2 Mar 2018

Putin unveils Russia's 'invincible' nuclear weapons

5:25 am on 2 March 2018

Russia has developed a new array of nuclear weapons that are invincible, according to President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly. Photo: AFP

Mr Putin made the claims as he laid out his key policies for a fourth presidential term, ahead of an election he is expected to win in 17 days' time.

The weapons he boasted of included a cruise missile that he said could "reach anywhere in the world".

He said of the West: "They need to take account of a new reality and understand ... [this]... is not a bluff."

Giving his annual state of the nation speech, Mr Putin used video presentations to showcase the development of two new nuclear delivery systems that he said could evade detection.

One included a "low-flying, difficult-to-spot cruise missile... with a practically unlimited range and an unpredictable flight path, which can bypass lines of interception and is invincible in the face of all existing and future systems of both missile defence and air defence".

Another weapon he discussed was a submarine-launched, long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

During the two-hour televised speech to a joint sitting of both houses of parliament, he encouraged Russians to suggest names for the two systems. He argued that Russia had reacted after years of pleading with the US not to break away from anti-missile treaties.

Opposition leader barred from vote

Mr Putin faces seven challengers on 18 March, although none is expected to attract widespread support. The president played no part in a raucous televised debate broadcast on Wednesday that featured the other candidates.

Absent from the campaign is prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been barred from running and has called on voters to boycott the poll.

President Putin has so far done little campaigning, and until now said little about his plans for the next six years.

Fighting poverty

While weaponry dominated the second half of Mr Putin's speech, he tailored the first half towards working Russians and their concerns.

He pledged to halve poverty in the country within the next six years and said he wanted life-expectancy rates to emulate Japan and France.

"Every person matters to us," he said, adding that he also wanted to increase employment and longevity.

In 2000 there were 42 million people in Russia living below the poverty line, he noted; today there were 20 million, but this still needed to come down.

He warned Russians not to take the country's power for granted.

"We have no right to allow the stability we have achieved to lead to complacency. Especially since we are far from resolving many problems," he said.

"Russia is now a leading country with a powerful foreign economic and defence potential. But from the point of view of the extremely important task of ensuring people's quality of life and welfare we, of course, have not achieved the level we require. But we have to do this and will do this," he added to applause.

Mr Putin also pledged to spend more on roads and reduce accidents; said teachers deserved good salaries and wages; and said there should be better access to both the internet and medical services for people in remote areas.

Technology and security

Digital growth was also essential, Mr Putin said during his speech. He said he wanted Russia to become one of the world's main hubs for storing and processing big data.

He called for more progress in making robots and artificial intelligence. New talent in technology should be nurtured and foreigners should be encouraged to study in Russia, he said.

Mr Putin also spoke of Russian operations in Syria - supporting the Assad government's fight against rebels - which, he said, showed off the country's increased defence capabilities.

Russia recently sent two of its most advanced fighter planes, Su-57s, to Syria, even though they are still undergoing tests.

Mr Putin also announced that a bridge to the Crimean peninsula would be open within the next couple of months. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, during Mr Putin's current term in office.

Russia was safeguarding its interest in the Arctic region by strengthening its military infrastructure in the region, he said.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs