March 3, 2018

Putin Goes Nuclear

His blusterous threats are as much about Russian domestic politics as they are a threat to the U.S.

It looks like Russian President Vladimir Putin just called the 1980s and asked for its foreign policy back. In his state of the union speech to his people, Putin announced that the Russian military had developed new strategic nuclear missile technology and systems that are supposedly capable of eluding any missile defense system in the world, including those employed by the U.S. (Color us skeptical.) Putin claimed the new nuclear weapons developments were needed to counter the threats posed by the U.S. He stated, “Nobody wanted to talk with us on the core of the problem. Nobody listened to us. Now you listen!”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to Putin’s speech by stating, “President Putin has confirmed what the United States government has known all along, which Russia has denied: Russia’s been developing destabilizing weapons systems for over a decade, in direct violation of its treaty obligations.” In fact, the U.S. has been well aware of Putin’s desire to raise Russia’s geopolitical influence and military threat back to Cold War levels. Defense analyst John Noonan tweeted, “Putin on new nuclear missile is classic Russian bluster. It’s pounding his shoe on the podium. We can annihilate you, stay out of Syria, stay out of eastern Europe, stay out of the northwest Pacific. … We’ve played this game before and won. At the end of the day, Russia is Peru with nukes. Shouldn’t allow him to play a straight flush off a pair of 7s.”

Yet, it is increasingly clear that U.S.-Russia relations are entering into a new cooling period. And Putin’s bluster is aimed just as much at his own people as it is the U.S. With Russia’s presidential election next month, an election Putin will most certainly win, yet with the nation’s economy suffering stagnation, boasting of Russia’s increased military might may be a way of increasing voter turnout, essentially allowing him to claim an even bigger voter mandate for his policies.

For the U.S. there is no need for great alarm, but a keen eye must be kept on the aggressive Kremlin.

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