A Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile is launched against a naval target from the first-in-class Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov. Credit: Russian Defense Ministry.

The average Russian, as far as I know, doesn’t give a damn about the United States or the Pentagon, and doesn’t want a nuclear war.

They only want to be left in peace to enjoy what life can offer.

Like anywhere else, a good paying job, a nice apartment, a big-screen TV, a nice stereo system, and yeah, maybe a nice car, something sporty, and good quality vodka.

Yet their president, Vladimir Putin, seems obsessed with re-arming Russia to an extent that places it on a dangerous war footing.

The enemy at the gate, missiles on your borders mentality that once existed in the 1960s — described by Sergei Krushchev, son of the late Soviet premier’s son — appears to have overtaken the Kremlin.

Is it because of sanctions after he lost his marbles over Crimea, or the encroachment of the EU or NATO to Russia’s doorstep, thus diminishing Russia’s once great power?

America’s annual military spending is fast approaching US$1 trillion. How in hell is Russia going to match that?

Well, according to Putin, a new arms race is already in progress and it all started after the US refused to commit to the New START Treaty.

A flawed treaty which the Trump administration said had more holes in it than Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese.

“It has already begun,” Putin said during a year-end news conference on Thursday, according to a report from Tass. “This is obvious. Everything began after the US pullout from the ABM treaty.”

According to a report by military journalist Peter Suciu of The National Interest, the Russian leader stressed that the existence of Russia’s hypersonic missile system not only influences the situation on the global stage but changes it.

He claimed that Russia is now developing the most advanced weapons and this includes the Avangard hypersonic missile system, which is capable of speeds exceeding Mach 20, as well as the Tsirkon long-range hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile.

 The Tsirkon, which Putin said has largely been completed, is also capable of flying at over eight times the speed of sound, National Interest reported.

“Moreover, it [the Tsirkon missile] can be placed both on stationary carriers and on surface and subsurface ships,” Putin added.

“Where can it be placed? In neutral waters. So, you can calculate the range and the speed and everything will become clear. Does this change and influence the situation somehow? Of course, it changes and influences it.”

The Russian Navy performed a successful test of the Tsirkon from a floating surface vessel in the Barents Sea near the Arctic region in late November, and also released a video.

The update on the Avangard and Tsirkon comes almost two years after Putin’s State-of-the-Nation Address to the Federal Assembly in February 2019, during which he said the latter platform was capable of developing a speed of about Mach 9 and its striking range capability could exceed one thousand kilometers, National Interest reported.

At that previous speed, the Russian leader also said that the Tsirkon could strike both naval and ground targets.

Russia has touted the capabilities of the Avangard, which is reported to have both hypersonic speed and an ability to fly a “maneuvering” flight path through the atmosphere.

Such a combination would make it considerably difficult to counter.

The first missile regiment armed with Avangard hypersonic weapons assumed combat duty in the Yasnenskaya missile division in the Orenburg Region in late 2019, National Interest reported.

In addition to its focus on developing hypersonic weapons, Putin also said that Russia is working on the systems to counter such platforms.

This would include the S-300 surface-to-air missile system that has proven capable of destroying hypersonic targets, National Interest reported.

Additionally, Russia is working on the S-500 air defense system, and development is set to be completed next year.

“We are working, among other things, on the ‘antidote’ against future hypersonic weapons in other countries, in the world’s other leading armies,” Putin explained. “I am confident that we will do that and we are on the right way.”

According to The War Zone, there have also been unconfirmed reports that the Tsirkon may employ “plasma stealth” technology, in which it’s shrouded from hostile radar by a cloud of radar-absorbing ionized particles.

Putin himself has said that the first-in-class Project 20385 corvette Gremyashchiy, also assigned to the Pacific Fleet, “will certainly have Tsirkon,” during a visit to Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea in October 2019.