Dec 27, 2019

Russia's new hypersonic weapon becomes operational

Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed Friday that the Avangard, the country's new intercontinental hypersonic weapon, became operational and entered combat duty, per the AP.

Why it matters: Russian President Vladimir Putin has emphasized that Russia is the only country armed with hypersonic weapons. He also has compared the success of the Avangard's development to the Soviet Union's first satellite launch in 1957.

  • Plans for the Avangard were first announced in Putin's state-of-the-nation address in March 2018.
  • The Russian military said the Avangard can fly 27 times faster than the speed of sound.
  • Putin said the Avangard's ability to make sharp maneuvers in flight will render traditional missile defense systems useless.

The other side: The Pentagon said that it is currently working on developing hypersonic weapons, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August that "it's probably a matter of a couple of years" before the U.S. can obtain one.

Go deeper: China, Russia and Iran to hold joint naval drills in Gulf of Oman

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20 Years of Putin: Tracing his rise from KGB to Kremlin

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde. Photos via Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Twenty years ago today, on New Year's Eve 1999, a political newcomer and former KGB operative named Vladimir Putin suddenly assumed the Russian presidency.

Part 1 of our "20 Years of Putin" special report focuses on his rise, his early years and his escalating antagonism with the West. It's based on conversations with Mikhail Khodorkovsky — the oligarch whose imprisonment in 2003 revealed Putin's ruthlessness to the world — three former U.S. ambassadors to Moscow, leading experts and former chiefs of the Pentagon and CIA. Read part 2.

Dive inArrowUpdated Dec 31, 2019 - World

Russia's prime minister resigns as Putin prepares for transition

Medvedev (R) and Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his cabinet resigned Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin announced major changes to the structure of Russia's government.

Why it matters: This is part of a much wider shakeup. Putin is facing constitutional term limits that, unless amended, will force him to leave office in 2024. In his state of the nation address, Putin proposed a referendum that would shift more power to the prime minister and cabinet and away from any presidential successor.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020

Russia has already won the fight to undermine U.S. elections

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If Russia's goal in meddling in U.S. elections has been to undermine trust in the democratic process, it has already won — and the U.S. isn't even starting to take the sort of steps that might reverse that outcome.

Why it matters: Free, fair, and trusted elections are the cornerstone of the U.S.'s claim to moral authority. We're only beginning to fathom how badly Vladimir Putin has wounded the American system.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020