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'I'm Not Bluffing': Putin Boasts Of New, Advanced Russian Arsenal
Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated around one-third of his nearly two-hour address to a joint session of parliament and other VIPs on March 1 to descriptions and animations or other video clips of new "strategic weapons," almost all of which he suggested were nuclear-capable.
Weeks away from an election that will almost certainly hand him a fourth term in the Kremlin, Putin sought to flex Russian muscle and push back against perceived slights in the post-Cold War world when "no one wanted to talk to us on substance."
He asserted "a new reality" on the international scene based on Russia's continuing development of a powerful new arsenal, adding, "Understand that everything I have said today is not a bluff."
Putin argued that Russia's pursuit of new weapons -- of which he said there were some 300 -- was a response to the expansion of U.S. missile-defense capabilities and Washington's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002.
The audience of senior government and elected officials repeatedly interrupted Putin with applause, including after he touted "efficient systems" to thwart missile defense that would be mounted on Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
"As you understand, no one in the world possesses anything remotely similar so far," he said in describing what he called a nuclear-capable, nuclear-powered missile with an "unlimited range." "At some point they might, but by that time our guys will have come up with something else yet."
The technical characteristics and degree of development of the weapons mentioned by Putin could not immediately be independently verified, and some analysts have questioned the current preparedness of Russia's armed forces to put some of them into service.
One website quickly pointed out that at least one bit of the video on display behind Putin in Moscow appeared to be more than a decade old. A Moscow-based military analyst, Aleksandr Golts, told RFE/RL's Russian Service after the speech that there was little verifiable information to support Putin's claims.
But here are some of the purported weapons systems that Putin introduced during his speech, in some cases for the first time publicly.
The Russian president announced active testing of a new superheavy intercontinental ballistic missile called the Sarmat RS-28. Previous reports said the 200 ton-plus missile would be deployed by 2019.
"It is capable of attacking over the North Pole or over the South Pole, but that's not all," Putin said to a video visualization of a Sarmat launch, after noting Russian efforts to boost its strategic arsenal after Washington walked away from the ABM Treaty in 2002 and -- in his words -- took steps that "devalue" the 2010 New START treaty. The United States denies it has done anything that undermines New START.
'Infinite-Range' Cruise Missile
Putin said testing had begun on a nuclear-capable, air-launched, stealth cruise missile that is "invulnerable" to missile and air defenses.
He called it a "low-flying, barely noticeable cruise missile of an almost unlimited range with a nuclear warhead, an unpredictable flight trajectory, and capable of bypassing interception ranges [that] is impregnable for all existing and future systems of missile and air defense."
Russian reports had already appeared on tests of a hypersonic missile called the Kh-101.
Putin said Russia is currently developing unmanned submarine vehicles that are capable of operating at "enormous" depths. He talked about a system of multipurpose, nuclear-capable vehicles.
What he described sounded like a nuclear-capable underwater drone that state TV news reports in 2015 suggested was being developed.
Hypersonic 'Dagger' Complex
Putin suggested tests had been successful so far on a small, air-launched supersonic system known as "Dagger." He said the system had been in experimental use since December 1 at airfields in Russia's Southern Military District. Launched from an aircraft and with an unpredictable flight path, he said, it can travel toward a target at 10 times the speed of sound with a range of more than 2,000 kilometers.
Putin said it could "defeat all existing, and, I think prospective, air- and missile-defense systems."
Avangard Hypersonic Missile System
Putin also cited the rollout of a hypersonic, intercontinental cruise-type missile called Avangard -- Russian for Vanguard. He described it as invulnerable to any air- or missile-defense system.
"It travels to its target like a meteorite," he said.
He said the Avangard could exceed 20 times the speed of sound, heating its surface to some 2,000 degrees Celsius but maintaining "reliable control."
The system is already in mass production, Putin added.
Putin also suggested Russia had developed new laser weaponry, and he included a brief clip of what appeared to be laser research.
Putin punctuated his speech by saying, "Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia and its allies -- small or medium or of any strength whatsoever -- will be perceived as a nuclear attack on our country. The response will be immediate and with all due consequences."
With reporting by Current Time TV
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