Missiles of March: A political means of last resort for Putin

12 Mar 2018

(Brookings) President Vladimir Putin’s extra-heavy emphasis on new strategic missile systems in his March 1 address to parliament was quite unexpected and rather out of character. My colleague Steven Pifer suspects that Putin has “something of a fixation on things nuclear” and compares this trumpeting of wonder-missiles with President Donald Trump’s slogan “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” Putin is, after all, campaigning for re-election (the vote is March 18), though the outcome is pre-determined.

In fact, Putin’s animated presentation betrays ignorance rather than interest in missile technologies. He has indeed expounded on nuclear-strategic matters quite a few times, but not recently—and never in such fanciful detail. Careful assessments of Russian missile programs are necessary, but they cannot explain what prompted Putin to go ballistic—and why now? [...]

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