Hypersonic deal: Why did Putin offer Trump «Zircon»

Whether President Vladimir Putin joked when he told the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum that he proposed to US leader Donald Trump to purchase shock hypersonic complexes from Russia or he spoke seriously – it is not clear. Moreover, it is known that Putin is not joking just like that, his words usually have far-reaching consequences. Therefore, you need to catch some kind of secret meaning, where in every joke there is a fraction of a truth.

– Well, I told Donald: if you want, we will sell. And in this way everything is balanced immediately. True, they say that they themselves will soon produce. Well, probably soon. But why spend the money when we have already spent, we can get something from them not to the detriment of our security,” – Putin told the forum participants in Vladivostok.


Here it must be understood that arms sales deals, especially when it comes to hypersonic shock complexes, are not publicly discussed, and the “managers” in such cases are clearly not the presidents of the countries. So Putin used an oratory hyperbole, a clear artistic exaggeration in his words, talking about his proposal to Trump to buy hypersonic missiles. However, the meeting of the two presidents did take place in June 2019 in Osaka, Japan, on the G-20, and the issue of arms control was really discussed at it. The White House then, following the results of the negotiations, said that “the presidents agreed that both sides will continue negotiations on an arms control model.”


Putin now also recalled the topic of arms restrictions. “We met with our American partners for the last time in Osaka, and the question also arose of how it is possible to set our new modern weapons, including hypersonic missile systems, into general agreements, bearing in mind that so far no country in the world has , including the United States, there is no such weapon, ” – Putin said, making it clear at the same time that he already has such a slingshot in his pocket.


Note that meeting with Trump on the G-20, Putin did not start a conversation on the then not yet finally buried Treaty on the Elimination of Medium and Short Range Missiles (INF Treaty ceased to exist two months later, on August 2). Removing the restrictions allowed Moscow to actively conduct and already begin to test cruise missiles with a longer range than the 500 kilometers stipulated by the agreement. So rupture of the INF Treaty was more likely to be beneficial for Russia, which is now actively converting marine missiles (permitted) to land (previously forbidden), which can hit a range of 1,500 to 5,000 kilometers. Here, as they say, they have already passed. But for now, the current START-3 Treaty (until the beginning of 2021), Putin is still worried to a certain extent, and he is ready to extend it.


  • The Americans are now worried that they are noticeably behind Russia in developing precisely hypersonic weapons, which they consider to be a threat to their own security, – said military expert Vladislav Shurygin.

– According to American analysts, Russia has already got the opportunity to deliver high-precision strikes against selected targets. In this case, even the most protected of them will be guaranteed to be hit by a single missile. The United States suggests that the deployment of a group of Russian hypersonic missiles has already been carried out near Orenburg, and in total from 2020 to 2025 24 combat vehicles created on the basis of the Yu-71, known as the Vanguard, will be put into operation.


The Russian missile «Kinjal» (Dagger), the «Zircon» anti-ship, the «Avangard» guided warhead (all hypersonic) are either already in service with the Russian army or are being prepared for delivery — that is, they exist, and are not only being developed. And this, of course, gives Putin a serious trump card when communicating with his colleague, however, he does not use it as blackmail, but for now he is only joking. We can say that subtly quirks over Trump, offering him to buy hypersonic missile systems. He in response puffed out his cheeks and said that soon he himself could get it.


The Americans, indeed, also did not sit idly by and conducted their missile tests.

It is no coincidence that with the same efficiency as Russia, the United States announced plans to conduct medium-range ground-based missile tests by the end of 2019. Defense News weekly cites Robert Sufer, First Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Deterrence, on this subject. True, he does not specify what kind of missile in question. It can be assumed that this is one of the developments of Hera, MRT, Aries, LV-2, Storm, Storm-2, MRBM, which, in fact, are ready-made carriers for various types of ammunition. The United States also plans, according to the words of the acting U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCartney to deploy hypersonic ballistic warhead missiles, as well as new Precision Strike Missile missiles, by 2020.


Russia’s current advantage in creating hypersonic weapons may end sooner or later, and although Putin says that “we will still be one step ahead,” he is well aware that the next round of the arms race will not lead to anything good. Therefore, it is now declaring that Moscow is ready for a dialogue with Washington on the issue of offsetting hypersonic weapons in the framework of the negotiations on the START treaty. And even initially ready for some concessions, realizing his advantage.


  • We can talk about how to set off, bearing in mind the number of carriers and warheads of hypersonic missile systems. This is a special issue, in any case, Russia is ready for this dialogue, for this discussion. But so far they haven’t received a clear answer from the Americans, – Putin states, as if hinting that he was ready to extend START-3.


The United States has not yet made a decision on START-3, while considering it an extension unlikely. This opinion was also expressed by the adviser to the American president on national security, John Bolton. Donald Trump himself at a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Osaka, it seems, spoke out in support of the extension of the contract, but did not respond to specific proposals for the same hypersonic missile systems, he said, let’s see. The United States is trying to extract its own benefit from the START-3 extension procedure itself – if you want to extend the treaty, destroy the missiles. In Beijing, they modestly remained silent – China is not burdened with any obligations to develop strategic offensive weapons.


By and large, the START-3 treaty exists more formally. Nevertheless, each of the parties – Russia and the USA, pretends to comply with its conditions. Nobody wants a global nuclear war, but Trump and Putin are strengthening military capabilities. The topic of extending START-3 until at least 2026, for five years, remains the subject of negotiations and bidding, including the topic of  hypersonic missiles.