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

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.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
April 2, 2014, 10:38 a.m.

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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