Unproven claims overshadow Russia's bluster over two new weapons
Russia is bragging about and making dubious claims regarding two weapons undergoing testing that supposedly no foe will be able to withstand, even as it professes peaceful intentions around the globe.
The Kremlin has begun testing an underwater nuclear weapon that Russian President Vladimir Putin is describing as "invulnerable" to enemy defences, the state-run TASS Russian News Agency reported Tuesday (December 25).
The Poseidon, previously known as the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System and which NATO calls Kanyon, is an unmanned vehicle reportedly capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It owes its name to a Russian poll conducted in March.
"Underwater trials of the nuclear propulsion unit of the Poseidon drone are under way in an expanse of sea protected from the reconnaissance means of a likely enemy," a Russian defence industry source told TASS.
Completion of the Poseidon is expected sometime during the 2018-2027 Russian armament programme, the source said.
Meanwhile, at a cabinet session Wednesday (December 26), Putin praised "unqualified success" in testing the hypersonic Avangard missile.
"All of the system's specifications and its performance have been confirmed," he said. "I repeat, the test was a success."
The Russian army will receive the new Avangard intercontinental strategic system, capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional payloads, starting in 2019, he said.
Putin earlier said the Avangard would render existing missile defence systems obsolete, according to AFP.
"This is a major event in the life of the Armed Forces and probably of the country," he told the cabinet Wednesday. "Russia now has a new strategic weapon system."
The Russian press and government have made plentiful claims of both the Poseidon and the Avangard's destructive power, although so far they have not backed up those assertions.
Eventually the Poseidon will be capable of carrying a 2-megatonne warhead capable of destroying entire naval bases, according to TASS.
Putin boasted about both weapons in his state of the nation speech March 1.
"There is simply nothing in the world now capable of withstanding them," he said of the still then-unnamed Poseidon.
Of the Avangard, he said, "This system is capable of intercontinental flight at supersonic speeds in dense layers of the atmosphere in excess of Mach 20."
Such claims have been widely ridiculed by defence analysts and observers as far-fetched and politically motivated.
'Not threatening anyone'
In the same speech to parliament in which Putin claimed Russia was developing such purportedly unstoppable weapons solely for defence purposes, he also professed his country's peaceful intentions.
"We are not threatening anyone, not going to attack anyone or take away anything from anyone with the threat of weapons," he said.
Putin has made no secret of his facetious approach towards nuclear security.
Putin joked on October 18 that in the event of a nuclear exchange, "We, as victims of aggression, as martyrs, will go to heaven. [The aggressors] will simply die because they won't even have time to repent."
Moscow has also come under fire for its repeated violations of the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, prompting the United States to threaten to leave the treaty if Russia does not dismantle its missiles in breach of the 1987 agreement.
"We strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty," NATO's 29 foreign ministers said in a joint statement earlier in December.
Meanwhile, Russian officials this month said they would not allow inspectors to examine a controversial nuclear missile that violates the INF treaty.