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Russia's Most Powerful Nuclear Missile Is in Final Testing Stage and These Other Weapons Are Also On Their Way

Russia's most powerful nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile has been undergoing its final stage of testing, with other advanced weapons on the way and some already in service.

At a promotion and award ceremony for senior officers on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed recent achievements of his military, especially in forwarding ambitious plans to develop weapons said to be capable of overcoming existing and even prospective defense systems. He then revealed some of the latest progress for these "modern powerful precision weapons that are determining and will determine in the future the image of Russia’s armed forces."

"The Avangard missile system with a boost-glide vehicle—our hypersonic intercontinental system—will considerably enhance the power of the Strategic Missile Forces. The final tests involving the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile have been a success," Putin told those in attendance. "As you may know, the Kinzhal hypersonic system and the Peresvet laser system have been put on alert duty.

"The navy’s new surface ships and nuclear submarines will be armed with advanced types of weapons, including the Tsirkon hypersonic missile, which has no parallels in the world in terms of range and speed," he added.

RussiaSarmatTest Russia tests the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon with a projected range of 6,800 miles and said capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads over either the North or South Pole, March 30, 2018. Russian Ministry of Defense

Putin unveiled a number of these weapons, along with other state-of-the-art projects like the underwater Poseidon drone and the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, during his March 2018 State of the Nation address. In the year since, the Russian military has conducted testing on all of these weapons, with varying degrees of progress.

Among the most highly speculated was the RS-28 Sarmat, previously nicknamed "Satan 2" by the U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance. Putin claimed the weapon "has practically no range restrictions" and "is untroubled by even the most advanced missile defense systems" during his 2018 speech and stated in his February 2019 State of the Nation remarks that it was "undergoing a series of tests." 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu later told reporters that the Sarmat had reached "the next stage of testing." Shortly after Putin described the Avangard—a weapon that Moscow has claimed could travel up to 20 times the speed of sound—as an "answer" to U.S. aspirations for a global missile shield, Shoigu announced that the weapons system capable of being fitted to the Sarmat would be "combat alert" by December.

Just one month earlier, President Donald Trump had unveiled his 2019 Missile Defense Review vowing to "detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime." The Republican leader's report specifically cited the threat of Russia and China's development of hypersonic and cruise missile technology in his case for establishing ambitious new measures such as space-based interceptors that Moscow and Bejing have warned may spark an "arms race."

image-5082767 An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, on February 5. President Donald Trump has vowed to “detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime” as part of his 2019 Missile Defense Review. SENIOR AIRMAN CLAYTON WEAR/U.S. AIR FORCE/DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Also raising concerns was the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in February. The U.S. accused Russia of violating the 1987 agreement banning land-based missiles ranging from 310 to 3,420 miles with the deployment of the Novator 9M729 missile. Moscow has denied the weapon goes against the pact and has charged Washington with breaking the INF terms through its installment in Eastern Europe of missile defenses that Russian officials have argued could be used to attack as well.

The debate has overshadowed attempts to launch negotiations toward extending another the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Russia has argued that the U.S. showed little interest in discussing the agreement—which has limits the amount of deployed and non-deployed nuclear warheads as well as carriers—and has accused its counterparts in Washington of potentially manipulating their nuclear reporting figures.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that, though "there are some arguments on the edges each, but largely [the Russians] have been compliant" with the treaty due to expire in 2021.

"Both the Russians and the United States have been compliant," he added. "We’re at the very beginning of conversations about renewing that. If we can get the deal right, if we can make sure it fits 2021 and beyond, President Trump has made very clear that if we can get a good solid arms control agreement, we ought to get one."

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