Russia has tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that can’t be intercepted, President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday, marking a technological breakthrough that could dramatically increase Russia’s military capability, boost the Kremlin’s global position and also raise Western concerns about a potential renewed arms race in the 21st century.
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 that have no equivalent elsewhere in the world. He said the creation of the new weapons has made NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense “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 fueled 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.
He said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has a “practically unlimited” range and high speed and maneuverability allowing it to pierce any missile defense.
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.
Putin noted that the tests of the compact nuclear reactor to power the new drone were completed last fall.
He added, to applause, that names for the nuclear-powered cruise missile and the drone haven’t yet been chosen, and suggested that the Defense Ministry run a nationwide contest for the best names.
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.
He said that another weapons system, called Kinzhal, already has been deployed in Russia’s Southern Military District. He added that it’s a hypersonic missile carried by an aircraft that can strike targets 1,250 miles away.
The Russian leader emphasized that the development of new weapons that have no equivalent in the West came in response to the U.S. withdrawal from a Cold war-era treaty banning missile defenses and U.S. efforts to develop a missile defense system.
He said that the U.S. has ignored Russian complaints.
“No one has listened to us,” he said. “You listen to us now.”
He said that Russian military experts and diplomats would be ready to discuss new weapons systems with their U.S. counterparts.
“We aren’t threatening anyone, we aren’t going to attack anyone, we aren’t going to take anything from anyone,” he said. “The growing Russian military might will guarantee global peace.”