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Putin says US developing hypersonic weapons, but Russian ‘brainpower’ means Moscow doesn't fear new arms race

Russia is already reluctantly locked in an arms race with the US, President Vladimir Putin conceded on Thursday, but it is ready to meet the challenge.

Putin used his annual end-of-year press conference to insist that Russia would ensure it retained its status as a global military power. He was asked whether, if Moscow and Washington fail to renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before it expires in February, it would signal the end of a truce between the two countries.

“The arms race has already begun,” he replied. “After the US withdrew from the nuclear defense treaty, that’s exactly what happened.”

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“Their country is now building an umbrella to protect itself,” Putin added. “You have to either have a missile defense system, or weapons that can’t be hindered by missile defense. It has happened with hypersonic weapons, including the Avangard [Vanguard] glider.”

The president had unveiled the weapon – one of the most advanced of its kind – back in 2018. At the time, he told journalists that the hypersonic missile had been developed “in response to the US deployment of a strategic missile defense system, which, in the future, would be capable of virtually neutralizing, zeroing out all our nuclear potential.”

In 2001, Washington announced it would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, during the presidency of George W. Bush. Since then, analysts have expressed concern over the US’ technological developments, because, if successful, they could create a situation in which the US could potentially deploy its weapons without fear of retaliation.

Towards the end of the event, Putin also revealed that the 3M22 Zircon hypersonic missile, designed to target ships, was ready for combat duty having undergone testing. He added, “As for the arms race, Russia is in sixth place in terms of army funding, and we manage to do what others can’t. It’s only possible because of brainpower, and the talent of our people.”

Russia spends more than $65 billion each year on its armed forces, and much of its defense industry, which exports its wares to countries around the world, is effectively nationalized.

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