Updated Mar 3, 2018

Russia's nuclear showmanship could trigger new arms race

Russian President Vladimir Puti. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / TASS via Getty Images

During an annual state address this week, President Vladimir Putin unveiled Russia’s pursuit of new nuclear weapons systems, couched as a response to the increasingly adversarial “American machine.” During the speech, Putin presented animated videos demonstrating how such weapons could successfully target parts of the United States.

Among the capabilities in development are a liquid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile that is more difficult to intercept and a nuclear-powered cruise missile with the ability to penetrate “all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems.”

Why it matters: Putin maintains that the decision to enhance the Russian nuclear arsenal is a natural reaction to the evolving threat posed by the U.S. — particularly Washington’s continued development of anti-ballistic missiles that could neutralize Russia’s existing nuclear forces.

Yet there are other factors that may have played into Putin's grandiose unveiling:

  • The Trump administration's Nuclear Posture Review, which details plans to develop new capabilities including “low-yield” nuclear weapons on submarines, and calls for the possible use of nuclear weapons as a retaliatory response to non-nuclear events.
  • Russian presidential elections, just several days away, bring out Putin’s showmanship of national strength to rally support. While he is poised to win the elections, the Kremlin is worried about low voter turnout.

What's next: The White House noted that Moscow's nuclear developments are nothing new and that U.S. defense capabilities remain strong, especially with a sizable budget increase. However, President Trump has not commented directly on the issue, as he has on tense exchanges with North Korea. Nuclear policy experts fear that aggressive signaling between the two countries could spiral into a new nuclear arms race, neglecting opportunities to instead pursue nuclear weapons reductions through arms control agreements.

Lovely Umayam is a nuclear policy analyst and project manager with the Promoting Security and Prosperity program at the Stimson Center.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.