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Russia Fields More Nuclear Weapons, But Expert Says Not to Panic

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

A column of Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launchers participates in a 2012 parade rehearsal in Moscow. Russia fielded more strategic nuclear weapons over a recent six-month period, according to newly released figures. A column of Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launchers participates in a 2012 parade rehearsal in Moscow. Russia fielded more strategic nuclear weapons over a recent six-month period, according to newly released figures. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia has fielded more strategic nuclear weapons over the past six months, but a longtime U.S. analyst suggests the development is unremarkable.

Moscow boosted its count of "deployed" nuclear-bomb delivery vehicles by 25 between Sept. 1 and March 1, increasing its total number of fielded systems to 498, according to an independent analysis of figures made public on Tuesday. The delivery platforms can include nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles held in submarines and underground silos, as well as certain long-range bomber aircraft.

Still, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said Russia's additional deployments do not mean Moscow is adopting a more aggressive posture.

Rather, they fell in a series of other nuclear-arms "fluctuations" that Russia and the United States have reported under the terms of a nuclear arms control treaty, he said.

"At the time of the previous data release in September 2013, the United States appeared to have increased its forces. But that was also an anomaly reflecting temporary fluctuations in the deployed force," Kristensen said in an analysis for the FAS Strategic Security blog.

The United States decreased its count of deployed launch platforms by 31 between September and March, according to the data released by the U.S. State Department. However, Washington still fielded 300 more delivery systems than its former Cold War adversary.

Neither government released specifics on how it rearranged its missiles or bombers between September and March.

Kristensen noted, though, that Washington plans to issue "a declassified overview of its forces" later this year.

"Russia does not publish a detailed overview of its strategic forces," he wrote.

Under the New START arms control treaty, each side by 2018 must cap its deployments at 700 missiles and bombers, with backup fleets of no more than 100 additional delivery vehicles. The pact also would also bar each country from deploying more than 1,550 nuclear warheads.

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