The Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address to an expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board in Moscow on December 18 stands out as a tour d’horizon of the global strategic balance. The speech must be seen against the backdrop of the free fall in US-Russia relations, build-up of NATO infrastructure on Russia’s western borders and, in particular, the Trump administration’s statements about the US withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.
Broadly, Putin’s message is in three directions:
The modernization of Russian armed forces has been most successful and the combat readiness of Russian military is at an all-time high level;
Russia has developed new hypersonic weapons of immense destructive power, which are going into serial production for deployment with the strategic nuclear forces to which the US simply has no answer;
Russia is determined to ensure that any US attempts to tilt the strategic balance in its favor will be effectively countered.
Putin disclosed that the share of modern arms in Russia’s “nuclear triad” (air, navy and ground forces) is already at an impressive level of 82 percent. He implied that all in all, the US is punching above its weight: “These weapons (unique state-of-the-art weapons such as the Avangard missile system, Sarmat missile, Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile, Peresvet combat laser weapons, etc.) will multiply the potential of our army and navy, thus reliably and absolutely ensuring Russia’s security for decades ahead. These weapons are consolidating the balance of forces and, thus, international stability. I hope our new systems will provide food for thought to those who are used to militaristic and aggressive rhetoric.”
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