Putin visits a missile facility in 2017. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev\TASS via Getty Images

At least 7 people, many or all of them scientists, were killed last week when a missile test resulted in an explosion near Russia’s Arctic coast, per the NYT. Little has been confirmed publicly about the explosion, except that it released radiation.

Between the lines: “The reference to radiation was striking — tests of missile engines don’t involve radiation. Well, with one exception: Last year, Russia announced it had tested a cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor. ... NATO calls it the SSC-X-9 Skyfall,” Jeffrey Lewis writes for Foreign Policy.

  • That helps explain President Trump’s tweet today referring to a “Skyfall’ explosion,” which he said “has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond.”
  • Indeed, David Sanger and Andrew Kramer report in the Times that “the Russian government’s slow and secretive response has set off anxiety in nearby cities and towns — and attracted the attention of analysts in Washington and Europe who believe the explosion may offer a glimpse of technological weaknesses in Russia’s new arms program.”

Lewis is one such analyst. He writes that “a nuclear-powered cruise missile is an outrageous idea, one the United States long ago considered and rejected as a technical, strategic, and environmental nightmare."

  • "Vladimir Putin’s Russia, though, thinks differently.”
  • “The United States and Russia seem to be drifting into a new arms race, either out of some bizarre nostalgia or because no one can think of anything better to do.”
  • “When we think about the dangers of the arms race, we think about the possibility of a civilization-ending cataclysm. But even though the Cold War didn’t end in wide-scale catastrophe, it still resulted in a series of small-scale catastrophes for many of the people who lived it.”

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Inside Joe Biden's economic plan

Joe Biden on Thursday returned to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to give his first major speech on economic policy since becoming the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Biden's plans, how they developed and how they may change, with former U.S. Commerce secretary and campaign surrogate Penny Pritzker.

2 hours ago - World

Countries grapple with whether to lock back down as hotspots emerge

Tokyo in the time of coronavirus. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty

Many politicians and public health officials sounded a similar lockdown refrain in the spring: let’s do this right so we only have to do it once.

Reality check: While some countries have thus far managed to keep cases under control after opening up, dozens of countries that had initially turned a corner are now seeing a worrying rebound. They have to decide if and how to return to lockdown — and whether their populations will stand for it.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 12,128,406 — Total deaths: 551,552 — Total recoveries — 6,650,675Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 3,088,913 — Total deaths: 132,934 — Total recoveries: 953,420 — Total tested: 36,979,745Map.
  3. Public health: More young people are spreading the virus Cases rise in 33 statesFlorida reports highest single-day death toll since pandemic began.
  4. Science: World Health Organization acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus.
  5. 1 🐂 thing: How the world could monitor for potential pandemic animal viruses.