(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of his anticipated re-election this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin in an upbeat speech Thursday unveiled what he characterized as peerless nuclear weaponry, and warned would-be aggressors that Russia is ready to defend itself. “I’m not bluffing,” he declared.
Delivering his state of the union address to lawmakers, Putin said the weapons would render NATO missile defense systems “completely useless.”
The highlights included:
--a nuclear-capable and nuclear-powered cruise missile with an “almost unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory, and ability to bypass” missile defenses.
--a heavy ICBM capable of reaching targets via both the North and South poles, achieving hypersonic speeds and, he said, “untroubled by even the most advanced missile defense systems.”
--unmanned submersible vehicles able to move at speed, intercontinentally, carrying either conventional or nuclear warheads which could be used to engage aircraft, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.
Putin painted the weaponry development as a response to the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002, and the development over the years since of missile defense shields on the U.S. mainland, and in Europe and northeast Asia.
“I will say once again what we have repeatedly told our American and European partners who are NATO members: we will make the necessary efforts to neutralize the threats posed by the deployment of the U.S. global missile defense system,” Putin said.
For years Russia had been warning Western countries and making no secret of its own weapons development plans in a bid to encourage the other parties to negotiate, he said in the speech, a copy of which was released by the Kremlin.
‘Nobody really wanted to talk to us about the core of the problem, and nobody wanted to listen to us,” he said. “So listen now.”
‘No one has managed to restrain Russia’
The 1972 U.S.-Soviet ABM treaty prohibited missile defense systems of the type the U.S. has been developing since withdrawing from it. The Pentagon maintains the shields are designed to protect against attack from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, not the Russian or Chinese arsenals.
“They know very well that it’s not about them,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday, when asked about Putin’s claims on the missile defense systems. “Our missile defense has never been about them.”
On Putin’s announcement of new weaponry in general, White said the Pentagon was “not surprised” at his statements, and added that “the American people should rest assured that we are fully prepared.”
The speech comes a little more than a fortnight before presidential elections which are expected to hand Putin another six year term. He has led Russia, as president or prime minister, since 1999, and victory on March 18 would extend that rule to 2024.
Early on during the lengthy address he countered likely criticism that it was merely a bid for votes.
“The next few years will prove decisive for the country’s future,” he said.
“What I will say now has no connection to the domestic political cycle or even the presidential election,” he said. “No matter who is elected president, each Russian citizen and all of us together must be able to see what is going on in the world, what is happening around us, and what challenges we are facing.”
Putin said he hoped the announcements he was making would cause any potential aggressor to think twice.
He said such “unfriendly steps” as deploying missile defenses and bringing NATO infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders, would be militarily ineffective, and the costs unjustifiable.
Putin said his country’s “growing military strength” is not a threat to anyone, and Russia has no plans to use its weaponry for offensive or aggressive purposes.
On the contrary, that strength serves as a solid guarantee of global peace – preserving the strategic parity and balance of forces that been key elements of international security since World War II.
To those who for the past 15 years have tried to restrain Russia’s development, including its military development, he said, “everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia.”
“Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff and it is not a bluff, believe me and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in, and which is called the Earth.”
In a final swipe at the U.S., Putin referred to the Trump administration’s new nuclear posture review, which Moscow argues reduces the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
Among other things, the NPR outlines plans to discourage Russian aggression by deploying smaller, lower-yield nuclear weapons as a deterrent, thereby challenging any perception that U.S. nuclear weapons are “too big to use,” and so not an effective deterrent.
It also states that circumstances under which the U.S. could use nuclear weapons may include “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” on the U.S. or allied forces or civilian populations.
Putin’s response in Thursday’s speech was to declare that “any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies – weapons of short, medium or any range at all – will be considered as a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.”
“There should be no doubt about this whatsoever,” he added, before calling on nations to sit down and negotiate “a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilization.”