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Putin threatens US, NATO, possibly with hypersonic weapons, if they send weapons to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. (The Kremlin/Released)
November 30, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened a Russian retaliation if the U.S. or NATO allies cross a “red line” by reinforcing Ukraine by sending certain weapons, such as hypersonic weapons, cruise missiles and missile defense systems, to which he said Russia will match.

“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be seven to 10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed,” Putin said during an investment forum in Moscow, Reuters reported Tuesday. “What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now.”

On Monday, Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced another successful test of its sea-based hypersonic missile, tweeting, “The frigate Admiral Gorshkov performed another test firing with a hypersonic missile Zircon” with video of the apparent launch.

Putin noted the recent Zircon hypersonic missile test and, as Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported, said the missile’s flight time “will also be five minutes for those who issue orders” – the same flight time Putin said it would take for a hypersonic weapon launched from Ukraine to reach Moscow.

While Russia said it put its Avangard hypersonic weapon into service in 2019 and its Zircon sea-based hypersonic missile will reportedly enter service by early 2022, hypersonic weapons have not yet entered service with any U.S. military branches and, according to Bloomberg in October, NATO allies like France and Germany have only just begun investigating hypersonic weapon technology.

According to Reuters, Putin went on to criticize NATO allies for ignoring multiple Russian warnings against expanding the alliance’s military infrastructure eastwards, such as the recent deployments of Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Systems in Poland and Romania.

The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System is an expansion of the Aegis Combat System, and includes both defensive capabilities like surface-to-air missiles and missiles designed to counter ballistic missiles, as well as offensive weapons like the Tomahawk Land-Attack Cruise Missile (TLAM). Russia has complained that the Aegis systems, like the MK41 launcher, can be used to launch offensive Tomahawk missiles.

Putin said he did not want to see components of the Aegis system, such as the MK41 launcher, deployed in Ukraine.

“Creating such threats (in Ukraine) would be red lines for us. But I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Putin said. “I hope that a sense of common sense, responsibility for both our countries and the world community will prevail.”

Putin offered his warning remarks at the same time that around 90,000 Russian troops have massed near the border with Ukraine for weeks.