Moscow: President Vladimir Putin today launched what appeared to be the start of a new arms race with Washington, as he boasted of a new generation of “invincible” Russian weapons developed in response to the threat posed by the United States.
Putin praised Russia’s new hypersonic missiles and cutting-edge submarines during a state of the nation address that also touched on economic and social policy ahead of a presidential election this month he is widely expected to win.
The president usually delivers the annual speech in the Kremlin but this year spoke from a nearby exhibition centre — allowing him to show a series of slick video montages of missiles manoeuvring across mountains and oceans, and heading over the Atlantic.
Putin quoted a speech he gave back in 2004, vowing that Russia would develop a new generation of weaponry, a promise that he said has now been fulfilled.
“No one really wanted to talk to us basically. No one listened to us then. Listen to us now,” Putin said, prompting a standing ovation from the audience of top officials, lawmakers and celebrities.
He presented Russia’s military efforts as a response to recent actions by the United States, which last month unveiled plans to revamp its nuclear arsenal and develop new low-yield atomic weapons.
The moves come as relations between the global powers plummeted to levels not seen since the Cold War over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and accusations that Moscow interfered in the US presidential election in 2016.
In a speech that ran to almost two hours, Putin showed tests of a new missile system that he said could fly at 20 times the speed of sound and manoeuvre up and down, and is not owned by any other country.
“This makes it absolutely invincible for any forms of air and missile defence,” he boasted, calling it an “ideal weapon”.
Russia has also developed unmanned underwater devices that move much faster than submarines and torpedoes and can carry nuclear warheads, Putin said, adding: “It’s just fantastic!”
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu later said Russian arms would be able to “overcome all existing anti-missile systems” such as those the US intends to deploy in eastern Europe and South Korea.
“This anti-missile ‘umbrella’ turns out to be a bit ‘leaky’,” he said in comments released by his ministry.
Putin, who has led Russia for almost two decades and is seeking in the March 18 election a historic fourth Kremlin term that would extend his rule to 2024, also laid out a number of social, economic and environmental measures in the speech. PTI