Putin warns Russia will deploy new indefensible Zircon hypersonic weapon against U.S., NATO navies if Pentagon puts new missiles in Europe

In a threat harkening back to the days of the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that he’ll order his military to aim its new hypersonic missiles at the United States if the Trump administration decides to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in eastern Europe.




Speaking to his country during the annual state of the nation address, Putin said the military’s new Zircon missiles, which he said can travel at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 620 miles are part of the Kremlin’s effort to build up its defensive capabilities over what he says is an increasingly aggressive and hostile United States.

Putin’s announcement comes after the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from a key Cold War-era arms control pact banning the development and deployment of intermediate-range missiles, Fox News reported.

During his address, the Russian leader denounced the U.S. decision to quit the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which the Pentagon says Russia has been violated now for years. Putin said those accusations are false, but U.S. intelligence and State Department officials say the proof is irrefutable.

The Russian president repeated an earlier claim that Moscow wouldn’t be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles near Europe’s (and NATO’s) boundary. However, he warned that if the Pentagon puts missiles on the continent it would mean he will not only target host countries but also U.S. command-and-control centers and the American homeland.

Analysts say that Putin’s warning was clearly aimed at rattling Europe and NATO members who are considering U.S. missile deployment proposals.

Fox News reported further:



Speaking before lawmakers in the Russian capital, Putin added that the other weapons, which he announced last year, including the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone, have been undergoing tests successfully.

Putin also focused on a range of social issues in the annual speech, promising to raise welfare payments, improve education and healthcare, as well as remove toxic dump sites from cities.

As for the Zircon, it is designated the 3M22 and it is listed as a scramjet-powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile. If the missile’s specifications touted by Russia are accurate, it would mean that Zircon is capable of traveling about two miles per second, making all current state-of-the-art missile defense systems useless.

CNBC reports that Russia has conducted five tests of the Zircon, with the latest test occurring on December 10. The December test hit a top speed of Mach 8, or 6,138 miles an hour. A second report in December claimed that Russia has tested the Zircon 10 times.

It is reportedly compatible with surface warships, bombers, and can be submarine-launched as well.


 

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Pence: U.S. ‘will not stand idly by’ while Turkey buys Russian S-400 systems

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday repeated earlier warnings that the United States would not look at all favorably on Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air- and missile-defense systems a day after Ankara blew off the first of two deadlines to end the deal.

Speaking to attendees at the Munich Security Conference, the VP said the Trump administration “will not stand by idly while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” he added.

Pence’s comments come after Germany continues moving ahead with plans earlier this month to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia that the U.S. also opposes.

As for the S-400, Washington had established a Feb. 15 deadline for Ankara to indicate its intention to stop the sale, according to a U.S. military official who spoke to Military Times. If Turkey refuses to do so, a forthcoming sale of the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system would be stopped.




“We have been clear with Turkey,” the U.S. official said. “The will not receive the Patriot if they purchase the S-400.”

The Patriot sale, valued at about $3.5 billion, covers the purchase of 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced and 60 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles and associated gear.

In addition to ratcheting up tensions with the U.S. and NATO, to which Turkey is a long-standing member, the purchase of the S-400 would also likely endanger Ankara’s participation in the international development of the F-35, the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter program.

Turkey sources some parts for the fighter and its development could be hampered if the U.S. ditches Turkey as a partner.

As for the Nord Stream pipeline, some U.S. analysts believe that Germany is seeking to diversify its natural gas supplies and that it intends to also purchase U.S.-produced LNG at some point.

President Trump has criticized Germany’s partnership with Russia on the project, saying the deal makes it ludicrous for Washington to continue spending so much money on helping Germany itself and Europe against Moscow, which remains an adversary.

Still, as Reuters reports, Germany will consider changes laws governing the Nord Stream 2 in order to ensure that it complies with new European Union regulations, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters on Friday.

“My assumption is that it can be built under the new conditions,” he said. “But there will clearly be some changes. One regarding the ownership of the pipeline, since European law requires ownership of pipeline and production to be separated.”


France renews its commitment to NATO and the U.S. with ‘nuclear warning shot’ to Russia

In what one analyst sees as a demonstration of commitment to the United States and NATO, as well as a warning to Russia, France publicly announced Tuesday that its military had recently conducted a nuclear strike exercise.

During an 11-hour sortie involving a Rafale fighter, the French air force test-launched an ASMP or ASMP-A medium-range cruise missile, which can be armed with a nuclear warhead in the range of 100 kilotons.

Tom Rogan, a national security expert writing at the Washington Examiner, noted that the timing of the test is as important — or more so — than the actual test itself.

The test “compliments the U.S. decision earlier this week to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” following “Russia’s breach of the INF treaty as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s broader effort to degrade NATO deterrent resolve,” he wrote.




The ASMP is designed for medium-range battlespaces, Rogan noted, so the French test serves as a direct shot across Russia’s bow, so to speak.

That the French chose to use an air-launch platform to conduct the test is noteworthy: “That choice fits with how U.S., British, and French air forces are advancing their effort to penetrate powerful Russian air defense bubbles in the event of a conflict,” he wrote.

The message is clear: France stands ready to deploy its nuclear capabilities against Russia should the need arise, as in, if Russia should use nuclear weapons in Europe or against France directly.

Some analysts may believe that France’s test was unnecessarily provocative but in reality, Rogan notes, it ought to decrease tensions. At present, Russia is doing all it can to undermine NATO’s mutual deterrent resolve, mostly via stepped-up military activities but also via diplomatic putsches into former Soviet bloc nations on NATO’s eastern flank — the Baltics, for example, including Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

Militarily, by cheating on the INF treaty and by other means including the development of hypersonic weapons, Putin has been working to undermine NATO’s resolve. However, if he understands that it wouldn’t just be the U.S. and Britain his forces would have to contend with, that is liable to keep his aggression in check.

“Remember,” writes Rogan, “Putin is an ambitious realist, not a psychopath. He knows that a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and NATO would mean Russia’s defeat.”

As such, it’s vital that he be reminded constantly that the alliance stands ready not only to resist Russian aggression but to take offensive actions to the next level if need be in order to ensure victory.

“Alongside France’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet — Triomphant, Terrible, Téméraire, and Vigilant — America’s oldest ally is showing new commitment to confronting a shared challenge,” Rogan writes, adding ruefully that NATO would be better served if German Chancellor Angela Merkel would demonstrate similar resolve.