Russia has signalled readiness to include hypersonic weapons in the New START arms control treaty negotiations.
“High-precision hypersonic weapons have not been taken into account.. And they (U.S.) tell us: we hear that you have it, we don’t have it yet, we need to take this into account. We are not against, let’s take into account both the number of carriers and the number of warheads. We do not mind,” Putin said Thursday.
Signed in 2010 by then U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the treaty limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It is currently the only U.S.-Russia arms control pact still in effect.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed arms control and other issues. While Putin has offered to extent the new START treaty that expires in 2021, the Trump administration has pushed for a new pact that would include China as a signatory.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated earlier this year that Russia’s new Sarmat (Satan-2) heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty.
The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019.
According to reports, Russia’s Sarmat ICBM leverages Fractional Orbital Bombardment concepts (using space to deliver nuclear weapons by first launching them to low earth orbit) to use a Southern polar approach instead of flying over the Northern polar regions. Using this approach, it is theorized, it avoids U.S. radars and missile defense batteries in California and Alaska.
Earlier this month, Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said successful tests of the newest Russian hypersonic missile Zircon (also spelt as “Zircon”) gives confidence to Russian diplomats in the U.S. in arms control negotiations. “This directly affects our work in Washington. You feel more confident, calm and comfortable when you negotiate with your colleagues on strategic stability issues, on arms control issues,” Russia 1 TV channel quoted him as saying.