Russian President Promises Upgrade to Nation's Nuke Force
In a blunt signal to the West that Russia intends to bolster its military might, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today said that his country will embark on a course of strengthening its nuclear arsenal.
At a meeting of Russia's defense leadership in Moscow, Medvedev ordered a "large-scale" upgrade of the nation's nuclear weapons in response to perceived intimidation by the NATO alliance, according to a news report from Agence France Presse (AFP).
"From 2011, a large-scale rearmament of the army and navy will begin," Medvedev said. "Analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that a serious conflict potential remains in some regions."
He added that the primary goal of the new directive will be to improve the combat readiness of the nation's military, particularly its strategic nuclear forces. "They must be able to fulfil all tasks necessary to ensure Russia's security," Medvedev noted.
The head of Russia's strategic missile forces, Nikolai Solovtsov, told journalists that his command would begin deploying its new RS-24 missiles after the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1) with the United States expires in December, according to the AFP account.
Russia claims that its multiple-warhead RS-24 missiles will be able to thwart any U.S. technology devised to prevent them from striking their long-range targets.
Today's move by the Russian leader should most likely be placed in context as the opening gambit in a long series of moves by the United States and the former Soviet Union to settle a wide agenda of disputes over nuclear weaponry in the months ahead, as the START 1 arrangement limiting atomic stockpiles draws to a close.
U.S. President Barack Obama is openly known to favor new negotiations with the Russian government to reduce the number of weapons of mass destruction held by both sides; and Moscow watchers believe the Kremlin is actually in favor of coming up with a revamped treaty.
One problem the two superpowers have in common is that their existing nuclear weapons are aging rapidly, with many delivery systems and warheads from the Cold War era approaching the end of their expected maintenance timetables. So a new arms reduction pact between the two would allow both to scrap their most suspect components and replace them with fewer, more-sophisticated ones capable of wreaking destruction just as great.
The next few months will tell if today's saber rattling from the Kremlin will achieve its desired effect and compel the new American president to move quickly on one of the most traditionally important issues in global affairs, on top of all the other pressing matters on his already long list of things to do in his first year.
[For more on the deteriorating U.S. nuclear arsenal, see What About The Nukes? by Francis Slakey and Benn Tannenbaum in this month's issue of IEEE Spectrum.]