Russia is militarily ready for a “Cuban Missile-style crisis” President Putin said late on Wednesday, commenting on nuclear first strike capability amidst growing tensions with the US. The remarks were given to Russian media following a prior speech wherein he warned Moscow will match any attempt by the US to station intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in the wake of the now collapsing INF treaty.
Putin specifically threatened deployment of hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines which could enter US territorial waters without detection if American intermediate-range missiles move into Europe.
“(We’re talking about) naval delivery vehicles: submarines or surface ships. And we can put them, given the speed and range (of our missiles)… in neutral waters. Plus they are not stationary, they move and they will have to find them,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript. “You work it out. Mach nine [the speed of the missiles] and over 1,000 km [their range],” he boasted of the Kremlin’s latest claimed capabilities.
He urged an easing of tensions after last week the Russian Foreign Ministry left the door open for talks to rescue the INF treaty as well as extend the New START nuclear reduction treaty, set to expire in 2021. Speaking of the current stand off and ratcheting tensions with Washington, Putin said, “They [the tensions] are not a reason to ratchet up confrontation to the levels of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. In any case that’s not what we want.” He said further, “If someone wants that, well OK they are welcome. I have set out today what that would mean. Let them count [the missile flight times].”
Emphasizing that Moscow doesn’t want to enter a new arms race with the United States, Russia would be left with “no choice” but to escalate if US advanced missiles were moved to Europe.
Putin noted such intermediate missiles could strike Moscow within 10-12 minutes. However, Russia’s developing hypersonic capabilities would give his military the edge, Putin said, delivered through its advanced submarine and other stealth capable vessels.
Speaking of US strike capabilities, Putin added: “It [the calculation] would not be in their favor, at least as things stand today. That’s for sure,” according to Reuters.
In the past weeks Russia has emphasized it is open for talks but will not continue to knock on closed doors, referencing the White House’s pulling out of the INF while blaming Russia for long being in violation of the Reagan-era treaty.