Monday 23 April 2018

Release the Kraken? Russians eager to name new doomsday weapons

Ordinary Russians have queued up to offer some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for the names of the new weapons.

The Russian president had suggested a contest could be held to name his country's new nuclear arsenal (RU-RTR Russian television/AP)
The Russian president had suggested a contest could be held to name his country's new nuclear arsenal (RU-RTR Russian television/AP)

By Vladimir Isachenkov

Russians have showered the defence ministry with proposed names for the country’s new nuclear weapons, relishing the online contest announced by President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address.

Many of the entries reflected the wry, sometimes dark humour Russians are known for.

In just one day, the suggestions have been pouring in: “Kraken” was a popular choice for a new underwater drone capable of blasting coastlines with a powerful nuclear explosion.

“Balalaika”, a folk music instrument, was one of the top suggestions for a futuristic nuclear-powered cruise missile capable of circling the globe, reflecting characteristic Russian understatement with regards to deadly weapons.

Someone suggested calling the missile “Sanction”, an apparent reference to Western economic sanctions against Russia for its support of separatists in Ukraine.

Another proposed calling it “Thaw”, adding with a heavy dose of irony that it would finally help warm the ties between Russia and the US.

The Kraken – a fictional sea monster from ancient literature that was seen on the big screen in recent years in Clash Of The Titans and the Pirates Of The Caribbean films — seems to reflect the nature of the nuclear-powered drone designed to sneak close to shore unnoticed before slamming a heavy nuclear warhead into the coast.

Naming the stealth atomic-powered cruise missile “Balalaika”, after the Russian folk musical instrument, would tap into a long Russian tradition of giving innocuous names to deadly weapons.

There were quite a few four-letter entries as well. Many others were driven by patriotic feelings, suggesting that the weapons be named after legendary Russian warriors, or even Mr Putin himself.

The regional leader of the province of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, proposed calling the nuclear-powered cruise missile “Palmyra”, after the historic heritage site in Syria that was taken back from Islamic State (IS) under Russian air cover. The site suffered extensive damage in the fighting.

Mr Kadyrov said: “The missile’s name should honour our guys who died in Syria.

“The Russian victory in Palmyra marked a turning point in the fight against the IS.”

Russian diplomats have sought to spread the contest beyond Russia’s borders, with the Russian Embassy in Washington tweeting a link to the defence ministry’s web site.

As the weapon name contest went on, Russian officials and parliamentarians insisted that Mr Putin’s speech was not an announcement of a new arms race, but a warning to Washington to treat Russia as an equal partner.

“Russia has no intention to enter the arms race,” Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He added that the weapons presented by the Russian leader aimed to maintain a “strategic parity, which is essential for maintaining peace and stability”.

The Pentagon dismissed Mr Putin’s boasts about his new nuclear arms, saying America’s missile defence is ready to protect the nation – but is not directed at Russia.

Press Association

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