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Russia plans new-generation nuke weapons
Updated: 2004-11-18 09:35

Russian President Vladimir Putin served notice that Russia intended to remain a major nuclear power by deploying a new weapon in the coming years that other states lack and are unlikely to develop in the near future.

President Vladimir Putin said that Russia will in the coming years acquire new nuclear weapon systems which other nuclear powers do not yet have and are unlikely to develop in the near future, news agencies reported. [AFP]
"We have not only conducted tests of the latest nuclear rocket systems," Putin told a meeting of the Armed Forces' leadership. "I am sure that in the coming years we will deploy them.

"Moreover, these will be things which do not exist and are unlikely to exist in other nuclear powers," he added.

Putin failed to specify what type of complex he was referring to, but Russia has been seeking to upgrade its nuclear arsenal after the United States announced plans in 2001 to deploy a missile defense shield in abrogation of its 1972 ABM Treaty with Moscow.

Washington argues its shield would be capable of defending the United States only from attacks from so-called "rogue states" and could not stand up to Russia's massive Soviet-era nuclear arsenal.

However Putin has since mentioned plans for Russia to also develop a similar system along with new types of intercontinental missiles that Moscow claims could penetrate any space shield put up by the United States.

The ITAR-TASS news agency speculated that Putin was referring to the mobile Topol-M missile, which is analogous to the US Minuteman-3 missile and is meant to form the backbone of Russia's future strategic nuclear arsenal.

Russia this year also successfully test-fired a different new missile that its developers claim can penetrate any shield, since it flies in space on a ballistic trajectory and in the atmosphere as a cruise missile -- swerving away from interceptor rockets.

The Topol-M is the first intercontinental missile developed by Russia alone following the Soviet Union's collapse, but deployment of the land-based mobile unit -- initially set for the end of 2002 -- has been repeatedly delayed because of severe cash constraints.

The ITAR-TASS report quoted the missile's Moscow developer as saying that funding for mass production of the mobile Topol-M will be included in the military's 2005 procurement budget.

If that timetable is respected, the missiles could be issued to the armed forces in 2006. Topol-Ms have been deployed in silos since 1998.

The shift in attention to nuclear deterrence came unexpectedly because Putin has for months pointed to international terrorism as the chief threat to Russia's national security amid a wave of deadly suicide attacks from guerrillas in rebel Chechnya.

Putin said Wednesday that Russia still viewed terrorism as the greatest threat to its national security but should also not forget about nuclear dangers.

"We understand that the moment we turn our attention from such elements of our defenses as a nuclear missile shield, then we will be facing new threats," Putin said.

"That is why we will continue to persistently develop our armed forces on the whole, including its nuclear arsenal potential," Putin said.

Putin said that Russia should also build up its navy's nuclear capacity -- it had 10 successful sea-based test launches this year -- and generally work to modernize armed forces that remain bogged down in war-torn Chechnya for a sixth year.

However analysts point to Russia's financial struggles and question how the military intends to follow through on Putin's vow.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov reported at the same meeting that the 2005 budget has only pencilled in the purchase of four intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"This proves that Russia is still working from a doctrine of nuclear dissuasion as was the case in the 1990s. This highlights the weakness of its conventional forces," said independent political analyst Alexander Golts.

"The West should not get too excited about this" because it reflects an outdated mentality, Golts said.

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