Russian President Dmitri Medvedev stands next to a Topol-M  (Source: Sun UK)
Tensions heighten as Russia flexes newfound military muscle.

Upping the ante in the recent geopolitical brinksmanship over Georgia, Poland, and Ukraine, Russia responded by test-firing its new RS-12M nuclear missile.

The test, launched from a point near Moscow, struck a target in Kamchatka nearly 4,000 miles away. Russia and independent observers deemed the test a success.

The RS-12M is an advanced version of the land-based Topol-M. It is a three-stage ICBM with a range of 12,000 km, carries a 550-KT nuclear warhead, and has an unknown number of advanced "stealth" features designed to prevent interception by ABM (anti ballistic missile) defenses. NATO refers to it as the SS-25 Sickle.

It is road-mobile and launchable with little notice from any point during transit, making it essentially immune to first-strike or counter-strike capabilities. In the 1970s, the US attempted to adopt similar technology with the Midgetman program, but Congress ultimately canceled the initiative.

Russia says the RS-12 was designed to evade the new US "Star Wars" defense shield. Such claims have not been independently verified, and few DoD analysts have expressed firm opinions one way or another.

Rising oil prices have allowed Russia to modernize and re-equip its aging military, with its defense budget rising by 30% annually.

The test follows on the heels of a statement by British Foreign Secretary David Milliband that Russia's invasion of Georgia has meant "the end of peace in Europe". Britain canceled a scheduled set of military exercises with Georgia after Russia stated their participation would be declared an "declaration of war".

Russia has also responded to recent events in Poland and Ukraine by noting that both nations may be the target of a future nuclear attack. 

Several EU nations, including France and England, are considering sanctions for the acts.

Russia has also been developing new conventional payloads in recent months.

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