Russian officials stated as recently as Oct 22nd they would be deploying their new RS-24 ICBM “in 2009.” Why wait? It technically violated the START-I nonproliferation treaty, to which they were party. The ‘good’ news? The START-I treaty expired on Saturday, Dec 5th, 2009.
What makes the RS-24 special? Its widely-boasted ability to penetrate the US’s anti-ballistic-missile shield technology (e.g.: Tactical High Energy Lasers). There are a variety of theoretical ICBM laser countermeasures, and it looks like the Russians are trying at least two: 1) Oscillating Trajectory 2) Ablative gas shield. They may be coming from the same system, e.g.: the shield also causes the oscillations with a carefully vectored output.
Doesn’t hurt for leverage in the literally ongoing as I type renegotiation of a treaty to replace START-I. Also, doesn’t hurt that Obama’s scheduled to be in Oslo, Norway, for the Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony tomorrow.