Putin threatens to target US if it deploys missiles to Europe: ‘Let them count the range and speed of our weapons’
President Vladimir Putin threatened the United States with an expanded array of strategic weapons on Wednesday, announcing a new hypersonic missile and the early deployment of nuclear submarines equipped with long-distance underwater drones.
Mr Putin’s harsh rhetoric, delivered in his annual state of the nation address, was a return to familiar territory. Exactly one year ago he used the same speech to unveil a new generation of six nuclear weapons, and deployed an animated video showing a direct strike on Florida to emphasise his point.
Russia’s new “invincible” weapons would force the west to finally listen, he told the assembled political dignitaries that day.
This year – amid falling presidential ratings – many expected a different, less belligerent approach, focussed on everyday concerns of ordinary Russians. Ahead of the speech, sources within the president’s own administration briefed that the president would offer an “optimistic” vision.
For a while, Mr Putin lived up to those expectations. This would be a speech that concerned the welfare of Russians alone, he began. He presented himself as the guardian of the welfare of the nation. There would be more money for clinics, for schools, for hospitals. Benefits would be increased. Mortgage holidays introduced. There would be more organic food.
He even rallied against the excesses of his own system. He would fight, he said, against the “arrogance” of his own bureaucrats, who often failed to “empathise, understand and respect” ordinary people. He would side with “honest businessmen” who shouldn’t face the threat of criminal persecution. And he would continue to “intervene” against the out of town landfill sites that have been scourging many people’s lives.
The president had some other announcements too. The military would soon be taking delivery of a new hypersonic cruise missile called Zircon, he said. The new weapon, which has an advertised range of more than 600 miles and top speed of Mach 9, is compatible with vessels outfitted with the Kalibr cruise missile system used extensively in the Syrian conflict. In addition, two of the systems unveiled last year would also get an earlier-than-expected outing. The Poseidon underwater nuclear drone would appear in spring, Mr Putin said. A new laser weapon called Peresvet would become operational “by December”. Mr Putin said Russia reserved the right to use the new weapons to target the US “if it deployed intermediate-range missiles to Europe”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to target the U.S. with nuclear-tipped missiles capable of quickly striking the continental United States.
The threat comes on the heels of an announcement by the United States that it plans to withdraw from a key arms control treaty-one that kept America from deploying missiles in Western Europe. A report by Reuters quotes Putin as claiming Russia will counter any U.S. deployment of medium to intermediate-range cruise or ballistic missiles by deploying Russian missiles closer to the U.S., fielding missiles able to hit the U.S. faster than Russia's current weapons, or both.
But let's back up a moment: America's stated reason for quitting the treaty is that Russia violated the agreement with its secret development of a missile banned by the treaty, something that was discovered by U.S. and European intelligence. That may prove to be a serious strategic blunder by Putin-and this new threat is another. Here's why.
Could Putin follow up on his threat to target the USA? In the post-Cold War 21st century, Russia is unlikely to find countries willing to host nuclear missiles pointed at the United States and incur America's wrath. That goes for even Cuba, whose security Russia no longer guarantees. This whole thing is doubly ironic, given that land-basing is what got Putin into this problem to begin with.
One option is for Russian Navy submarines armed with cruise missiles, including the Zircon hypersonic missile, to patrol closer to North America. In the meantime, new American missiles in Western Europe would remain. In the event of a nuclear war the U.S. would still use those missiles, vaporizing Moscow in as little as eight minutes.
Vladimir Putin has dug a pretty big hole for himself. An attempt to go around the back of a major treaty that actively made his country safer has ended up sinking the treaty. Rather than endure a humiliating climb-down that would involve admission of cheating and the destruction of the new missiles, Putin is blustering new threats. The end of the INF Treaty could mark a major return to Cold War-level relations between both countries--and new nuclear threats that make both countries less safe.