- Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he offered US President Donald Trump the chance to buy Russian hypersonic missiles, supposedly to stop a US-Russia arms race.
- "If you want we can sell you some, and this way we will balance everything out," Putin said he told Trump, according to Russian state media.
- Putin said Trump refused, telling the Russian leader that the US was building its own weapons.
True or not, Putin's story about his talk with Trump appears designed to further the Russian narrative that Moscow is the reasonable party while Washington is igniting a dangerous arms race.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he recently offered US President Donald Trump the chance to purchase some of Russia's new weapons, including hypersonic missiles, purportedly to prevent an arms race.
The Russian president said that he told Trump in a recent phone call that the US could buy a hypersonic nuclear weapon Russia is working on, thus creating a kind of balance, but that Trump refused, telling him that the US was building its own weapons, Reuters reported.
"If you want we can sell you some, and this way we will balance everything out," the Russian president said he told Trump, according to Russia's state-run TASS news agency.
Putin delivered the comments — the truth of which is uncertain — at an economic forum where he again lamented the recent collapse of a Cold War-era arms-control agreement between Washington and Moscow, a pact that the US and NATO have accused Russia of violating.
Read more: The US fired off a previously banned missile, the first since the collapse of a Cold War-era nuclear-arms pact with Russia
A couple of weeks after formally pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty over the allegations of Russian violations, the US conducted its first post-treaty weapons test, firing off a conventional ground-launched cruise missile that exceeded the agreement's range limits.
Russia has said repeatedly that it will match American efforts missile for missile. Putin reiterated that on Thursday, saying, "of course we will produce such missiles," Reuters reported. While Russia insists it did not violate the treaty, there is strong evidence that it had already developed and fielded such weapons.
Putin's story appears to be another effort by Russia to present itself as the reasonable party while arguing that the US is dragging the two countries into an arms race — one that Russia may have actually started years ago with its development of the Novator 9M729 missile, which NATO refers to as SSC-8.
Putin said on Thursday that while "Russia is ready for this dialogue," it had "not received a clear answer from the Americans," according to TASS.
It's highly unlikely that the US would ever accept Russian weapons, which also require launchers and integration into command-and-control networks and still have a risk that Russia could disrupt them.
While the Russian president's account of his offer to Trump may be untrue, Trump, in a peculiar tweet after Russia's recent deadly missile accident, said, "The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia. We have similar, though more advanced, technology."
Responding to a query from Voice of America about Putin's stated offer, a senior administration official said, "Regarding our interest in purchasing missile technology from Russia: As the President has stated, the United States has more advanced missile technology than Russia. Our programs for safely developing, testing, and fielding the most advanced missile technology are unmatched."
Russia is believed to have been working with the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a weapon NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, when disaster struck early last month, prompting the president's inexplicable tweet.
It's unclear exactly what technology Trump might have been referring to, but the US has said it is working on several new projects as it looks more closely at the threats and challenges of great-power competition.