On Thursday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had developed missiles “no one else possesses” and that they had built nuclear weapons “invulnerable to interception.” He added that these weapons would only be used in a second strike.
But he didn’t stop there. He showed computer graphics of a missile leaving Russia and headed directly toward the United States.
So much for the idea of a rapprochement with the Russian regime.
Putin’s militarism is not unexpected, to be sure. He’s hasn’t maintained his grip on power through economic growth, which collapsed in 2009, recovered slightly over the next few years, then stagnated again from 2013 on. He’s done so through repression at home and brusque militarism abroad — it’s no shock that he moved to annex Crimea in 2014. The Obama administration offered Putin flexibility, and Obama himself mocked the notion of a dangerous Russia during the 2012 presidential race. And while the Trump administration has been significantly tougher on Russia than the Obama administration was — for example, American troops killed hundreds of Russian contractors in Syria just weeks ago — Russian ambitions in Syria haven’t been completely checked. Furthermore, Putin is fully committed to demonstrating his muscularity on the foreign stage sooner rather than later, if possible.
That doesn’t mean nuclear war is imminent. It isn’t. But it is obvious that Putin is flexing his power, and that doesn’t bode well for the near future, particularly for countries bordering Russia.