Russian President Vladimir Putin painted a chilling picture when during his annual state-of-the-nation speech, he announced the development and deployment of several weapons systems that would render defense systems “useless” against them, he said.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles systems, with a range long enough that they could reach any target in the world, missiles that could fly at 20 times the speed of sound, and a weapons system called Kinzhal, whose hypersonic missiles can strike targets 1,250 miles away, were among the new armaments announced.
Putin said those weapons will be used strictly for self-defense and for the protection of Russia and its allies. Russia, he said, “had no plans to be an aggressor.”
“We are not going to take anything away from anybody. We have everything we need,” Putin said. “Russia’s strong military is a guarantor of peace on our planet.”
But, he warned, Russia would not hesitate to use its vast arsenal, even its nuclear arsenal, to defend its interests and the interests of its allies. “Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies … any kind of attack … will be regarded as a nuclear attack against Russia and in response we will take action instantaneously no matter what the consequences are. Nobody should have any doubt about that,” he said.
Putin also took several thinly veiled swipes at the United States, saying that its policies “will never be based on exceptionalism, we just protect our own interests,” and showing video of the missiles from the new weapons systems raining down on what appeared to be a map of Florida.
The nearly two-hour speech comes just a few weeks away from national elections in Russia, in which the one-time KGB man is seeking an unprecedented fourth term. He is considered the heavy favorite to win, as public polling shows support for the leader at about 70% of the Russian public.
Putin’s speech also touched on healthcare, infrastructure as well as the economy, arguing that the raising of living standards for all Russians needed to become a priority for Russian elites. Almost 20 million Russians – nearly a seventh of the population – live below the poverty line, something Putin called “unacceptable.”
“We have not reached the necessary level in terms of people’s well-being,” he said.
The bulk of the speech however was used to send a defiant message to those who seek to stifle Russia’s growth, especially through economic sanctions.
“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 … you have failed to contain Russia,” he said.
“Nobody listened to us. Well listen to us now.”