Fiona Hill, a British-born Russia specialist and former White House intelligence advisor who served as Trump’s deputy assistant, said Putin’s “nuclear blackmail” was likely to fuel international demand for nuclear weapons.
When the Russian tyrant invaded Ukraine in February, he made a reference to his nation’s nuclear deterrents, warning the West that any major intervention would ‘lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history’.
And in a further ratcheting of tensions this week, Putin test-launched his fearsome ‘Satan II’ missile which is capable of striking a target 11,200 miles away and is said to be the world’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile. The test came as NATO powers including Britain pledged to provide further arms to help Ukraine repel Russian invaders.
Suggesting that the world now was more dangerous than during the Cold War, Miss Hill told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that countries such as Japan and South Korea will be ‘really rethinking your non-nuclear posture and your reliance on the United States’ – in what is likely to be a reference to North Korea and China.
‘The nuclear issue is something that everybody should be concerned about on a global basis because he [Putin] is basically telling every country: You need a nuclear weapon,’ she said.
‘So the whole idea of non-proliferation is basically out the window because it is basically very clear that the reason we are not going after Russia with everything that we’ve got is because they’ve got a nuclear weapon and he is saying he’s prepared to use one.
‘And everyone is looking at this now and thinking, ‘right, well if I want to have my way with my neighbour, I need a nuclear weapon’ – that’s basically what Putin is telling us. And conversely, everyone is thinking, ‘if I’m going to have a good defensive posture, I can’t rely on someone else coming to my assistance, I need a nuclear weapon’.
‘So we are in a whole new territory that we haven’t even been in during the Cold War, and so this requires really robust diplomacy.’
Putin described the launch of the nuclear-capable RS-28 Sarmat as a ‘big, significant event’ for Russia’s military and claimed the weapon can overcome all modern defence systems. However the US described the testing as ‘routine’ and dismissed any global threat.
Launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome facility in northern Russia, the missile’s practice warheads hit targets 3,600 miles away at the Kura firing range in the Kamchatka peninsula.
If fully armed, it can deliver a payload big enough to destroy an area the size of France.
In remarks televised around Russia, Putin congratulated the military on the launch, adding: ‘This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those who, in the heat of aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice.’
He added it was ‘capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence.’ Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said the weapon was a ‘present to Nato and all sponsors of Ukro-Nazism’, a reference to the outlandlish propaganda claims that Kyiv is run by neo-Nazis.
Despite the timing – coming as Western countries pledge further heavy weaponry to aid Ukraine – the Pentagon said it was notified by the Kremlin of its intention to launch the weapon.
Initial tests of the missile took place in 2017 and the first full-scale launch was delayed from December, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The RS-28 Sarmat is designed to replace the R-36, which had been nicknamed SS-18 Satan by NATO.
Describing the successful launch, a statement from Russia’s defence ministry said: ‘Sarmat is the most powerful missile with the longest range of destruction of targets in the world, which will significantly increase the combat power of our country’s strategic nuclear forces.’