During a routine Congressional hearing on Wednesday, US military leaders publicly admonished Russian President Vladimir Putin for unveiling six powerful new weapons during his annual address to lawmakers, including what's believed to be a modified Iskander ballistic missile capable of defeating US and NATO anti-ballistic missile systems. Using Putin's escalation as one more justification for asking that all of the appropriations requested in the Defense Department budget be assiduously met.
Commander of US Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten, said Putin's declarations were "not surprising" and that he was "disappointed" the Russian leader would use these weapons tests to "further intimidate and coerce" the US.
Taking the hint from the generals that, unless the US makes a good-faith effort to address some of Russia's grievances, an arms race between the two countries could cost a ton of money, a group of lawmakers published a letter on Thursday calling for the US to engage in a "strategic dialogue" with its purported election-hacking nemesis, arguing that the matter is "more urgent" following Putin's unveiling of his new weapons systems, according to RT.
"A US-Russia Strategic Dialogue is more urgent following President Putin’s public address on March 1st when he referred to several new nuclear weapons Russia is reportedly developing, including a cruise missile and a nuclear underwater drone," reads a letter signed by US Senators Edward J. Markey Jeff Merkley Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders.
The letter was addressed to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and in it, the (mostly Democratic) senators stressed that while "significant" disagreements exist between the US - including both the allegations of collusion and election meddling, as well as Russia's annexation of the Crimea - these differences shouldn't prevent the two countries from engaging in diplomatic talks (of course, President Trump has already met Russian President Vladimir Putin in his official capacity as leader of the free world).
"Due to these policy rifts, not in spite of them… the United States should urgently engage with Russia to avoid miscalculation and reduce the likelihood of conflict."
Their main recommendation? Lawmakers are concerned that some of the brand-new Russian nuclear weapons are not covered by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, commonly known as the New START - and therefore, the US should consider pushing to broaden the treaty.
These weapons include a cruise missile with virtually no range limit and a nuclear-powered underwater drone.
Rumors had recently circulated that Tillerson would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for bilateral talks while the two are in Africa, where Tillerson recently left for his first trip to the continent as Secretary of State. But both the State Department and Lavrov have denied these reports (which, as we learned with North Korea during the Olympics, doesn't necessary preclude some backchanneling and jockeying to make the talks happen).
During his state of the union speech, Putin stressed that Russia would not have needed to develop these cutting-edge weapons had its legitimate concerns been heeded by the US and its allies.
"Nobody wanted to talk to us about the root of the problem. Nobody listened to us; so listen to us now," Putin taunted.
Putin has repeatedly blamed the US for encroaching on Russia via its NATO anti-ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe and holding military exercises. He also argues that former President George W Bush started down the road of hostilities when he withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty.
Putin's speech grabbed headlines across Western media, with many pundits clamoring about his decision to launch "a new arms race."
But of course, President Trump has taken some steps to reestablish warm relations, including refusing to enforce a round of sanctions passed by lawmakers last summer.
Quite a flip-flop from The Left, who have countenanced Putin as Hitler and hawkishly demanded 'action' against Russia for months... did they finally get the joke?