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    New Russian nuclear weapons render missile defences ‘useless,’ Putin says

    Russia has tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that can’t be intercepted, President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday, marking a technological breakthrough that would dramatically increase Russia’s military capability, boost the Kremlin’s global position and raise Western concerns about a potential renewed arms race in the 21st century.
    Speaking in a state-of-the-nation speech, Putin said the weapons include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and new hypersonic missile. He said the creation of the new weapons has made NATO’s U.S.-led missile defence “useless,” and means an effective end to what he described as Western efforts to stymie Russia’s development.
    “I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” he said. “You have failed to contain Russia.”
    The announcement comes as Putin is set to easily win another six-year presidential term in the March 18 election.
    The CBC’s Chris Brown in Moscow said the speech may have been designed in part to allay fears in the Kremlin that, after Putin’s 18 years in power, people won’t come out to vote for him in large numbers.
    “Putin needs a big, strong mandate from people. They’re hoping for 70 per cent, and perhaps this was a way to really galvanize the Russian public,” Brown said. “This is something that Russians, time and time again, have responded to.”
    In his address, Putin said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range and high speed and manoeuvrability allowing it to pierce any missile defence.
    The Russian leader said the high-speed underwater drone also has an “intercontinental” range and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities. He said its “very big” operational depth and a speed that is at least 10 times higher than any other vessel would make it immune to enemy interception.
    Putin accompanied his statement to an audience of hundreds of senior officials and lawmakers with videos and computer images of new weapons, which were shown on giant screens at a conference hall near the Kremlin.
    A computer video showed the drone being launched by a submarine, cruising over the seabed, hitting an aircraft carrier and exploding near the shore.
    Putin noted that the tests of the compact nuclear reactor to power the new drone were completed last fall.
    He added, to applause, that names for the nuclear-powered cruise missile and the drone haven’t yet been chosen, and suggested that the Defence Ministry run a nationwide contest for the best names.
    “No one in the world has anything like that,” he said. “It may appear someday, but by that time we will develop something new.”
    Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the Defence Department isn’t surprised by Putin’s claims of new nuclear weapons, and the U.S. military is prepared to defend the nation.
    White told Pentagon reporters that American missile defence has never been about Russia.
    The U.S. has consistently argued that missile defence systems in Europe aren’t aimed at Moscow, but are designed to defend against threats from Iran, North Korea and rogue threats.

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