Russia Says US Seeks ‘Absolute Dominance’ in Military, but Putin Won’t Allow It
Tom O’Connor / Newsweek
(May 3, 2021) — Russia has said that the United States is seeking to attain total hegemony in military might, but Russian President Vladimir Putinwas working to ensure that would never be the case.
Speaking with the RIA Novosti news outlet, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova evaluated the recent efforts by US President Joe Biden to expand the Pentagon‘s anti-missile infrastructure by spending an estimated $18 billion for new interceptors in Alaska.
She argued this project, along with new defensive and offensive systems deployed abroad, “can and is already leading to serious consequences in the security sphere.”
“It is upsetting the strategic balance of power in the world and spurring an arms race, including missiles,” Zakharova said.
And while she welcomed the Biden administration’s initial overtures to discuss arms control with Moscow, she warned that the ongoing US build-up was fueling tensions that extend beyond even the planet itself.
“The United States is striving for absolute dominance in the military sphere, and is banking on a depletion of Russia’s nuclear deterrent potential, with an emphasis on creating a global missile defense system,” Zakharova said. “Their other efforts towards the same goal include the expansion of their military space capabilities and the creation of ‘prompt-strike non-nuclear high-precision weapons.'”
The prompt global strike concept, or PGS, has its roots in an early 2000s effort to develop a conventional weapon capable of striking any target on Earth within an hour. Focus for such a project wavered over time, but has been given new life with the dawn of more advanced hypersonic weapons, especially those developed by Russia, which has begun to roll out its Avangard boost-glide vehicle system in recent years.
A similar effort by the US suffered a blow recently when a booster test vehicle for the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) failed to launch from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber carrying it for a trial last month. The US Air Force vowed to carry on despite the setback.
But Russia has vowed to match any US advances with innovations of its own.
“For our part,” Zakharova said, “we intend to act in accordance with the task set by the President of Russia to ensure a conflict-free coexistence by maintaining the balance of power and strategic stability.”
The US military‘s presence across the globe is unmatched. The Pentagon maintains more than 800 bases around the world, compared to Russia’s handful. Up to 70,000 US troops operate in Europe, including in NATO Western military alliance countries that directly border Russia.
In two such nations, Romania and Poland, the US has deployed advanced anti-missile systems that Moscow has long argued could be repurposed for offensive use. Those concerns were exacerbated in n August 2019, when former President Donald Trump exited the 1987 Intermediate-Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that banned mid-range weapons platforms based on land.
As Putin pursued the development of cutting-edge nuclear-capable weapons systems said to be “invincible” to modern defenses, Trump initiated an expansive Missile Defense Review in 2019 with the aim of establishing a shield that could “detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime.”
Biden, for his part, has expressed more measured views toward US missile infrastructure than his predecessor. With both countries in the midst of mass-producing new weapons of war, however, he has also said he would not halt the further deployment of the national missile defense system for more testing.
“The catastrophic consequences of even a single nuclear detonation in the United States require that we pursue an effective missile defense system,” then-Democratic candidate Biden said in response to a questionnaire presented by the think tank A Council for a Livable World last October. “Even an imperfect defense can have a deterrent effect. At the same time, we must insist on a rigorous testing program to continually improve the reliability of our defenses.”
The Pentagon published a report Monday highlighting ongoing efforts to advance the US military’s hypersonic arsenal and specifically names advances by top competitors Russia and China as motivating factors.
“[Hypersonics] capability is so important [that] the 2017 National Defense Strategy establishes [DOD’s] need to deter and, if necessary, defeat our great-power competitors, China and Russia,” Michael E. White, the principal director for hypersonics in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said. “And for more than a decade, these great-power competitors have been rapidly developing highly capable systems that challenge our domain dominance on the tactical battlefield.”
White said US subsonic weapons systems “will take on the order of 10 times longer to fly long-range strike missions when compared to the adversary’s high-speed systems,” creating “a battlefield asymmetry and timescale that we simply cannot allow to stand.”
Since coming to office in January, Biden has expressed a sense of urgency in bringing non-proliferation to the forefront of discussions between Washington and Moscow, having extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Putin just days after taking office. The deal imposes limits and mutual verification measures on the world’s top two nuclear arsenals, those of Russia and the US
Arms control has so far been a central feature in conversations between Biden and Putin, and the US leader hinted last month at the potential for a bilateral summit to address the issue further.
“Out of that summit—were it to occur, and I believe it will—the United States and Russia could launch a strategic stability dialogue to pursue cooperation in arms control and security,” Biden said at the time.
While Biden also identified common goals on other nuclear-related foreign policy issues such as Iran and North Korea, as well as areas such as the Afghanistan conflict and climate change, he has been vocal in his criticism of Putin on a number of other fronts.
Biden has accused his Russian counterpart of destabilizing Ukraine, assassination attempts on rivals, and orchestrating cyberattacks against the US, an allegation for which Washington has slapped new sanctions against Moscow, and for which Russia denies all wrongdoing.
Despite these tensions, Russia has made it clear it’s willing to talk. In order to reach a deal, though, Zakharova said Friday that given the recent breakdowns in the arms control framework of the two powers, her country would first have to identify discernible interests.
“We are ready for a substantive and constructive dialogue,” Zakharova said. “However, we will not agree on anything unless our interests and concerns are taken into account, including in the missile defense sphere. If we succeed in jointly finding a balance of interests, we will then start discussing agreements. Our colleagues in Washington should understand and take this into account.”
Comparing Nuclear Arsenals
A graph published April 1 by the US State Department details the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia as of March 1 pursuant to mutual verification measures outlined in New START.
• Deployed ICBMs, Deployed SLBM, and Deployed Heavy Bombers:
Russian Federation: 517
• Warheads on Deployed ICBMs, on Deployed SLBMs, and Nuclear Warheads Counted for Deployed Heavy Bombers:
Russian Federation: 1456
• Deployed and Non-deployed Launchers of ICBMs, Deployed and Non0deployed Launchers of SLBMs, and Deployed and Non-deployed Heavy Bombers:
Russian Federation: 767
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