Russian President Vladimir Putin devoted a March 2018 speech on the state of Russia to a series of five spectacular “new” strategic weapons—though all have been known to the West for years. All five—the Sarmat ballistic missile, the Avangard hypersonic maneuvering reentry vehicle, the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic cruise missile, the Status-6 nuclear-powered autonomous underwater vehicle, and a nuclear-powered cruise missile—have Cold War antecedents. Only the cruise missile amounted to news, though analysts were aware of it even if the media were not. In spite of Putin’s declarations that some are operational—and “invincible”— he illustrated his remarks with paintings on slides, not with photographs of actual hardware. (An anonymous U.S. official told CNN there have been several unsuccessful tests of the nuclear-powered cruise missile, all ending in crashes.)Some commentators see Putin’s announcement as an attempt to force the West to take him more seriously, while others point to his reelection campaign.
New Russian Missiles May Be Aimed East
By Norman Friedman