on TV.
Russia can cripple virtually every forward NATO base with tactical – or battlefield – small-yield nuclear weapons. It’s not by accident that Russia over the past few months tested NATO response times in multiple occasions.
The Iskander missile travels at seven times the speed of sound with a range of 400 km. It’s deadly to airfields, logistics points and other stationary infrastructure along a broad war theatre, for instance in southern Turkey.
NATO would need to knock out all these Iskanders. But then they would need to face the S-400s – or, worse, S-500s — which Russia can layer in defense zones in nearly every conceivable theater of war. Positioning the S-400s in Kaliningrad, for instance, would cripple all NATO air operations deep inside Europe.
And presiding over military decisions, Russia privileges the use of Reflexive Control (RC). This is a tactic that aims to convey selected information to the enemy that forces him into making self-defeating decisions; a sort of virus influencing and controlling his decision-making process. Russia uses RC tactically, strategically and geopolitically. A young Vladimir Putin learned all there is to know about RC at the 401st KGB School and further on in his career as a KGB/FSB officer.
All right, Erdogan and NATO; do you still wanna go to war?