Vladimir Putin knows how to get people’s attention.
Today, the Russian President has transfixed the globe with a bellicose speech on his country’s nuclear future, and a claim that his country has developed new weapons of mass destruction that can’t be intercepted.
“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,” Putin said in a televised state-of-the-nation address from Moscow.
“You have failed to contain Russia.”
Using flashy graphics, Putin unveiled several Russian technological breakthroughs, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range that is fast and manoeuvrable enough to avoid countermeasures.
He also showcased an “intercontinental” underwater drone capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. The drone was illustrated with a computer animation showing its launch from a submarine and a stealth voyage over the seabed to an aircraft carrier target.
The jingoistic speech, which comes less than three weeks before the presidential election, was clearly designed to appeal to voters’ national pride.
“Russia still has the greatest nuclear potential in the world, but nobody listened to us,” Putin said. “Listen now.”
The President even mused about holding a nationwide contest to name the new weapons, and boasted of a coming hypersonic missile that will fly at 20 times the speed of sound “like a meteorite.”
The boasting was accompanied by an implicit threat to the United States and other Western powers — that Russia isn’t concerned about heating up the Cold War and touching off a new arms race.
Putin’s tough talk follows last month’s disclosure that the United States in working on new, low-yield warheads for its nuclear arsenal. These are smaller bombs that could be unleashed “strategically,” potentially decreasing the threshold for using the world’s most destructive weapons.