Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to easily win reelection in the coming months, addressed Russia’s Federal Assembly on Thursday in a speech similar to that of the American State of the Union address. The speech placed significant emphasis on Russia’s growing military might, and as has long been a Russian tradition, seemed to pit that might against the United States as not only the measuring stick, but also the aggressor.
The speech opened with an emphasis on improving the quality of life for the Russian people, which Putin explained would come through technology breakthroughs and a focus on reducing poverty. He went on to call for the Russian people to increase his nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) but a whopping, and likely unrealistic, fifty percent over the coming decade. That goal, of course, could be more easily attained if the United States and other nations lifted sanctions levied against Russia in the wake of their military annexation of Crimea in 2014.
His calls for modernization and infrastructure expansion, however, rang odd – as they repeatedly harkened back to the Soviet era as the measure for success, citing instances where modern Russia has surpassed Soviet capacity (in terms of shipping, manufacturing, and agriculture) four separate times throughout the speech. Many in Russia see Putin as the means by which Russia can regain its former Soviet glory, so it comes as no surprise that the President would litter the speech with references to ways in which he has already accomplished that.
References to Soviet successes and current modernization efforts soon led to the issue of Defense, where Putin addressed a number of weapons programs the United States has long been aware of, but that have received little fanfare in the mainstream media thus far. Namely, the Satan II nuclear ICBM and other nuclear capable ballistic missile platforms.
“We are creating state-of-the-art systems for Russia’s strategic weapons in response to the unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty,” Putin said. The 1972 ABM Treaty (Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty) was ended in 2001, when President George W. Bush announced that barring the development of missile defense systems would hinder the safety of the nation. Many could argue that he was proven right, given the current situation with North Korea.
“Russia still has the greatest nuclear potential in the world, but nobody listened to us,” Putin said. “Listen now.”
The missile platforms he went on to discuss included a low-flying nuclear capable, and more interestingly, nuclear powered cruise missile, capable of stealthy operations and staying airborne for prolonged periods of time, thanks to its nuclear propellent.
“Since the range is unlimited, it can maneuver as much as necessary,” He explained.
He also discussed Russia’s development of hypersonic capable ballistic missile platforms. These missiles are capable of traveling at speeds in excess of Mach 5, giving them near horizontal flight paths and making them incredibly difficult to intercept or even track. China has also begun fielding hypersonic missiles, and the United States has been working in conjunction with the Australian government to develop their own. It isn’t particularly common, however, for state leaders to address these programs.
According to Putin, Russia’s hypersonic missile is capable of flying “like a meteorite,” adding that “It will be practically invulnerable,” thanks to its high velocity.
Other platforms addressed included a platform believed to be nothing more than propaganda and legend until the Pentagon recently acknowledged its existence: an underwater drone housing the largest nuclear weapon any nation has developed in over a half century, dubbed the “Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6.” Putin did not address the platform by name, but did mention high speed, unmanned, underwater weapons platforms.
Finally, the RS-28 Sarmat, or Satan II, became the focus of discussion. Russia’s newest ICBM platform, the Satan II was developed with U.S. missile defense systems in mind and has been touted by the Kremlin in previous statements as being able to destroy a swath of land “the size of Texas.” In Putin’s speech, he too used the U.S. as theoretical target, saying that it had the capability to strike anywhere in the United States.
Further, according to Putin, the missile has already undergone two successfully test launches and is ready to be put into combat operations. There have been reports of ICBM tests throughout Russia in recent months, so it stands to reason that these claims could be true.
Putin concluded by tempering his nuclear rhetoric by claiming, “we’ve never had an intention of attacking anybody. Russia will only retaliate if it is attacked.”
Russia remains “interested in normal constructive relationship with the EU and America,” he added.
Feature image courtesy of the Associated Press