By Theodore Mattheiss 
Elm Staff Writer

On March 1, in the midst of an aggressive speech targeted at the west, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that his nation is developing a modernized version of their nuclear cruise missiles, stating that the enhanced missiles will be able to bypass the traditional missile defense systems currently protecting the United States. The announcement comes just weeks before the Russian presidential election.

The missiles are designed to run on nuclear power in addition to being tipped with nuclear warheads, and this method of propulsion would allow a missile to travel vast distances in unpredictable patterns—potentially all around the planet—before coming down on its target. An animation in Putin’s presentation shows a missile being launched from the Russian arctic, flying south, bending around the tip of South America, and coming back north to strike the U.S.

As The Washington Post said, “cruise missiles hug the terrain, flying low and fast, allowing them to evade radar and missile defense systems that are designed to shoot down missiles that fly more slowly and at an arc.”

This aggression, according to Putin, is a defensive measure that has resulted from the ambitious nuclear plans of the President Trump administration. He’s accused the US of starting a new arms race, and stated that he doesn’t intend to fall behind. Putin believes that the actions taken by the US indicate a disregard for Russia’s potential strength.

“No one listened to us,” Putin said. “Listen to us now.”

What is somewhat comforting is that Putin didn’t mention anything during his speech that really surprised top officials in the U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis doesn’t believe this development will change the U.S. approach to dealing with Russia in any significant way.

Perhaps what’s most fortunate in all of this is that Russia has only revealed these new weapons as a form of deterrence—they don’t want any trouble from the west, and are taking steps to secure themselves. Like the over-the-top anti-America speeches from Kim Jong-Un, which are designed to generate a nationalist passion in the citizens of North Korea, Putin is making this speech to show the world—but most importantly, his own people—that Russia remains a world power. They will not allow any other nation, especially America, to push them around.

Still, this is only the latest in an unsettling global regression toward the dangerous rhetoric of the Cold War, with world leaders shouting at each other from behind their arsenals of the most destructive weapons mankind has ever created.

It’s alarming to see how often nuclear weapons are brought up as a conversational topic, or even as a threat these days. One can only hope that more constructive methods of diplomacy will be explored by our world leaders before the nuclear option is taken too far, and the unthinkable happens.

 

The Elm

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