Putin: New Russian missiles will give the West ‘food for thought’

Joel Gehrke – Washington Examiner Dec 18, 2018

A new missile system should give Western powers pause before they threaten Russia, Vladimir Putin told his defense advisers in Moscow on Tuesday.

“Serious, breakthrough steps have been made in the development of the unique state-of-the-art weapons,” Putin said, according to an official transcript. “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.”

Putin made it clear he was thinking about the West, as he touted the success of recent military exercises with China. Likewise, he said that “hypersonic weapons” helped maintain parity with the United States even though the Pentagon has a “militarist budget” far larger than the Russian defense ministry funding.

“It is necessary to [more quickly] switch over to modern armament that possesses enhanced capabilities of breaching advanced missile shield defenses,” Putin also said, according to TASS, a state-run media outlet.

Those comments come two weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set a deadline for Russia to return to compliance with a 1987 nuclear weapons treaty that bans the deployment of ground-based intermediate range missiles. The United States plans to provide formal notice of withdrawal from the treaty in February.

“Moscow has fielded multiple battalions of SSC-8, and all of them are positioned for offensive purposes,” State Department under secretary Andrea Thompson, using the formal U.S. name for the missile, explained after Pompeo’s announcement. “If we want credible arms control deterrent, we’ve got to demonstrate that our treaties are worth the paper they’re written on.”

Putin denied any violations, saying the United States had sought a “trivial pretext” for exiting the accord.

“Such a step will have the most negative consequences and will noticeably weaken regional and global security,” he said. “In fact, in the long term, it may result in the degradation and even collapse of the entire architecture of arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

But he made clear that he thought the deal’s original negotiators made a bad agreement.

“Land-based missiles were to be liquidated, since the Soviet Union had no others,” Putin said. “The United States had sea- and air-based missiles, while we did not. Therefore, from the point of view of the Soviet Union, this was unilateral disarmament. God knows why the Soviet leaders decided to go ahead with unilateral disarmament.”