putin speech
© Grigoriy Sisoev / SputnRussian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall
Russian president Vladimir Putin today delivered a landmark address to the Russian Federal Assembly - a joint session of the two chambers of the Russian Parliament - in what is the Russian equivalent of an annual 'State of the Union' speech.

Despite its name, the audience of the address is not limited to Russian legislators. Members of the cabinet, senior civil servants and important public figures are also invited. There were so many people invited this year that the event was moved from its traditional venue at the Georgievsky reception hall in the Grand Palace of the Kremlin to the larger venue at Moscow's Manege.

Taking advantage of the new venue's better multimedia capabilities, Putin announced that Russia has developed a number of advanced weapons systems, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile which render all US capabilities aimed at undermining the Russian nuclear deterrent - including its anti-missile systems - obsolete.

Having achieved this milestone, Putin said, Washington should stop trying to diminish Russia's security and begin treating Moscow as an equal partner, and forget trying to be the dominant military hyperpower it seeks to be.

Saying that "times now favor those who are prepared to change," and that, "nations need to either ride the wave of technological advancement or be drowned by it," Putin highlighted Russia's record of cooperation with China and India. Should the US and Europe also seek equal partnership with Russia, he said, Moscow would be responsive.

Putin expressed his wish that the technological developments behind these new weapons eventually lead to the creation of spin-off technologies and industries for civilian use. Underscoring that these weapons demonstrate Russia's mastery of science and engineering, Putin emphasized that they are "aimed at a single goal - a breakthrough in Russia's development."
russian nukes
Footage during Putin's speech demonstrated the global reach of Russian nuclear-powered cruise missiles
While the first part of his address focused on Russia's considerable recent domestic achievements and its future economic and developmental goals, the second part focused on heavy weaponry and foreign affairs and has to go down as the most defiant challenge Putin has ever made to the US. The gloves truly came off!

The Russian president accused the US of arrogance in its presumption that Russia would not be able to recover anytime soon after the collapse of the USSR, and that its interests can simply be ignored. One particular move - the US withdrawal (under George W Bush) from the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002 - resulted in Russia being increasingly surrounded by American military assets which, Putin explained, gradually undermined his country's nuclear deterrence capability.

"In the end, if we had done nothing, this would have rendered the Russian nuclear potential worthless," Putin said. "They could have simply intercepted all of it." Without a nuclear deterrent, he reminded his audience, Russia would have been exposed to US military pressure and would not be able to pursue its sovereign interests. That is precisely why US military has bases around the world; to prevent sovereign nations from pursuing their legitimate interests, especially when they conflict with American interests.

It appears that the main reason for Putin today giving the US a smack down like it has never before received was the 'Nuclear Posture Review' the US Deep State recently forced Trump to sign off on. As Putin explained in today's speech:
"We are greatly concerned by some parts of the new Nuclear Posture, which reduces the benchmark for the use of nuclear weapons. Whatever soothing words one may try to use behind closed doors, we can read what was written. And it says that these weapons can be used in response to a conventional attack or even a cyber-threat.

Our nuclear doctrine says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against her or her allies, or a conventional attack against us that threatens the very existence of the state.

It is my duty to state this: any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, be it small-scale, medium-scale or any other scale, will be treated as a nuclear attack on our country. The response will be instant and with all the relevant consequences."
russian nukes
Hint, hint: CGI footage from one of the videos appeared to show Russian rockets targeting Florida, with Tampa Bay clearly visible
Russia's New Nuclear Arsenal - Strategic Upgrade

It has probably de facto been the case for some time now, but from today, officially, Russia has now restored strategic nuclear deterrence against the US. What this means, from a military point of view, is that the US no longer has anything that can threaten Russia. Cold War-era 'M.A.D.' parity has been restored. If the US wants to 'take out' Russia, then it is also going to be 'taken out'.

Here are RT highlights from Putin's presentation of Russia's nuclear arsenal upgrade:
Putin presented a number of new systems, some of which are as yet unnamed, and which are all meant to counter current and future ABM systems. His speech was accompanied by a series of video clips showing those new systems, partially as footage of tests and partially as computer-generated images showing their capabilities.

One system is the new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) called Sarmat, or RS-28. It's already well-known, but Putin stressed that its increased range allows the missile to reach US territory from Russia via a South Pole route. The US has dozens of interceptor missiles deployed in Alaska on the presumption that Russia's ICBMs would approach from that direction, which would not be the case with Sarmat.

Putin then went on to weapons systems that were not previously known to the public. One is a yet-to-be-named cruise missile with an almost unlimited range.

This is achieved thanks to a highly-efficient on-board miniaturized nuclear reactor, which powers the flight. Such a missile can fly low enough to avoid early detection, can change course to avoid enemy anti-missile assets along its path, and can maneuver to pierce the anti-missile systems protecting its target.
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The Father of All Bombs: One Sarmat missile can apparently wipe out an area the size of France or Texas
According to Putin, Russia successfully tested a nuclear-propelled cruise missile at the end of 2017. It is now developing a new class of strategic weapons, he added.

The idea of a nuclear-powered projectile is hardly new. The US tried to develop one as part of Project Pluto in the early 1960s, but abandoned it since strategic missiles with chemical propellants proved to be a more viable alternative. Russia has reportedly made a breakthrough in this technology, becoming the first nation to bring it to maturity.

Putin also said that miniaturization of a nuclear reactor gave Russia another advanced weapons system in the form of a high-endurance underwater drone. The drone can dive "really, very deep" and travel between continents at a speed that is several times higher than that of a submarine, a modern torpedo or even a surface ship, he said.

According to the president, such drones can attack enemy aircraft carrier groups, shoreline defenses or infrastructure, and cannot be countered by any defense system in the world. Both conventional and nuclear-tipped versions can be made, he said.

In December 2017, Russia completed the trials of a nuclear reactor which gives the drones such capabilities. The reactor is "100 times smaller" than those used by nuclear-propelled submarines and generates more power, Putin said. It can also reach its peak power 200 times faster than a conventional nuclear power plant.

The video shown for this weapon system didn't include any actual test, but presumably the claimed miniaturization of a nuclear reactor, which was used for the cruise missile, can also work for a watercraft.

Putin then showcased two variants of a hypersonic weapons systems already developed by Russia. One is an air-launched vehicle that is already deployed in southern Russia for test combat duty. The projectile travels at a speed of Mach-10 and has a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles). The weapon, which is called Kinzhal ("dagger" in Russian) is available in conventional and nuclear forms, Putin said. A video shown to the audience included the moment the weapon was deployed by a fighter jet and the fire from its engine.

Another weapon that is being developed, but which was not shown being tested because its appearance is classified, is a hypersonic glider warhead deployed from space. Russia first tested one back in 2004 and has made significant progress since, the president said. The glider can fly in the atmosphere at speeds of over Mach-20 and can withstand heat of up to 2,000C (3,632F) generated by air fiction. The system is in series production and is called Avangard ("advance guard" in Russian). Putin described it as being "like a meteor guided to its target."

The last weapon system showcased by Putin during his speech was some kind of laser weapon, which he said Russia began deploying last year, although it remains unnamed and he wouldn't divulge any of its specs. A short video clip was played, showing what appears to be some kind of anti-aircraft system, but no test footage was shown.

'Speaking softly' - Russia wants negotiations, not confrontation

Putin stressed that Russia would not need all these new weapons if its legitimate concerns had not been ignored by the US and its allies. "Nobody wanted to talk with us on the core of the problem. Nobody listened to us. Now you listen!" he said.

He suggested that the US abandon its costly and inefficient hostile plans towards Russia and start negotiating a security arrangement which would take Moscow's interests into account.

"To those who for the last 15 years have been trying to fan an arms race, achieve unilateral advantage against Russia, impose sanctions, which are illegal from the standpoint of international law and are aimed at holding back the development of our country, including in the military area, I have this to say: All the things you were trying to prevent through your policies have already happened. You have failed to hold Russia back," Putin said.

"You now have to acknowledge this reality, confirm that everything I said is no bluff - which it isn't - think for some time, send into retirement the people stuck in the past and incapable of looking into the future, [and] stop rocking the boat that we all ride in and which is called planet Earth," he said.
It's not like Putin to display his cards so openly. Perhaps he did so with one eye on the elections, but it's unlikely he needed a 'big show' to sway the Russian electorate, which already backs him. We note that this speech comes exactly 2.5 years since Russia intervened in Syria and began the process of not only defeating ISIS but also potentially neutering US meddling in the Middle East.

This is certainly in part showmanship. Although there are a couple of surprises in his list of new weapons, most were already publicly known (or 'accidentally leaked' in one case). What is instructive about Putin's public presentation of these weapons is his claim that a number of them are unstoppable.

If it was any other politician saying it, we could reasonably safely assume it was at least part bluff. But this is Vladimir Putin, a man with an 18-year track record of saying what he means, and doing what he says he's going to do. Make no mistake, Russia has been forced to take these actions as a direct result of incessant overt US attacks, and covert dirty tricks, against everything and anything to do with Russia, for at least the last 5 years. In addition, the US and its allies have been flagrantly moving missile batteries ever closer to Russian territory. Currently there are 5 US cruisers and 30 destroyers near Russian borders as part of the US' "missile defense system" that rings Russia in an ever-tighter noose. What would any self-respecting nation do in response to such a provocation?

This open challenge to the reality-creators in Washington is both a threat that Russia will meet their fire with fire, and a call for any sensible ones among them to acknowledge that there has been a paradigm shift; we are in a multipolar world now, and it is time for all to recognize that fact.

They won't, of course, recognize this fact so easily. Their immediate response to Putin's speech has been to approve the 'sale' (read: donation) of $50 million worth of anti-tank Javelin MANPAD missile launchers to Ukraine in an apparent move to reignite the conflict in Russia's 'underbelly'.

Russia's response, as usual, will not be direct, obvious, nor retaliatory. It will be asymmetrical, unexpected, and methodical.