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Strong Russian Nuclear Force Deters Conflict, Putin Says

Russia must maintain a robust nuclear deterrent as a counterweight to U.S. strength and as a contribution to international stability, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday (see GSN, Feb. 21).

Moscow “does not intend to disarm in a unilateral manner,” and its armed forces are preparing additional, stronger nuclear weapons, Putin said in remarks reported by Agence France-Presse.

“This is not only our national objective, but also an obligation before all humanity -- to keep a balance of strategic forces and their capabilities,” the leader said.

“This is very important. After World War II, this balance ensured the absence of global conflicts," he said. “Unfortunately, there are many regional conflicts and their number is only growing. But the balance of strategic forces will help avoid major conflicts.”

Putin, a vocal critic of U.S. policies, is expected to retake the Russian presidency in voting on March 4 (Agence France-Presse/Khaleej Times, Feb. 24).

Any additional arms control steps must involve every nuclear weapons state, Interfax quoted Putin as saying to a gathering of defense specialists in Sarov, a once-secret location that hosts nuclear research and weapons production operations.

"We cannot disarm forever while other nuclear powers are arming. This is ruled out," he said (Interfax I, Feb. 24).

Putin ruled out offering any concessions over Russia's nonstrategic atomic arsenal or other assets beneficial to the country's defenses (see GSN, Feb. 13).

The Obama has expressed hope that tactical nuclear weapons would be addressed in arms control talks that would build upon the U.S.-Russian New START treaty. The United States is believed to have roughly 200 short-range nuclear bombs deployed in several European countries, while Russia reportedly has about 2,000 fielded tactical weapons.

"I can tell you outright: we are not going to give up anything that we really need. We will give up only something that burdens us and doesn't provide any effect. That's it," Putin said (Interfax II, Feb. 24).

Eliminating Russia's atomic arms would become possible once the country adopts exceptionally accurate non-nuclear systems of similar effectiveness, ITAR-Tass quoted the prime minister as saying.

"Such armaments become comparable with weapons of mass destruction by their power, precision and delivery time," Putin said. "There is little difference by the effect of such weapons. There may be no difference at all in the future."

"We will abandon nuclear armaments only when we have such weapons, and not a day earlier. No one must have illusions about that," the leader stated (ITAR-Tass, Feb. 24).

Speaking at the meeting in Sarov, the head of Moscow’s Kurchatov Institute on Friday advised the government not to rule out potentially tipping missile interceptors with nuclear weapons in a move to counter a U.S.-led antimissile initiative in Europe, Interfax reported (see GSN, Feb. 23).

"If our program (of response measures to the U.S. missile shield plans for Europe) included the possibility of nuclear interception, I think this would have a great sobering effect on our partners," Yevgeny Velikhov said.

"Nuclear interception is the most efficient way to intercept ballistic missiles," Velikhov said (Interfax III, Feb. 24).

NTI Analysis

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Russia

This article provides an overview of Russia’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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