Moscow is not interested in a “new Cold War,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview late Thursday, hours after announcing that his country had tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that can’t be intercepted.
“My point of view is that the individuals that have said that a new Cold War has started are not analysts,” Putin told NBC’s Megyn Kelly in Moscow. “They do propaganda.”
However, the Russian president did say that his country has been in an arms race with the US since 2002, when US president George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
“If we are to speak of an arms race, then an arms race started precisely at that point,” Putin said.
Kelly challenged the Russian president over his weapons claims, asking whether Russia had actually successfully tested the new nuclear-powered cruise missile he had boasted of earlier in the day.
“Every single weapons system that I have discussed today easily surpasses and avoids a missile defense system,” Putin said. But “some of them still have to be fine-tuned and worked on. Others are already available to the troops and battle-ready.”
Kelly pressed him on whether the weapons he spoke about had actually been tested, but Putin remained vague.
“All of those tests were successful. It’s just that each of these weapons systems are at a different stage of readiness. One of them is already on combat duty. It’s available to the troops.”
US experts told NBC that the new weapons were not a surprise to the American defense establishment, but they questioned whether the arms were actually operational. Instead, they suggested that Putin’s rhetoric was intended for internal consumption in the lead-up to an election he is expected to win comfortably.
“The speech was about bolstering his standing in advance of the election,” one official said.
Dana White, the spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said, “The American people should rest assured that we are fully prepared.”
In a state-of-the-nation speech earlier Thursday, Putin had said the weapons include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and new hyper-sonic missile. He said the creation of the new weapons had made NATO’s US-led missile defense “useless,” and meant an effective end to what he described as Western efforts to stymie Russia’s development.
“I want to tell all those who have fueled 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.”
He said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall had an unlimited range and high speed and maneuverability allowing it to pierce any missile defense.
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 operational depth and high speed would make it immune to enemy interception.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.