Russian president Vladimir Putin says Russia has deployed hypersonic weapons, becoming the first country to do so and escalating an arms race with the U.S.

By Sean Neumann
December 26, 2019 09:50 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States again this week of an escalating arms race, saying that Russia has become the first country to deploy hypersonic missiles that can carry nuclear weapons at a speed 20-times faster than sound.

Russia is the only country to have deployed hypersonic weapons, according to the Associated Press. Putin, 67, reportedly said in a meeting with top Russian military members that for the first time ever, Russia is leading the U.S. in weapons development.

“Now we have a situation that is unique in modern history when they are trying to catch up to us,” Putin said. “Not a single country has hypersonic weapons, let alone hypersonic weapons of intercontinental range.”

United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “it’s probably a matter of a couple of years” before the U.S. develops a hypersonic weapon, according to the AP. The U.S. has warned Congress about Russia and China developing hypersonic weapons, according to the AP report, and has mulled over the possibility of putting detectors and interceptors on satellites in space to defend against potential attacks.

Hypersonic missiles are designed to travel through defense systems at high speeds and deliver warheads over long ranges. Experts have called the weapons “game-changing technology.”

Putin claimed some of the newly developed Russian missiles can travel at 20 times the speed of sound and can change their course and altitude in mid-flight.

“It’s a weapon of the future, capable of penetrating both existing and prospective missile defense systems,” Putin said, according to the AP.

Last Friday, President Donald Trump, 73, signed the new “Space Force” into law — a new military branch that would primarily work on defending satellites and using them for national defense.

Vladimir Putin at an end-of-the-year news conference in Moscow in mid-December,
| Credit: Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty

Putin came to Trump’s aid just last week, defending the U.S. president over his impeachment and claiming he was impeached because of “far-fetched” reasons. Putin echoed Republican talking points that the investigation into Trump is just the Democrats’ answer to losing the 2016 election.

“It’s simply a continuation of internal political struggle,” Putin told reporters in Moscow, according to the Associated Press. “The party that lost the (2016) election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results by other means.”

But while defending Trump, Putin made it clear if the two countries couldn’t work out a deal on extending their New START weapons treaty, then Russia would push forward in a new arms race.

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin meeting in Finland in 2018.

In early August, the U.S. and Russia ended their Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which has been in effect since 1987. The two countries still have until 2021 on its New START treaty, which is in place to reduce the number of offensive weapons produced by each country.

Putin said Russia would be ready until the end of the year to sign an extension to its New START treaty with the United States, according to the AP. The treaty can be extended for five years, reaching 2026, according to the U.S. Department of State.

“Now if we were to receive a letter tomorrow — we are ready to sign it and send it back to Washington,” Putin said in the same press conference last week. “But thus far there has been no answer to any of our suggestions. And without a new START treaty, there is nothing to curb an arms race. And that, in my opinion, is bad.”

The Trump Administration said Russia has been violating its arms treaties and it’s unlikely the U.S. will sign the New START extension at the end of the year, while Trump called the treaty “just another bad deal” made by the Obama Administration, according to the AP.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House earlier this summer, according to the AP. “I will say Russia would like to do something on a nuclear treaty and that’s OK with me. They’d like to do something and so would I.”