Russian state media published video earlier today of its latest laser weapons system, the Peresvet. The move comes just a day after the U.S. said it would likely pull out of a key arms treaty between the two countries, and the timing of the video’s release doesn’t appear to be a coincidence.
“Peresvet laser systems, based on new physical principles, entered combat service in [a] testing regime with the Russian armed forces,” Russian Defense Ministry’s newspaper said, according to an English translation.
When President Vladimir Putin made his annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly back in March, he promised to deploy some high-tech weapons in the near future, and the new laser system got what you might call a “soft launch” back in July when the military first unveiled video of the device. But as tensions increase between the U.S. and Russia, it appears that Putin doesn’t want the West to forget that Russia is developing plenty of new weapons should the New Cold War turn hot.
What can the Peresvet laser system do? So far, Russia isn’t giving us any specifics. But the country wants to assure America that if the U.S. pulls out of the INF Treaty, as the U.S. State Department threatened to do yesterday, Russia is ready to go so far as to attack European countries if it must.
“If the INF treaty is destroyed, we won’t leave it without a response,” General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said today in Russia while addressing military leaders. “You as military professionals must understand that the target for Russian retaliation won’t be U.S. territory but the countries where the intermediate-range missiles are deployed.”
The INF Treaty bans the deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear weapons with a range between 310 miles and 3,400 miles (500km and 5,500km)—the kind of high-powered missiles that would pose a threat to Russia if placed in nearby European countries like Poland and Romania.
The U.S., reportedly led by Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, claims that Russia is already in violation of the INF Treaty and that Russia has 60 days to become compliant before the U.S. nullifies the landmark 1987 treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the ultimatum yesterday in a meeting between NATO leaders in Brussels.
But Putin isn’t shying away from what he considers a massive provocation. President Putin called the potential violation of the treaty a “thoughtless step” and said that Russia would “react accordingly.”
“Many other countries—about a dozen of them, probably—produce such weapons [in breach of the INF treaty], and Russia and the United States have limited themselves bilaterally,” President Putin said earlier today, according to the Financial Times.
“Now, apparently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States should have such a weapon. What is the answer from our side? Well it is simple: we will also do it then.”
The New Cold War sure looks a lot like the Old Cold War. But at least we have America’s best and brightest working on the problem. Right? Right?