Boasting that Russia’s nuclear arsenal has already surpassed its competitors, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a fire and brimstone warning to his nuclear rivals Oct. 18, 2018.
In the event of a nuclear war, “the aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable, and he will be destroyed,” Putin said at an international policy forum in Sochi. “We would be victims of an aggression and would get to go to heaven as martyrs. They will simply drop dead. They won’t even have time to repent.”
“We have run ahead of the competition,” he bragged.
“No one has precision hypersonic weapons. Others are planning to start testing them within the next 1½ to 2 years, and we already have them on duty,” Putin claimed, potentially referencing the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile.
The Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, which Putin said can travel up to 20 times the speed of sound, hitting a target “like a meteorite, like a ball of fire,” is set to enter service in the near future.
This weapon can reportedly carry a conventional or nuclear warhead with an explosive yield ranging from 150 kilotons to one megaton, the Russian news outlet TASS introduced in March 2018.
The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K interceptor.
The US military, facing competition from both Russia and China on hypersonic weapons, is scrambling to catch up. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly working to develop advanced hypersonic systems for next-level warfighting. The US is also interested in modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
While Putin delivered his message focused on the nuclear destruction of Russia’s enemies, he insisted that his country would never strike first.
“Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that we would launch a retaliatory strike,” he said. “It would naturally mean a global catastrophe, but I want to emphasize that we can’t be those who initiate it because we don’t foresee a preventive strike.”
Russia dropped its “no-first-use pledge” in the early 1990s, writing a new nuclear doctrine with certain loopholes and exceptions.
The Russian “people are ready to defend our sovereignty and independence,” Putin added, “Not in every country are people so eager to sacrifice their lives for the Motherland.”
The Russian president’s tough and damning rhetoric comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the US and its NATO allies.
Starting late October 2018, US forces, along with NATO allies and partners, will take part in a massive war game involving tens of thousands of troops, as well as numerous vehicles, ships, and aircraft. The drills are designed to send a strong deterrence message to Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.