PENTAGON — U.S. military planners are brushing aside Russian claims that its military has an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that can hit any target anywhere in the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about his military’s newfound capabilities, including “invincible” nuclear weapons ones that cannot be intercepted by foreign adversaries during what has been described as a saber-rattling speech Thursday in Moscow.
“They have not succeeded in holding Russia back,” Putin said, in a reference to the United States its Western allies. “Now they need to take account of a new reality.”
But U.S. military officials downplayed Putin’s claims as familiar rhetoric.
“We’re not surprised,” chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters during a briefing Thursday.
“We’ve been watching Russia,” she said. “These weapons that are discussed have been in development for a very long time.”
“The American people should rest assured we are fully prepared,” White added.
In his annual state of the nation address Thursday, Putin said Russia’s technological breakthroughs could give its military new global standing and showed videos of new weapons to frequent applause.
He said the new weapons include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a laser weapon, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and a new hypersonic missile. Putin claimed they have no equivalent and contended the new weapons have made NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense “useless.”
Still, some analysts are skeptical of Moscow’s claims.
“I don’t believe they are real game-changers,” Sim Tack, chief military analyst at Belgium-based Force Analysis told VOA via Skype.“Putin’s announcement today was not so much an unveiling of new capabilities that nobody knew about,” he said. “It’s more of a summary of things that Russia has been working on over the past few years.”
Tack said, eventually, some of the capabilities, like the hypersonic missile, may force the U.S. and NATO to change the way they approach nuclear deterrence. But he cautioned those Russian capabilities are not yet operational.
Putin said the nuclear-powered cruise missile Russia tested several months ago has a “practically unlimited” range and high speed and maneuverability that can pierce any missile defense.
He said a high-speed underwater drone also has “intercontinental” range and can carry a nuclear warhead that could be aimed at both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities. He said its speed is at least 10 times faster than any other vessel, making it immune to enemy intercept.
Despite such claims, U.S. lawmakers were also unimpressed.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina told VOA, “I view Mr. Putin like I view any murderer or criminal. When they say something, they’re probably lying, but you have to take it seriously.”
“Countries that boast about their military — there’s a reason why, because they know that their capacities are far less than what they claim to have,” Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said.
The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, urged a measured response from U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I hope he doesn’t come up with some outrageous adolescent tweet for goodness sakes” Durbin said. “A leader of the free world, commander-in-chief of the United States of America ought to take the threat of Russian aggression very seriously, in a very sober way,” he said.
The Russian leader spoke before the March 18 election in which he is expected to secure another six years at Russia’s helm, saying Russia has advanced far beyond the “woeful state” of its military following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. He praised the young scientists working on new weaponry as “the heroes of our time.”
Jesusemen Oni contributed to this report