How seriously should we take President Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly on the 1st of March 2018, where he boasted about radical breakthroughs with Russia’s new nuclear weapons?

This article was written by Paul Dibb. Paul Dibb is emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. 

Were these merely the rantings of a deluded leader? Putin, however, asserted that ‘everything I’ve said today is not a bluff … it is not a bluff, believe me.’

So, what are these threatening nuclear weapons that Putin claims Russia now has? He began by describing the capabilities of the new super‑heavy (200 tonnes) intercontinental ballistic missile called the RS-28 Sarmat. According to Russian sources, the missile carries 10 to 24 independently targetable nuclear warheads for a total of 20 megatons or more.

Putin said that this ICBM is the first to be able to attack targets from over the South Pole. In that case, its sub‑orbital trajectory would threaten America from its southern approaches and so bypass US ballistic missile warning radars, which face northwards to detect attacks from over the North Pole. It has a very short boost phase, which shortens the interval during which it can be tracked by satellites with infrared sensors.

Putin went on to claim that Russia is also developing new types of nuclear weapons that render missile defence systems ‘absolutely pointless’. One of them allegedly is powered by a small nuclear propulsion unit in an air‑launched missile called X-101. Apparently, it’s a low‑flying stealth missile carrying a nuclear warhead ‘with an almost unlimited range and unpredictable trajectory’. Putin claimed that ‘no other country has developed anything like this’.

Another weapon that Putin mentioned is an unmanned, nuclear‑powered submersible vehicle that can operate in the ocean at extreme depths, has an intercontinental range, and can travel at underwater speeds in excess of 100km/h. This weapon is known as Oceanic Multipurpose System Status‑6 (or Kanyon) and has been dubbed a ‘doomsday drone’ because it may carry a cobalt nuclear warhead of up to 100 megatons capable of devastating ports like New York and Los Angeles with massive radioactive contamination. Putin claimed, “There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”

Putin also asserted that Russia has a high‑precision, hypersonic air‑launched missile system called Kinzhal (Dagger). Again, he asserted that ‘it is the only one of its kind in the world’. This missile is allegedly capable of flying at Mach 10 and delivering nuclear and conventional warheads over 2,000 kilometres.

He claimed another technological breakthrough with the development of a missile that’s a gliding wing unit. This new hypersonic‑speed, high‑precision weapon system called Avangard can apparently be fitted to an ICBM warhead and hit targets at intercontinental distances and engage in intensive manoeuvring as it travels. This makes it ‘absolutely invulnerable to any missile defence system’. Once more, Putin asserted that ‘no country in the world as of now has such arms in their military arsenal’.

Read more of this article here.

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Nick Bowman

Russia could surely destroy western civilization with its nuclear arsenal but the west would surely destroy Russia with its own ICBMs. I’d be more concerned if the Russians focused on building up their conventional forces to the point they could win a conventional war. Right now, even a depleted NATO would cope with any conceivable Russian conventional attack. Our focus should be on maintaining conventional superiority. Our nuclear weapons are sufficient for deterrence purposes.


They can’t afford it. The only threat to the west from Russia is nuclear weapons.


Mike: The Russians, your comments please: I was beginning to think we should give up our continuous at sea deployment of the nuclear deterrent, but after this article and this weeks events I have second thoughts about that. Not give up the deterrent though juts the continuous at sea deployment. The reason I was thinking the continuous deployment could be optional was budget driven only. Was Putin thinking that he could make the UK defense budget problem worse by doing or saying these things to make sure the at sea deterrent was as expensive as possible? This then will make… Read more »


Their arrogance is infuriating and should trigger a mass exodus of western countries from the world cup. But I don’t see that happening.


Money comes first, SMH.


I’d already made my mind up not to watch the next 2 World Cups in any case as they were both clearly bought under the corrupt Blatter regime.

Evan P

So much for Russia accepting the NPT then.


I think the NPT is more based on numbers of warheads and tonnage, not on the ability to deliver them and counter the other side’s delivery, which was expected to evolve.

[…] post Is Putin’s Nuclear Boasting for Real? appeared first on UK Defence […]


I WONDER IF ENGLAND world cup TEAM PLAYERS HAVE THE CAPABILITY OF SEEING WHATS GOING ON AND HOW IMPORTANT UNITY IS AT THIS POINT. sorry about the caps. I have read about German players concerns about the Russian involvement in Syria. They are asking moorland ethical questions about attending this summer. The FA lurches from crisis to crisis real of not, and i am not confident they can lead in a crisis like this. Its going to become a crisis for them and the UK as a whole. Despite being football mad I support a boycott. That said the real… Read more »

Dennis Reeves

It mainly showmanship and willy waving.
If you want to cause massive contamination why not just hit a nuclear power station or two.
Putin knows no matter what the size of his nuclear penis, the USSR 2.0 would be just as f#@ked by us lot


Look at the economics of this. The US can develop improved nuclear capability with 6% of its department budget, while keeping a conventional defence up to date and strong. If Russia on the other hand spent 50^ of its defence budget on nuclear capaibility and somewhat neglects ints conventional forces, e.g. cutting the cost of the upgrade og the Kuzntesov, then by that budget, and by the concentration on nukes, it can reasonably expect to exceed the nuclear capability of the US. The UK spends roughly 9% on nukes and has 4 CASD with 1 at sea and 1 available… Read more »


until Russia starts boasting that it can counter any ICBM, these new weapons don’t really change anything. There is no defensive system currently in existence, that can counter a ICBM fully, because all the systems have too short range and so could only ever cover a part of a city and so would not be 100% successful, making the threat from current platforms sufficient.


Now that we are purchasing Mk41 for our surface fleet – perhaps we can do away with cruise on the Astute class and turn our fleet into a non ballistic nuclear fleet (ie Astutes carry nuclear tomahawk or a variant of). I believe Israel have these and the US used to and we can build a load of Astutes (say another 8) for the same price as successor and its ballistic missiles). We currently have a ballistic system as it is unstoppable (mach10+ on re-entry), has longer range and is clearly identifiable as a nuclear strike due to it being… Read more »

Mark L

I’m not sure what the point of the Russians developing different nuclear delivery systems is – if they nuke us we nuke them back. Does it really matter how they deliver their nukes? It seems to me this is more aimed at the domestic Russian audience – they have growing poverty & shortening life expectancy. Perhaps the idea is that this rhetoric makes the average Russian feel better about things…..


Pretty much exactly what you said. Putin is facing re-election and whilst in the end it’s all a farce, Putin keeps it legimate enough that Western nations can’t dismiss it out of hand as a sham.

So what does he do? Invents weapons that he claims only Russians have and that makes them special and the world will grovel before Russian might. And the populace lap it up.


Regardless wherever he has or hadn’t got the tech he’s boasting about, you’ve got to find the Russian mentality pitiable. Most European countries have accepted the days of Empire and Imperial glory are long past yet the Russians delude themsleves into thinking that theyre still a super power. They demand respect above their means and elect strongman like Putin who annex the territory of sovereign nations, assainates traitors with radiactive material and nerve agents in other countries and threaten nuclear war, all the while acting like they’re the victim. And it’s pity I look upon them with, not even dislike.… Read more »

Lee H

Evening all
Game on, question is what game are we playing?
Russian elections
Global rebalance is strategic influence

45m people live in Russia in awful poverty
What is a hypersonic missile going to do about that?
Nice graphics though


The comments from Russia show that its perfectly willing to use the threat of nuclear weapons to try and blackmail another country into compliance……. proves the need for our own nuclear weapons.

I’m starting to look back to the 80s with fondness, at least you knew where you were with the Cold War…… this is all just crazy and seems far more chaotic.


Russia the Nation that never

Annexed Crimea
Use’s Cyber warfare
Shot down a civilian airliner.
Conducts biological warfare where it seeks
Drugs its athletes to promote a dominant and sporting Russia.
Promotes and creates anti western propaganda

yet expects us to buy its energy, vodka, services and have a professional diplomatic relationship regarding world affairs out with its tensions with US and the West .

War is round the corner and i firmly believe this.


Don’t forget where it totally innocent and it’s all just an American conspiracy.


I’m not defending Russia but the cyber stuff is all a load of rubbish. firstly no independent body has ever proven that the attacks come from the Russian government and not just some code junkies in Russia and secondly the West are doing it just as much, just look at the mess caused by the code that was aimed at Iranian nuclear plants but instead infects computers all over the world. Same with the propaganda.

Which civilian airline did they shot down, I must have missed that story?


Don’t get me wrong, Russia has serious issues around poverty and still lives in fear of the West caused by ww2, and the whole Ukraine situation shouldn’t have happened but things are not black and white, good vs evil.


The aircraft was Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17/MAS17) which was a Boeing 777. It was shot down over Ukraine near the border with Russia. It was supposedly shot down by a mobile SA11. One of these mobile launch vehicles was spotted driving back to Russia with a missile missing.
Russia again denied all knowledge and blamed it on the Ukrainians. Have a look a the wiki site as it has a lot of background information.


Ah yeah i remember now. Like you said there was no real evidence that it was Russian. We will never know if it was the Russians lying or US propaganda against Russia, for me honestly either could be the case.

A missile launcher missing a missile seems a bit odd, considering they are normally supported with trucks with plenty of extra missiles, not reloading seems a little odd.


Got to love that Russia has taken diplomacy lessons from Shaggy.

“It wasn’t me” is pretty much their defence against all their actions.

Daniele Mandelli

My take on all this.

Russian election.

Engineer a crisis and knock off a traitor in the process.

Equals boost for Putin and re election.

Nuke stuff is not air. He’s not stupid and MAD is as relevant now as in the Cold War.

Daniele Mandelli

“Hot air” !

Steve M

I think we’ll leave it to the OPCW to independently confirm it thank you.


Yes, but first the UK should supply a sample to Russia as requested – that’s in the CWC itself, in terms of “co-operation” (article 9 I think). The UK jumped too soon.


Russia is a backward and corrupt dictatorship.

Daniele Mandelli

“Even your most vehement defender of Britain will admit that Britain’s war on Iraq in 2003 has contributed to the rise of ISIS.”

I agree with this.

As for the rest, I think I will trust my own people not the Russians thank you.

Steve M

I would also add that it was not “Britain’s war on Iraq”, it was an international coalition led by the USA.


False flag by Westminster conveniently close to Porton Down. If they’ll expose innocent people to nuclear tests ending up in them dying of cancer (my late uncle did) they/ll do this.

Daniele Mandelli

I suppose Litvenenko was also false flag?

Who are “They” ?

Mod, dstl, army, SS, SIS?

Motive? What is gained by this?


What is gained by Russia doing this? Look outside your own blinkers unless you are gullible of course and believe everything you are told in the UK.

Daniele Mandelli

Well revenge . Putin has spoken of it often enough. This guy was a traitor.

You have not answered my questions?

You put the idea out there so I’m interested as to why.

Daniele Mandelli

BBC right now 19.30 might help.

Steve M

He has indeed spoken often of revenge. He was even quoted on it by our deputy Ambassador to the UN in the session last night.

As for what Putin gains? Fear, a reminder that if you betray him, no matter how much time passes or how safe you think you are, he can get you, along with the added strongman appearance for the election just in case his % drops below what he managed last time, god forbid!


Oh yes, The porton down explanation. Heard that one by quite a few Kremlin trolls. I just find it hilarious that there is a clear motive and means for Russia to do this but that’s dismissed in favour of conspiracy theories based on the proximity of an MOD base.

Daniele Mandelli

What I find interesting after being challenged to explain further, they then run a mile.

I was looking forward to Peder expanding on the theory this morning and, as usual, no reply or continuation of the debate. What a surprise.

Daniele Mandelli

Read. Cheers for link.

A. Smith

Russia appears to be hell bent on wanting to become the next North Korea. Assassinations, annexations, political interference and chemical attacks. For anyone to suggest that Russia is passive and not a threat to world stability and peace is clearly a sympathiser to this corrupt and gangster regime or not of sound mind. The UK needs to urgently increase defence spending and start preparing for possible military action. In parallel, we need to impose greater sanctions, increase the security of all ports and airports, boycott the World Cup, and increase security checks on all Russian nations and those travelling to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Ha no actually!

But I find Panoramas expose of Putin’s tactics against opponents very interesting.

Daniele Mandelli

I actually agree.


Oh f*** off the birth defects are from Iraqi’s constantly marrying their cousins and the country wide food shortages in the 90s. Depleted Uranium is no more a hazardous weapon than the substitutes (hence the term depleted).It is used in MANY of America’s weapons on dozens of ranges in the US. Guess what no one is growing a third arm. Blaming the US and Tony Blair’s Government in the UK for the collapse of Saddam and the rise of ISIS? As if that house of cards was going to last whether we invaded or not. At least by intervening we… Read more »


Although I agree with much of your post; Depleted Uranium is extremely hazardous when inhaled as a powder/vapour. In its solid form it poses little threat and is often protected by a outer sealant.


So is every other weapon of war. Tungsten isn’t exactly good for the lungs either. If you’re close enough to be breathing the vapor of either uranium or tungsten you have other things to worry about. For instance being bits and pieces.


The UK has already sent a sample to the relevant UN body. Involving Russia is compeltly pointless. They’ll take the sample and declare it a fake or something else entirely. Then the UN Chemical weapons body will get a sample and they will confirm what we’ve said, then Russia will dismiss them as being part of a western conspiracy and lying. That’s Russia’s MO, deny, deny, deny. And your point about ISIS is true but what about Russia’s own actions? Invading Gerogia, annexing Crimea, funding insuregent groups in Ukraine and causing a conflict which rages to this day?Honestly I’d think… Read more »


TH you RF peasant . So why dont Russia clean up chernobyl? considering it was under kremlin control at the time, instead of the rest of the world who had pay for the clean up.
Dont forget al qaeda has its roots when Russia invaded afgan, take your RT brainwashed comments some where else.


No, please don’t leave TH. Your brainwashed Putin-bot ideas are fantastic entertainment for the 99% of us that know how corrupt, backward and dangerous Russia is today. If you leave, then I might not come back here. Its people like you, working from an office in St Petersburg or Moscow that reinforce the lunacy and isolation Russia is currently encountering and provide me with the much needed laughs in the evening after a hard day at work.


TH since when has Russia been good at football lol!


Don’t you ever wonder what a place Russia could have been without the Tsars, Lenin, Stalin the rest of the communists and now Putin? 100, 200, 300 wasted years and millions of stunted lives and for what?


Look no further than when Occasionally the BBC really understands the Russian psyche. That psyche tended and nurtured through years in the oppressive wastelands of the last 100 years, the fruit it has born, is shown no clearer than in their devastating documentary of Katyn. Now we can plainly see Putin is the Stepson of Stalin and his murderous ideology.
Corbyn and the British ultra left have sucked this up for years and even now it is revealed in their pusillanimous praise of that system.

Mr J Bell

Russia can spend as much money as they like on nuclear weapons in breach of all treaties on proliferation. The facts are clear A Russian chemical weapons was used on the sovereign territory of a NATO country. These weapons are so dangerous they should be securely controlled and thus someone high in Putin’s regimen gave authority to use this weapon. It was a message to the West clear as crystal. We will kill who we like, when we like, where we like and how we like and do not give a damn about your response or condemnation. Putin knows there… Read more »