His fiery speech was more about creating headlines in Russia, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no reason to worry.
“Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where the centers of decision-making are located,” said Putin, in his annual address.
While U.S. missiles already target Russia (whose weapons, in turn, target the United States), placing missiles closer, in Europe, would allow them to reach their targets in 10 – 12 minutes, a shorter strike time Putin noted as a threat.
But aside from sounding like an extended Moscow remix of “Fire & Fury” (President Trump’s own threat against North Korea), Putin’s speech didn’t actually signify a dangerous shift in U.S.-Russia relations, according to experts.
The speech, said Yuval Weber, an associate professor at Daniel Morgan Graduate School and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is one of a trio of major set-piece addresses by the Russian president, which included a call-in show and a Q&A with reporters “that are both very theatrical, and akin to a ‘State of the Union’ address.”
Weber said it’s important to note the domestic content of the speech. Putin’s approval ratings are dropping in the country, which has also seen “limited positive economic news.”
President Putin, he said, “needed something to create headlines and especially headlines focused on his comparative advantage, or core strength, security.”
Although Russia has been violating the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and also wanted out, the United States’ withdrawal provided the perfect “ex post justification because they get to claim that they follow the rules while their opponents are dangerous and erratic,” said Weber, answering questions via e-mail.
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