On December 26, Russia successfully tested a new hypersonic missile system, Avangard, which flew 3000 miles before hitting its target in Northeastern Russia. The new missiles will be deployed in 2019 and Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaims this missile advancement as invincible. This is alarming news for many nations including the U.S., which has not achieved this technological advancement. As such, there is fear of another arms race.
In March, Vladimir Putin stated that the missile can reach up to 20 times the speed of sound, which is 767 mph. According to NPR, “Putin says Russia was forced to develop the Avangard after the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002[…] He says the Trump administration’s plan to scrap a treaty on medium-range missiles could lead to a new arms race.” Although the missile appears aggressive, Putin has publicly welcomed dialogue with the U.S. According to Reuters, Putin’s New Year’s letter to U.S. President Trump on Monday stated, “Moscow was ready for dialogue on a “wide-ranging agenda” and according to the Kremlin, “Vladimir Putin stressed that the (Russia – United States) relations are the most important factor for providing strategic stability and international security.”
I support the call for an open dialogue between the US and Russia, to avoid another arms race. A meeting between President Trump and Putin to discuss a new missile treaty would be ideal. An arms race would be disastrous for both nations, but especially the U.S. as the Avangard missile system can detect and evade U.S. ballistic missile defenses.
Vladimir Putin has spoken of the new missile technology since March. According to CNN, “the Avangard Missile system is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.” Thus, the Avangard reportedly travels at 20 times the speed of sound, can detect and evade U.S. ballistic missile defenses and has nuclear capabilities. It is suspected that the US cannot achieve this technology for a couple of years. According to NPR, “The Avangard weapon system is built around a hypersonic glide vehicle that takes an elusive path toward its target.” The Avangard system test was launched in Orenburg Oblast at the Dombarovskiy missile base and hit its target in the Kamchatka region. As reported by the Washington Post, “The United States is also working on hypersonic missiles, some of them launched from airplanes, although U.S. officials have warned in recent months that the efforts lag behind those of potential adversaries.” The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which Putin speaks of was signed in 1972 by the US and the Soviet Union. As stated by the Arms Control Association, the treaty prevented both sides from setting up nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. The U.S. pulled out of this treaty in 2002 to build stronger defense systems.
The missile situation with Russia is important. How President Trump and Congress move forward vis-à-vis Putin could set the pace for our two nations. Peaceful negotiations are what we need to support. To quote Carl Sagan, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”