Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Thursday of major technological advances in nuclear weapons delivery systems appears to have caught the U.S. intelligence community unawares, reports Gilbert Doctorow.
By Gilbert Doctorow
President Vladimir Putin’s two-hour long address yesterday to the Federal Assembly, a joint session of both houses of Russia’s bicameral legislature – plus large numbers of Russia’s cultural, business and other elites – constituted his platform for the upcoming presidential election on March 18. This, in lieu of participation in the televised debates on all federal television channels in which other seven candidates are busy these days.
But as is the case with many of Vladimir Putin’s major presentations, the speech yesterday was addressed to a far broader audience than the Russian electorate. Many of the estimated 700 journalists invited to attend were foreign correspondents. Indeed, one might reasonably argue that the speech was directed abroad, precisely to the United States.
The final third of the address, devoted to defense and presenting for the first time several major new and technically unparalleled offensive nuclear weapons systems, established Russia’s claim to full nuclear parity with the United States, overturning the country’s withdrawal from superpower status dating from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992. Some Russian commentators, in a burst of national pride, claimed that the power of the Soviet Union had now been restored and the wrongs of the 1990s were finally undone.
In its own way, this speech was as important, perhaps more important than Putin’s talk to the Munich Security Conference in February 2007 at which he set out in length Russia’s grievances with U.S. global hegemony installed in the 1990s and the utter disregard for or denial of Russia’s national interests. That speech was a turning point in U.S.-Russian relations which headed us to the deep confrontation of today. Yesterday’s speech suggested…