Why would Putin want to nuke Florida?

  • Published
Animated video shows weapons reaching FloridaImage source, Russian Government
Image caption,
An animated video was shown at President Putin's annual address

President Putin has unveiled Russia's new stockpile of "invincible" nuclear weapons, with a video graphic appearing to show missiles raining on Florida.

But why would the Kremlin want to target the Sunshine State in the event of an atomic war?

Florida is home to tourist attractions such as Walt Disney World and the Everglades National Park.

But it also has high-profile targets including President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

A spokesman for the US Defence Department said the Pentagon was "not surprised" by Mr Putin's rhetoric.

"The American people should rest assured that we are fully prepared," said Dana White from the Pentagon, downplaying the Russian threat.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Vladimir Putin is up for re-election on March 18

There are several nuclear bunkers at President Trump's Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, where he has spent a number of weekends since taking office.

The cereal heiress who built Mar-a-Lago in 1927 had three of them installed during the Korean War.

There is another bomb shelter at Mr Trump's golf course a few miles away in West Palm Beach (under the second hole, according to Esquire).

Another bunker was created for President John F Kennedy not far from Mar-a-Lago.

It is located on Peanut Island, a 10-minute journey from a Palm Beach house where Kennedy often stayed.

Yet no bunker, however brilliantly assembled, will survive a direct hit, say experts.

Another military target could be US Central Command, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Base in Tampa.

Known as Centcom, it is responsible for the operational theatre spanning parts of the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa.

But analysts say that Florida is unlikely to be a prime target in the event of nuclear armageddon.

Matthew Kroenig, in his book The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy, writes that Russia's priority would be to blunt US retaliatory capability.

Moscow would probably target US nuclear silos at Malstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, the home of US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, and Warren Air Force Base, which straddles the borders of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, he says.

The Kremlin would also aim to wipe out America's two strategic submarine bases in Bangor, Washington, and King's Bay, Georgia, along with about 70 other US military bases around the country, Kroenig writes.

And it would fire two missiles at each of the 131 most populous US cities "to destroy industrial capability and inflict massive destruction", with a bullseye on the command and control centre of Washington DC.

Mark Fitzpatrick, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the BBC: "This isn't a warfighting strategy, to have a video of attacking Florida.

"This is a message. The symbolism is in the video itself. It's a rhetorical flourish."