Maginot Line Mentality

The presentation of weapons — some known, some new — took up more than 30 percent of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address last week. 

Putin, who was not particularly engaged during the economic and social parts of his speech, visibly lit up when he got to torpedoes and rockets. For about 45 minutes out of a two-hour-long address Putin showed videos and animation and stressed Russia’s new missiles’ ability to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. 

Who was the target of the "nuclear message," as the address has been dubbed on some pro-Kremlin forums? Opinions about the speech ranged from awestruck praise on state-run channels to puzzled concern or jokes on independent opinion platforms and social media. 

"They’ve just shown Russia’s response to Elon Musk, with animation!" political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann quipped on Facebook, referring to the billionaire founder and CEO of SpaceX whose recent exploits, such as sending a Tesla car into space, have been widely discussed in Russia. "So where are we? Young Brezhnev loved tech stuff too," wrote Kirill Rogov, referring to the Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union between 1964 and 1982.

Interestingly, both state-run news media and independent outlets agreed that the speech was mainly targeted at Washington. 

"Did they wake you up, Trump?" Olga Skabeeva, the co-anchor of a Rossia-1 talk show wrote on Telegram. The fiercely pro-Kremlin current affairs show Vesti Nedeli made a bewildering comparison of U.S. missile defense systems to the Maginot Line, a line of defenses built by the French in the 1930s to deter Nazi Germany’s attack. 

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