Putin reveals Russia has ‘invincible missile’

Putin the terrible? The Russian president commands a one million strong military. © Getty

Did the Cold War ever end? Russia has developed its most advanced cruise missile yet as Vladimir Putin prepares for another term in office. Is the ‘Beast in the East’ as dangerous as ever?

We are nearly 30 years’ on from the days of vast military parades in Red Square. Other than for the annual commemoration of the end of the second world war, the centre of the Russian world is more populated by tourists taking selfies than by grey men surveying massed ranks of soldiers.

But did those days ever really end? Yesterday Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, stated that the country had developed an “invincible” cruise missile.

Putin made the revelation during a speech to the Duma, Russia’s parliament, where he laid out his key policies for a fourth presidential term, ahead of an election he will win in 17 days’ time.

It is "a low-flying, difficult-to-spot cruise missile with a nuclear payload with a practically unlimited range and an unpredictable flight path, which can bypass lines of interception and is invincible in the face of defence systems".

Putin also discussed a submarine-launched, long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

The history of the end of the cold war seems simple. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Two years later, the Soviet flag was taken down from the Kremlin. One autocracy fell after the other. Capitalism had beaten communism.

But a new book by Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A world history, argues that a “cold war” defines the world of today, not just the period between 1945 and 1991.

He claims that the West’s victory narrative is flawed. Some old communist regimes stayed in power. Cold war geopolitical and strategic thinking prevailed in many capitals. Cold war alliances, be they between Russia and Syria, or between the USA and Saudi Arabia, continued.

The West has stoked tensions through the eastward expansion of NATO, its desperation to bring Ukraine under its wing, the international sidelining of Russia, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Werstad believes the current tensions between Putin, promising Russians a restoration of the country’s international might, and the Western democracies are the result.

Is the Cold War still going on?

Chill factor

There still exists a huge divide between Russia and the West, say some. By interfering in the US election, Russia has proved that it still harbours animus against its old enemies. The same mutual suspicion exists on both sides. The cold war never ended.

Things have changed completely, reply others. Russia simply is not the Soviet Union, which was a vast empire governed by a hostile ideology; Russia has simply become a squalid dictatorship which wishes to defend its regional interests. Russia has a smaller GDP than Italy. It has willingly given up thousands of miles of territory without a fight. Why are we so keen to stoke tensions with such a nation?

You Decide

  1. Is the Cold War still going on?
  2. Is Russia the greatest threat to the West? If not, what is?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you have a meeting with Vladimir Putin and you can ask him one question. What question would you ask?
  2. Read the second and third Expert Links. Write an essay on which you think makes the most compelling case.

Some People Say...

“Today's Russia is not to be compared with the Soviet Union of back then.”

Angela Merkel

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Russian president Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia has developed an “invincible” array of nuclear weapons. He did so while addressing the country’s parliament ahead of his predicted re-election later this month. We know that tensions between the West and Russia have resurfaced over recent years over three primary issues: Ukraine, Syria and suspected interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
What do we not know?
How credible these claims are, as Russia understandably keeps its nuclear capabilities a well-kept secret. The long-range cruise missile has been rumoured to be under development since Soviet days but is now seen by US analysts as a credible threat.

Word Watch

Duma
The word comes from the Russian verb dumat’ - meaning “to think”. The current Duma is split between lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, and the upper house - the Council of the Federation.
Berlin Wall
The wall divided communist East Berlin and capitalist West Berlin from 1961 until 1989.
Odd Arne Westad
A Norwegian historian specialising in the Cold War and contemporary East Asian history. He currently teaches at Harvard University.
Eastward expansion of NATO
Thirteen Eastern European countries that used to be in the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence during the communist era are now members of NATO. Turkey, another key player in the region’s geopolitics, is also a member.
Ukraine
The crisis in Ukraine started when the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown with support from the US and the EU. Russia then annexed the peninsula of Crimea, where its navy is based, and also aided separatists in Eastern Ukraine, sparking a war that is still going on today.

Subjects

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