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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Putin’s “Invincible” missile and its significance in Pakistan-Russian embryonic cooperation

News Analysis |

At the start of this month, just a couple of weeks before running for his fourth presidential term, President Vladimir Putin addressed his people at annual state of the nation. In his speech, Putin claimed that Russia has been successful in the development of a new state-of-the-art array of weaponry which is capable of penetrating through any latest defense system. Among this versatile new range of system, one cruise missile is capable of a low-altitude, super-fast, unpredictable path, capable of taking nuclear warhead and having ability to bypass any known missile defense systems, Putin added.

On a huge screen, in the backdrop of where President Putin was standing, an animated video was played in which the new “invincible” missile was seen flying over mountain ranges, crossing the pacific ocean and finally striking on the US state of Florida. In this speech in front of members of both houses of Parliament, also broadcasted nationwide, he termed this update of Russian Arsenal as a response to the American modernization of its missile defense systems. In the later part of his address, he vowed to reduce the level of poverty further in the country for his next term which is already brought down to half from 42 million people in 2001 to 20 million in 2018.

Pakistan is stigmatized for harboring terrorism which is a shame.

These claims were met by skepticism from the strategic analysts throughout the world as no substantial evidence was presented apart from an animated video. The idea of building a long range cruise missile with the ability of carrying nuclear warhead met certain obstacles during Research and Development phase in the 1960s, resulting in the termination of project.

However, it is surprising for the military aerospace analysts that Russia actually went on with this idea, and if this feat has been achieved, it is no less than a technological breakthrough. But the experts believe that no matter if Russia has been successful in the building such a sophisticated weapon or not, they certainly have made the United States question the entire defense paradigm on which their whole anti-missile defense system is based on.

Read more: Will India, Russia and Bangladesh’s new agreement on civil nuclear cooperation…

Since, a low-altitude, supersonic – may be hypersonic – cruise missile was never a threat until now, it was always believed that only ballistic missiles, which have a very high trajectory, are capable of nuclear strike. This high altitude flight made them vulnerable to detection and interception way before their intended target. Hence, making the United State feeling secure with the reliable Anti-ballistic Missile Defense Systems (ABMDS) they have developed over the years. Like every smart enemy, even if President Putin has bluffed about possessing such a weapon, he has made US question their own defense system which had made them think that they are invincible, so far.

The possibility of an all-out nuclear war between global powers like Russia and America is very low and has serious repercussions. Especially on part of Russia, which has a struggling economy and in army which is under the process of modernization, the stakes are too high. Both China and Russia, at this point of time, are not in a position to win a war against United States, which has led to a new strategic doctrine. In pure military terms, it is called Anti-access/area denial or simply A2/AD. The crux of this new strategy is to work out the most sophisticated tactical weapons which would make America’s intervention more costly and hence making them think twice. This strategy has made both Russia and China flex their muscles across their neighbors and  emerged at the end of cold war, global policeman of world order United States could do nothing about it. For Russia it was annexation of Crimea and for China, it is the continuous exertion of force with regional neighbors in South and East China Seas.

The alliance with Russia is still at a very embryonic stage, and there is a long walk ahead but being in the camp of these emerging powers, for now, has rendered it advantageous for Pakistan in the context of current geo-political scenario.

Significance of A2/AD in context of Pakistan

World had witnessed the catastrophe which a nuclear strike has the potential to inflict when US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII. After that, despite repeated assertion from President Harry S. Truman, during the Korean War that United States will use its nuclear advantage to change the course of war where it felt necessary, no nuclear strike ever happened.

But, the possession of such a weapon underlined a pattern that it could be used for the more political and diplomatic gains. Using it or not is matter of another debate, simply having an edge in terms of power can lead to change the course of affairs. We saw this strategy at work during the Syrian crisis where Russia prevented a direct intervention from United States by proactive deployment of its military assets within the Syria.

Read more: Pakistan and Russia closing in on better trade ties

The contours of new world order have pushed United States and India at one pole and Russia, China and Pakistan at the other. Though Pakistan possesses its own nuclear arsenal, but weak economy, inefficient diplomacy and insurgency within the country has not let it take advantage of this power. The alliance with Russia is still at a very embryonic stage, and there is a long walk ahead but being in the camp of these emerging powers, for now, has rendered it advantageous for Pakistan in the context of current geo-political scenario. If what President Putin has claimed to have is true, it is certainly going to boost Russia’s say at the global level in general and at Security Council in particular.

Despite losing thousands of soldiers and civilians in the war against terrorism, Pakistan is stigmatized for harboring terrorism which is a shame. Coupled with the bullying steps such as putting Pakistan on grey-list at Financial Action Task Force (FATF), things are expected to be rough in near future for the country. With increasing global influence each day of both Russia and China, Pakistan has got a vital opportunity to use diplomacy and cooperation with these powers to emerge from this hard time. In the new world order, country has a certain significance. Especially after CPEC, the interest in the stability of Pakistan has increased. Now it is up to the policy makers, diplomats and military leadership of the country to use these developments in favor of it.