Why Putin’s Latest Weapons Claims Should Scare Us

Americans should be very concerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Russia’s breakthroughs in weapons technology.

By Jonathan Marshall and cross-posted from Consortium News

Be afraid. Be very afraid of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest boast to his Feder

Don’t be afraid that he has any intention of using them. Don’t even be afraid that most of the weapons he demonstrated through animated simulations are operational.

Be afraid, rather, that armchair Cold Warriors in the United States will shamelessly exploit Putin’s speech to justify billions — no, trillions — of dollars in needless spending on a pointless nuclear arms race.

Achieving their agenda was made easier by media coverage of the speech, which reported that Putin “threatened the West” (New York Times) and “represented an escalated level of martial rhetoric even by his pugnacious standards” (Washington Post).

Putin in fact explicitly and repeatedly emphasized that his claimed new weapons are not offensive, but rather designed to maintain Russia’s nuclear deterrent in the face of growing U.S. anti-missile systems.

Responding to the United States

“Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,” he explained. “We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system… Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons.”

“We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty,” he continued. “All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. … All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected.”

Putin went on, “Despite our numerous protests and pleas … there are new missile defense systems installed in Alaska and California; as a result of NATO’s expansion to the east, two new missile defense areas were created in Western Europe … The US global missile defense system also includes five cruisers and 30 destroyers, which … have been deployed to regions in close proximity to Russia’s borders.”

Putin overestimates the potential effectiveness of these U.S. missile defense systems, which have never proven reliable. But Russia’s generals, like ours, build their careers on exaggerating risks, and Putin, like most Russians, is easily awed by claims for U.S. technology.

As I wrote here in 2016, “The ABM system currently deployed in Europe is admittedly far too small today to threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent. In fact, ABM technology is still unreliable, despite America’s investment of more than $100 billion in R&D. Nonetheless, it’s a threat Russia cannot ignore. No U.S. military strategist would sit still for long if Russia began ringing the United States with such systems”

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