US dismisses Putin's invincibility talk, boasts of own 'unmatched' arsenal

03 March 2018

The US White House and Pentagon have dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin's talk of Russia's new `invincible' nuclear missiles as ''no surprise'' and instead, accused Russia of treaty violations and boast that their arsenal is ''second to none.''

In a 'state-of-the-nation' speech on Thursday, ahead of Russian elections, President Putin announced to the world that Russia possesses an arsenal of new nuclear weapons that can't be intercepted.

These include nuclear-powered submarines or drones, called uninhabited underwater vehicles (UUV), nuclear-powered missiles and a hypersonic, intercontinental ballistic missile.

The US has been tracking Russia's nuclear-powered underwater drone project following a 2015, Russian "leak," which revealed plans of the underwater drone, complete with images of what the government-aligned television station NTV said was its nuclear warhead.

And, in 2016, US intelligence revealed that Russia had tested the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6, a vehicle code-named Kanyon by the Pentagon.

According to the documents released in 2015, the Status-6 could carry a multi-megaton nuclear bomb with a range of about 10,000 kilometres moving at 56 knots, or 104 km/h and travel to a depth of more than 1,000 metres. It is also capable of carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead, which Putin said could target coastal targets and warships.

While submarines are supposed to be as quiet as possible, the Status-6 wouldn't need to be, due to its speed. As well, since it's unmanned, the UUV is able to go to depths no other submarines can.

Putin also announced a hypersonic missile called the Avangard that he claims can travel at 20 times the speed of sound, or roughly 7.5 km a second. He said that the weapon is capable of performing sharp manoeuvres, making it "absolutely invulnerable for any missile defence system."

Russia's new Sarmat intercontinental missile can take an arbitrary path to its target and circumnavigate any enemy defences. Being nuclear-powered, it can fly around for months, due to its almost limitless energy supply.

But Washington is not impressed. ''We've been watching Russia for a long time. We're not surprised,'' said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White following Putin's state of the nation address. Putin had unveiled a new Russian strategic arsenal that he said was bound to make Washington stop looking down on Moscow. Russia's new deterrent, Putin said, is invulnerable to interception.

''America is moving forward to modernise our nuclear arsenal and make sure our capabilities aren't being matched,'' White bragged in response.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the theme, pointing to America's massive military budget, as well as US President Donald Trump's own nuclear doctrine.

''US defence capabilities are and will remain second to none, and now because of the new defence budget of $700 billion our military will be far stronger than ever,'' Sanders said. ''As the president's nuclear posture review made clear, America is moving forward to modernise our nuclear arsenal and ensure our capabilities are unmatched.''

She also accused Russia of violating a 1980s missile treaty. ''President Putin has confirmed what the United States government has known all along, which Russia has denied - Russia has been developing destabilising weapons systems for over a decade in direct violations of its treaty obligations,'' Sanders said.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert attacked the CGI video simulation played during Putin speech to demonstrate the new missiles' capabilities. Nauert claimed it depicted an attack on the US, despite there being no depictions of presumed targets or points of impact.

During his address, Putin said everything Russia is doing to strengthen its defences is within existing arms control agreements. ''I should specifically say that Russia's growing military strength is not a threat to anyone; we have never had any plans to use this potential for offensive let alone aggressive goals.''

Russia's embassy in the US issued a separate statement, pointing out that the Sarmat missile Putin showcased is within the provisions of the 1982 INF treaty.

President Putin rebuffed accusations by Western media outlets that he was starting a new arms race. That race, he said, was kicked off when the US pulled out of a 30-year anti-ballistic-missile treaty with the Soviet Union and Russia. ''If we are to speak of an arms race, then an arms race started precisely at that point,'' he told NBC host Megyn Kelly in an interview, referring to a decision taken by George W Bush in 2002.

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