Vladimir Putin has once again invoked the threat of nuclear weapons, saying on Thursday that Russia will “pay increased attention to strengthening the nuclear triad.”

What does that actually mean?

The “triad” refers to nuclear missiles based on land, sea and in the air, and the Russian president went on to elaborate on some of the steps he intends to take.

Putin claimed that Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles – which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads – would be in service this year.

He added: “We will continue mass production of air-based hypersonic Kinzhal systems and will start mass supplies of sea-based Zircon hypersonic missiles.”

Didn’t Russia recently screw up a test of Sarmat?

U.S. officials do indeed think this is the case. A test of the intercontinental ballistic missile occurred around the same time that President Joe Biden was in Kyiv, but ended in failure.

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They also believe Putin had hoped to announce a successful test in the same speech as we’re talking about here, but Instead was forced to make the vaguer and more general claims mentioned above.

Is all this related to what he said in his speech earlier this week?

It is. Putin on Tuesday announced the suspension of Moscow’s participation in the New START arms treaty during a state of the nation address – a decision that was then approved by Russian lawmakers on Wednesday.

The 2010 deal, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two rival nuclear powers, the U.S. and Russia, commits them to limiting their stockpile of nuclear warheads.

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Putin’s treaty announcement was met with widespread international condemnation, though Russia’s foreign ministry later said Moscow would continue to comply with the treaty’s restrictions in a “responsible” way until it expires in February 2026.

What’s the bottom line – is Putin going to launch nukes this year or not?

That’s impossible to say for certain but seems unlikely. President Biden on Wednesday offered fresh criticism of Russia’s suspension of the START nuclear treaty, but stressed there was no indication Moscow was moving closer to actually using an atomic weapon

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“It’s a big mistake to do that, not very responsible,” Biden told ABC News in Poland on the sidelines of a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Eastern European leaders in Warsaw.

“But I don’t read into that that he’s thinking of using nuclear weapons or anything like that,” the U.S. president added, noting that he had seen “no evidence” of any change in posture on nuclear arms use by Moscow.

 

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