Vladimir Putin made this announcement during his state-of-the-nation speech on Thursday. The new weapons “include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone, and a new hypersonic missile.” Putin claims they are “immune to interception” and “have no equivalent in the world.” Is Putin bluffing?

Word of these new weapons was leaked from the Pentagon last month. At that time, although every US media outlet reported the story, it failed to create the shockwave one would have expected. Likewise, although Putin’s speech on Thursday night was quite fantastic, it too, received a muted reaction from the American press.

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I have no doubt that the Russians, spurred by Putin’s compulsive hunger for power, are working hard to develop weapons of unprecedented deadly force with which to threaten the world.  Are we not doing the same thing?  We would be reckless if we did not.

Putin spent the first 16 years of his career in the KGB and it was this experience that shaped his political worldview. In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he joined the Yeltsin administration and within eight years, he had become the President of Russia. Putin is clearly an intelligent man, but it wasn’t intelligence alone that accounted for his meteoric rise to the presidency. His spectacular climb to the top can be attributed to his unbridled ambition, his cunning and his endless capacity for ruthlessness.

Putin is really a thug at heart and he has never hidden his lust for power. “What does Putin want? To maintain his power - no matter what.”

Putin’s remarks were combative and “came just a month after the Trump administration released its new nuclear policy, which took a more aggressive stance on the need to deter Russia.”

“The review said Russia must be convinced that it would face "unacceptably dire costs" if it were to threaten even a limited nuclear attack in Europe. It concluded that the U.S. should continue Obama administration plans to modernize the nuclear arsenal, including new bomber aircraft, submarines and land-based missiles.”

Putin explained that the development of these weapons was Russia’s response to the US installation of missile defense shields, which he considers to be a violation of a Cold War-era treaty. He claims the missile defense shields would be “useless” against his new weapons.

Putin said, “No one listened to us. You will listen to us now.”

"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. You have failed to contain Russia."

"We would consider any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies to be a nuclear attack on our country. The response would be immediate."

“Putin claimed the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range, high speed and maneuverability allowing it to pierce any missile defense.”

Two US military officials who were briefed on the capabilities of these new weapons spoke to Fox News and pointed out that they are still in the research and development stage.

“The nuclear powered cruise missile Putin bragged about has actually crashed a few times,” during recent testing in the Arctic, one official told Fox News.

Tom Karako from the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the US has “to adapt to this emerging threat.”  He explains:

“U.S. missile defense efforts have been largely oriented to a limited ballistic missile-style threat. But the threat from Russia is not just from ballistic missiles anymore. Cruise missiles and hypersonic-glide vehicles don’t follow predictable ballistic paths so the Pentagon’s forthcoming Missile Defense Review has been tasked with looking at just this sort of threat, namely the cruise missile threat to the homeland.”

Defense officials also told Fox News:

“The Pentagon’s new nuclear posture review calls for the development of two new “low-yield” tactical nukes to match the Russian threat. Nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were removed from U.S. Navy warships during President George H.W. Bush’s administration, and fully scrapped under President Obama…Congress had urged the Obama administration to take the cruise missile threat from Russia seriously.”

As frightening as Putin’s weapons sound, I would bet American defensive innovation is not too far behind. Perhaps, not at all. Of course, even if the Pentagon were caught by surprise with Putin’s announcement, which seems unlikely, they surely wouldn’t show it publicly.

Putin is not without his problems. Starting with financial problems, he does face some headwinds in his quest to bring these new generation weapons into a state of readiness. Russia’s economy has been hurt by US and EU sanctions and by falling oil prices.

“For the immediate future, Russia faces low growth, declining foreign investment, permanent U.S. sanctions, high military expenditures and an aging population that expects state support."

It should also come as no surprise that Putin’s government “faces 'corruption' issues as indicated by the demonstrations held in March 2017, in 80 Russian cities.  It has proved (to be) the one issue that galvanizes the Russian people into protests.”

So, yes, Putin has described several new generation nuclear weapons possessing devastating capabilities. We must, however, make allowances for sheer bluster and Russian financial and corruption problems, among other issues. Moreover, we must have faith in American innovation. How often has Russia beat us to the punch?

On a lighter note:

“Putin also suggested that the Defense Ministry run a nationwide contest for the best names, which evokes the Soviet-era tradition of giving the innocuous names to some of the deadliest weapons systems.”

For those interested in entering the competition:

Is the arms race starting up again? Did it ever really end?

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