To the sound of thunderous applause, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted Thursday that his country is bolstering its nuclear arsenal, arguing that Russia does not intend to lose the arms race with the West.
“I would like to tell those who have been trying to escalate the arms race for the past 15 years, gain unilateral advantages over Russia, and introduce unlawful restrictions and sanctions to hinder our country’s development … you have failed to contain Russia,” Putin said in a televised address, “No one listened to us, but you will listen to us now.”
Putin pointed to a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) known as the RS-28 Sarmat (designated as Satan-2 by NATO) that is so “formidable” it “has practically no distance limits” and “none of the perspective anti-ballistic missile systems pose an obstacle to it.”
Russia claims that the Sarmat, which can theoretically strike anywhere in the world, can destroy an area the size of Texas. Russia is developing this missile to replace the Soviet-era Voyevoda.
Other weapons systems revealed during the speech included the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and a nuclear-powered cruise missile that can fly indefinitely. The announcement was accompanied by an animated visual showing a potential strike on the U.S. It is unclear how much progress Russia has made on these weapons systems, but such advancements could potentially render U.S. missile defense systems “useless,” Putin suggested.
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Putin stressed that Russia has “no plans to be an aggressor,” explaining, “We just protect our own interests.”
“We are not going to take anything away from anybody. We have everything we need,” he said. “Russia’s strong military is a guarantor of peace on our planet.”
While Putin did not specifically direct his message at the U.S., his speech can be seen as a warning to Washington, as the U.S. has been increasingly targeting Russian interests and putting pressure on Moscow. Putin’s speech also follows President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to build a nuclear arsenal “so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.”
“This is the start of a new Cold War,” Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based analyst, told The Washington Post. “This is an effort to scare the West.” The Russians and the Americans are the most heavily-armed nuclear powers in the world today.
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Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly in Moscow comes just weeks before the presidential election in Russia, which the Russian president is expected to win by a landslide.
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