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‘You have failed to contain Russia’: Putin boasts of hypersonic nuclear weapons that can hit anywhere on Earth

During his annual parliamentary address, he told lawmakers the government had developed small warheads that could be carried by cruise missiles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 6:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 2:21am

Russia has tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that cannot be intercepted, President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday, marking a technological breakthrough that would dramatically increase Russia’s military capability and boost the Kremlin’s global position.

Speaking in a state-of-the-nation speech, Putin said the weapons include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and new hypersonic missile. He said the creation of the new weapons has made Nato’s US-led missile defence “useless,” and means an effective end to what he described as Western efforts to stymie Russia’s development.

“I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” he said. “You have failed to contain Russia.”

The announcement comes as Putin is set to easily win another six-year presidential term in the March 18 election.

In response, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the US Department of Defence wasn’t surprised by by the remarks, and that the US military is prepared to defend its nation.

He said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range and high speed and maneuverability allowing it to pierce any missile defence.

The Russian leader said the high-speed underwater drone also has an “intercontinental” range and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities. He said its operational depth and high speed would make it immune to enemy intercept.

He added to applause that names for the nuclear-powered cruise missile and the drone have not yet been chosen, and suggested that the Defence Ministry run a nationwide contest for the best names.

The unusual display of military might was the most dramatic element of the speech, which started with pledges to deliver a “decisive breakthrough” to boost living standards and raise spending on health and infrastructure.

Putin accompanied his statement to an audience of hundreds of senior officials and lawmakers with videos and computer images of new weapons, which were shown on giant screens at a conference hall near the Kremlin.

“No one in the world has anything like that,” he said. “It may appear someday, but by that time we will develop something new.”

The Russian leader said that another new weapon called Avangard is an intercontinental hypersonic missile that would fly to targets at a speed 20 times the speed of sound and strike “like a meteorite, like a fireball”.

Putin said that Russia also tested a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, called Sarmat, with a range and number of warheads exceeding its Soviet-era predecessor, known in the West as Satan.

The Russian leader emphasised that the development of new weapons that have no equivalent in the West came in response to the US withdrawal from a cold war-era treaty banning missile defences and US efforts to develop a missile defence system.

He said that the US has ignored Russian complaints.

“No one has listened to us,” he said. “You listen to us now.”

He singled out a new US nuclear strategy document as threatening to lower the threshold for using the weapons, and warned that any use of nuclear arms against Russia or its allies would meet a “immediate response”.

It comes after it was revealed in December that China had been carrying out test flights of new ballistic missiles with hypersonic capabilities.

Citing a US government source, The Diplomat reported that China had conducted two tests of a new missile known as the DF-17 in November last year. 

The DF-17 was assessed as a medium-range system, that could cover a range of between 1,800km and 2,500km, and deliver both nuclear and conventional warheads.

Putin reiterated that the new weapons will help ensure global stability and draw a line under attempts to weaken Russia.

He said that another weapons system, called Kinzhal, already has been deployed in Russia’s Southern Military District. He said it’s a hypersonic missile carried by an aircraft that can strike targets 2,000km (1,250 miles) away.

The address is his first major policy statement since he formally kicked off his campaign for the presidential elections. Putin, 65, is all but certain to win re-election for a fourth and likely final term to extend his rule to 2024. With factions jostling for advantage over the succession, his biggest challenge will be to build a team and a system capable of sustaining Putinism after he leaves office.

While his approval ratings have remained consistently above 80 per cent since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, public discontent is rising amid weak economic growth that is followed the longest recession this century. Many of his promises from his last campaign have remained unfulfilled amid the weak economic performance. Deepening tensions with the West threaten to further isolate the Kremlin.

Putin addressed domestic issues head on in the speech on Thursday, pledging to cut the 20-million-strong ranks of Russia’s poor by half by the middle of the next decade and boost incomes across the country. He called for raising spending on roads, health care, pensions, and efforts to reverse the decline in Russia’s population. He also called for making “hard decisions” on long-overdue reforms, but did not spell them out.

“We need to make a decisive breakthrough in the prosperity of our citizens,” he said. “Falling behind is the main threat, that is our enemy,” he added, targeting a 50 per cent increase in per capita gross domestic product by the middle of the next decade.

Putin had cut back his public campaign appearances in the last two weeks as a result of what the Kremlin said was a cold. Thursday, he sounded hoarse and coughed as he spoke. He is expected to appear at a major rally of supporters in a Moscow stadium Saturday.