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President Putin congratulates military graduates. Photo from the Kremlin
Moscow

Russian president lauds advanced weapon systems ahead of Trump meeting

Addressing graduates of Russian military academies on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said a breakthrough in designing new weapon systems has been made. It puts Russia years, and in some cases decades, ahead of its rivals.

Published: June 30, 2018, 11:00 am

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    The news coincides with an announcement that Putin will meet with US president Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16. Trump said on Friday that “nothing was off the table” for his upcoming meeting with the Russian leader.

    According to Putin, Russia’s modern weapons represent a quantum leap in its military capability, the Associated Press reported.

    “A number of our weapons systems are years, and, perhaps, decades ahead of foreign analogues,” Putin said. “Modern weapons contribute to a multifold increase in the Russian military potential.”

    The new Avangard hyper-sonic vehicle has been singled out as such an advance. It has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound. The weapon, which can change both its course and its altitude en route to a target, is “absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense means,” Putin said.

    The new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) carries a bigger number of nuclear warheads, and is capable of flying over the North or the South Poles and strike targets anywhere in the world.

    Putin also metioned the Kinzhal hyper-sonic missile that has already been deployed with the units of Russia’s Southern Military District.

    Putin received the graduates in Saint Andrew’s Hall, also known as the Imperial Throne Room, which has been the site of presidential inaugurations. The banquet took place in all main halls, while the most senior rankings officers were seated in the blue and gold Imperial Throne room.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile said in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 that a new multipolar order is already taking shape and Western attempts to stop or to slow it down are unlikely to succeed. “I think that we are in the post-West world order,” Lavrov said.

    He said that the European Union was “certainly a very important pillar of any world order but it needs to decide whether to remain reliant on the US or become more self-sufficient.

    Lavrov pointed to the EU’s migrant crisis: “NATO bombed Libya, turned Libya into a black hole through which waves of migrants, illegal migrants, rushed to Europe. Now EU is cleaning the broken china for NATO.”

    NATO contains no provision to suspend members deemed to be operating in contravention of its increasingly vague principles. But despite this, the US Congress and the administration are already taking steps to intervene in EU states such as Hungary, Poland and Turkey.

    The State Department advertised a grant last year to boost Hungary’s opposition media, and has in the past barred the travel to the United States of Hungarian officials over “corruption” allegations.

    The administration and members of Congress have criticised the Polish government over its judicial reforms. In October 2017, the US embassy in Ankara took the unprecedented step of ceasing to process visas.

    After NATO’s 2004 expansion east, the US-led military alliance had no plans for how to defend its new members, according to a retired US Army general and former US ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute.

    In the words of a recent US Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority staff report, NATO may be facing growing revolt from within. Viktor Orban “has taken no discernable steps to stop or even discourage Russian malign influence,” the report concluded.

    Orban has criticised Western sanctions against Russia. Multiple reports now indicate that Russian intelligence services are operating in Hungary, US reports noted. A former US embassy official called Hungary, “an intel[ligence] forward operating base in NATO and the EU”.

    “Back in 2014-2015 [the Russians] went from maybe 50-100 intelligence officers up to 300 plus” in Hungary, the former embassy official told Politico.

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