Expert Voices

Russia's nuclear showmanship could trigger new arms race

Vladimir Putin
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.