Thursday, March 15, 2018

bionic mosquito: A Kind Word and a Gun (Did Putin expose the new reality in military power?)

American self-proclaimed hegemony is over where it really matters for any real and perceived hegemon—the military field. It was over for some time now, it just took Putin’s speech to demonstrate the good old Al Capone truism that one can get much further with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.

-        The Implications of Russia's New Weapon Systems, by Andrei Martyanov

Vladimir Putin gave a speech on March 1.  During the speech he announced several new weapon systems.  He offers that these systems have been developed due to the unilateral withdrawal in 2002 by the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty – despite Russian attempts to dissuade the US government from this decision. 

NB: I am no expert on such matters; after offering several excerpts from Putin’s speech I will leave it to the aforementioned Mr. Martyanov to comment.

Russia’s concern?  Anti-ballistic missiles reduce the check that mutually-assured-destruction placed on the use of nuclear weapons.  Putin suggests that the Russians have attempted several times in the intervening years to re-engage on this matter; in the meantime, the United States has installed anti-ballistic missiles in several locations surrounding Russia.  Given these actions, Russia has not stood still:

During all these years since the unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, we have been working intensively on advanced equipment and arms, which allowed us to make a breakthrough in developing new models of strategic weapons.

These new weapons are designed to circumvent the anti-ballistic-missile defense systems of the United States.  I cannot say which, if any, of these systems can perform as claimed.  However, I am hard-pressed to recall meaningful bluffs on serious issues by Putin in the past.  In any case, only one or two of these announced systems need to be feasible in order for this to be significant.

First up is the Sarmat:

Weighing over 200 tonnes, it has a short boost phase, which makes it more difficult to intercept for missile defence systems….Sarmat will be equipped with a broad range of powerful nuclear warheads, including hypersonic, and the most modern means of evading missile defence.

Putin suggests that there are no range limitations on this new missile; more importantly, it can attack from either the North or South Pole.

Moving on, Putin describes the next breakthrough – an energy source:

One of them is a small-scale heavy-duty nuclear energy unit that can be installed in a missile like our latest X-101 air-launched missile or the American Tomahawk missile – a similar type but with a range dozens of times longer, dozens, basically an unlimited range. It is a low-flying stealth missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with almost an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception boundaries.

Missile launch tests and ground tests have been successful.  After showing a video…

You can see how the missile bypasses interceptors. As the range is unlimited, the missile can manoeuvre for as long as necessary.

Moving under the sea:

…we have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths (I would say extreme depths) intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest.

These can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

Next is a hypersonic weapon:

The missile flying at a hypersonic speed, 10 times faster than the speed of sound, can also manoeuvre at all phases of its flight trajectory, which also allows it to overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometres.  We called this system Kinzhal (Dagger).


A real technological breakthrough is the development of a strategic missile system with fundamentally new combat equipment – a gliding wing unit, which has also been successfully tested.

In addition to speeds in excess of Mach 20…

…the missile’s gliding cruise bloc engages in intensive manoeuvring – both lateral (by several thousand km) and vertical. This is what makes it absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defence system.

Summarizing the situation:

I hope that everything that was said today would make any potential aggressor think twice…

We are not threatening anyone, not going to attack anyone or take away anything from anyone with the threat of weapons. We do not need anything.

And then the red line:

Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered as a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.

And the carrot:

There is no need to create more threats to the world. Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilisation. We have been saying this all along.

You know, the United States and Soviet Union talked about such things in the past….

So…what of these new systems?  For this I turn to Andrei Martyanov; let’s just say that he takes this seriously – and offers a wonderfully descriptive analogy:

… [Putin] proceeded with what can only be described as a military-technological Pearl-Harbor meets Stalingrad. The strategic ramifications of the latest weapon systems Putin presented are immense.

The Sarmat has been known of for years; the Mach 20+ hypersonic glider weapon system is already in series production; regarding the Kinzhal:

A salvo of 5-6 such missiles guarantees the destruction of any Carrier Battle Group or any other surface group, for that matter–all this without use of nuclear munitions.

So much for carrier battle groups setting sail for locales unfavorable to Russia and its allies.  Such will be limited to Mexico and Argentina, I guess.

Given that it takes 25 years to fail on a program like the F-35 fighter, it seems unlikely that a meaningful response will come from the American side and its dysfunctional defense industry anytime soon:

It is prudent to predict today, against the background of an American approach to war that there will be no sensible technological American response to Russia in the foreseeable future.


…Russia brought the gun to a knife fight and it seems that this is the only way to deal with the United States today.

Maybe it’s time to talk.