On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin directly threatened “lightning-fast” retaliatory strikes on any countries that intervene against Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In a speech before Russia’s legislative federal assembly, Putin said Russia’s forces and militias from separatist regions of Ukraine’s Donbas region “are heroically fulfilling their duty” and “all the tasks set, as I said, will be solved.”
“But,” Putin added, “What I would like to note and say now, I already spoke about this at the very beginning of the special military operation. Let me stress again: if someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside and creates strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast.”
“We have all the tools for this, such that no one can boast now. And we will not brag, we will use them if necessary,” Putin continued. “And I want everyone to know about it, we have made all the decisions on this matter.”
Putin’s comments about tools that “no one can boast now” may be in reference to Russian hypersonic missiles. Putin has previously described Russia’s hypersonic missiles as having “no analogs” and being unmatched by other nations. Russia has already used a hypersonic missile in the ongoing Ukraine conflict, attacking a suspected Ukrainian arms depot just miles from neighboring NATO-allied nations.
Russian officials have previously warned that they would strike at supplies flowing into Ukraine. In March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “any cargo moving into the Ukrainian territory which we would believe is carrying weapons would be fair game” for Russian military strikes. Earlier this month, Russia sent a formal letter to the U.S., warning that the continued flow of military supplies to Ukraine could result in “unpredictable consequences.”
Putin’s Wednesday remarks provide a broader, vaguer description of the types of foreign interference that Russia may retaliate against.
In addition to military supplies to Ukraine, the U.S. and other western nations have imposed dozens of new sanctions against Russia since the invasion began. In March, Lavrov said “a real hybrid war, total war” was being fought against Russia. Hybrid warfare refers to using means other than traditional military weapons to attack an opponent; for example hacking an opponent’s communications or damaging their economy with sanctions. Total warfare refers to warfare that treats the entirety of an opponent state, including its civilian population, as legitimate targets of military action.
Earlier on in his speech, Putin said Russia’s enemies “have accelerated the production of a new ‘geopolitical weapon'” in the form of “Russophobia and neo-Nazis.” Putin said this geopolitical weapon is not new, but Russia’s enemies recently “gave it new strength” and turned Ukraine into “anti-Russia.”