MOSCOW - *President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia would regard any use of nuclear weapons against its allies as a "nuclear attack" on itself and give an "instant" response.*
Delivering his annual state of the nation speech in Moscow on Thursday, Putin expressed concerns about the new US nuclear posture, which has lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
The new American policy allows the use of nuclear weapons "in response to a conventional attack or even a cyberthreat," the Russian president said, adding, "Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against her or her allies, or a conventional attack against us that threatens the very existence of the state."
"Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, be it small-scale, medium-scale or any other scale, will be treated as a nuclear attack on our country. The response will be instant and with all the relevant consequences,” he pointed out.
Putin also said that Russia had tested a number of new advanced strategic weapons, which could not be intercepted, saying they would render NATO's US-led missile systems "useless."
They include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and a hypersonic Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that have no equivalents elsewhere in the world, Putin said.
The Sarmat system is capable of carrying a wide range of nuclear weapons and has virtually no range limit, able to strike across both the South and North Poles, according to Putin.
"I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia , introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country's development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened," he noted, adding, "You have failed to contain Russia ."
Putin further stressed that Russia had begun working on ways to counter American anti-missile capabilities as early as 2004, but that Washington had ignored Moscow's call for dialogue.
“As you see, we didn’t keep our plans a secret. We talked about them openly to encourage our partners to negotiate. I repeat, we talked about them in 2004 already. It is surprising, but despite all the problems that we faced in the economy, finance, defense industry, and in the military, Russia remains the largest nuclear power. But no, nobody wanted to talk to us. They didn’t listen to us, so listen to us now," he said.
Russian President Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow on March 1, 2018. (Photo by Sputnik)
Elsewhere in his address, Putin said Moscow's counter-terrorism operation in Syria had showed Russia 's increased capabilities in the defense sector.
He said "enormous work" has been done in recent years to reinforce the Russian Army and Navy.