Quite a few people have noticed the relatively high level of activity of the Russian strategic forces - in the past few days Russia tested a Bulava SLBM from Yury Dolgorukiy submarine, a Topol-M missile from Plesetsk, and a Sineva missile from the Tula submarine. Its strategic bombers have also been very active recently. And this is probably not the end of it yet - the word is that Russia will launch an SS-18 ICBM (most likely R-36M2) from Dombarovskiy/Yasnyy in the coming days.

Given that all this is happening against the backdrop of the continuing crisis around Ukraine, it is perfectly legitimate to ask if all these launches and bomber patrols are supposed to send a message of some sort. My best guess is that they are not - what we see is the regular burst of activity that now happens every fall. In October 2013 Russia staged a major exercise of strategic forces, with two ICBM and two SLBM launches, a test of an ABM interceptor, cruise missile launches, and Tu-160 bombers visiting South America. In October 2012 we saw launches of an ABM interceptor, R-29R SLBM, Topol ICBM, cruise missiles from strategic bombers, and a new ICBM (R-26 Rubezh).

So, the launches of the fall of 2014 don't look unusual at all. Of course, the circumstances have changed, so now they may be perceived differently, but that is probably an unintended effect of the regular activity.