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March 6, 2018

SABER-RATTLING: The Flawed Logic of Russia’s New Weapon Systems.

The four strategic weapons announced by Putin are well placed to counter this perceived threat, as emphasised in the videos accompanying his speech showing the systems targeting the U.S.. The first two are the Sarmat super-heavy ICBM, and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, basically a super-manoeuvrable ICBM warhead, many of which would fit on the enormous Sarmat missile. Also there is the Kanyon long-ranged unmanned submarine, which clearly cannot be targeted by BMD interceptors, although it can attack U.S. coastal areas, including where Aegis-equipped ships would patrol. Finally there is an as-yet unnamed nuclear-powered cruise missile that would fly at too low a level to be affected by U.S. defences.

Yet in reality the new weapons represent complex and expensive solutions to a problem that largely doesn’t exist. The U.S. has not shown the least interest in degrading Russian defences wholesale since the long-abandoned “Star Wars” program of the 1980s. This is reinforced by the limited numbers of interceptors so far deployed: the U.S. could afford to install more, but it simply chooses not to.

Moscow tried once before to outspend their way to victory against the West, but the results were not to their liking.