Nuclear Issues: Words and Deeds (II) By Andrei Akulov
16 January 2014 – Strategic Culture Foundation
Russia enhances nuclear potential
On January 3 Defense Ministry spokesman said the Russian military plans to test around 70 types of rocket and missile weaponry at a major testing site this year. According to Colonel Igor Yegorov, the Ministry’s spokesman, the testing program at the Kapustin Yar range in southern Russia will include about 300 launches of rockets, missiles, and aerial drones as part of more than 180 R&D projects.
The effort is not limited by «life-extension» or technical upgrade of getting old existing systems in the inventory, like: the SS-18, SS-19 and SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the SS-N-18 and SS-N-23 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The objective is to substitute the aging force with new missiles, warheads and platforms. Lieutenant General (two stars) Sergei Karakayev, the commander-in-chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces, has announced that the entire Russian strategic nuclear force will have been upgraded by 2021. The majority of Russia’s ICBMs are reaching the end of their service life, what makes the deployment and modernization of current and new missiles crucial to maintaining the country’s nuclear capabilities. Currently, a majority of Russia’s ICBM consists of older SS-18, SS-19 and SS-25 ICBMs which have been in service since the USSR. Russia is set to replace these older missiles with newer and more advanced 108 RS-24 Yars-M (SS-29), mobile and silo-based Topol-Ms (SS-27), as well as 30 SS-19 in nine divisions by 2016.
At the expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry on December 10, Putin detailed the efforts at nuclear forces modernization, mentioning that Russia is set to receive 40 advanced and upgraded ICBMs. It followed a meeting with the leaders of Russia’s strategic missile forces at the end of last November, where plans detailing the deployment of 22 silo-based and 18 mobile RS-24 Yars-M ICBMs were discussed. Moscow has announced it will deploy a new heavy liquid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile by 2018 which will boast characteristics superior to all previous Russian missiles, including the immunity to missile defense systems. Russia has developed a new solid-propellant ICBM, the RS-26 to be tested by the end of this year. Few specifications known as yet, the missile is reported to be equipped with a new warhead.
Russia has been implementing the program of getting eight new Borei class nuclear submarines into the navy’s inventory to become the core of its sea-based strategic nuclear force while replacing the ageing Typhoon, Delta III and IV class submarines. Each Borei is equipped with 16 (later versions may have up to 20) new Bulava SLBM (submarine launched ballistic missile). PAK-DA, a new long range bomber, is at the stage of development to replace its getting obsolete fleet of Tu-95MS Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers. The aircraft will be equipped with new Kh-101 and Kh-102 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles boasting the range of up to 6,000 miles. Tactical nuclear weapons can also be configured to be loaded onto the new Su-34 fighter bombers recently introduced into service.
Causes and reasons to define stance
Russia sees as threatening the development of Prompt Global Strike initiative allowing the United States to strike targets anywhere in the world with conventional weapons in as little as an hour, as well as the U.S. development of missile defense, which would tip the global balance of power. It has focused on enhancing the nuclear deterrent in response. Shortly before reassuming office for his third term as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine in which he underscored the special importance Moscow places on its strategic potential. The President noted that, «In a world of upheaval there is always the temptation to resolve one’s problems at another’s expense, through pressure and force. In other words, we should not tempt anyone by allowing ourselves to be weak. We will, under no circumstances, surrender our strategic deterrent capability. Indeed, we will strengthen it».
Speaking in his annual State of the Nation address in December, 2013, President Putin emphasized, «The increase by foreign countries of their strategic, high-precision non-nuclear systems potential and boosting missile defense possibilities could ruin earlier reached agreements on nuclear arms control and reduction, and lead to the disruption of the so-called strategic balance… No one should have illusions over a possibility of taking military advantage over Russia», he said. «We will never allow this».
On June 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that reductions beyond the levels in New START will make nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia comparable to those of other countries with nuclear weapons. «This means that further moves possibly proposed for reduction of actual strategic offensive arms will have to be reviewed in a multilateral format. And I’m talking not just official nuclear powers, but all countries that possess nuclear weapons», Lavrov said on Rossiya 1 television. (4) Russia has insisted that further offensive nuclear reductions also depend on a resolution of its concerns about U.S. strategic missile defense plans. US missile defense and ongoing nuclear forces modernization programs, the Prompt Global Strike concept and evident US superiority in non-nuclear high-precision long-range weapons, the growing proliferation of nuclear weapons on the world (the aspect the US avoids to take into account while putting forward strategic forces cuts proposals) – all these factors define the Russia’s stance on the issue… Let’s hope these burning issues will top the agenda of the upcoming Hague event to be tackled in a constructive and business-like way by all participants, who really strive to make the world a safer place by respecting each other’s concern and implementing concrete deeds instead of harping on turgid words with turbid meaning as it happens at world top events every so often.