Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Buildup Is Aimed at Beating U.S. Missile Defenses

    Dave Majumdar


    Experts in Russia agreed that Putin was sending a very blunt message to the Trump Administration—if Washington wants a new Cold War, Moscow is up for a rematch.

    Russia is developing a host of new strategic nuclear weapons designed to defeat American missile defenses.

    According to the Kremlin, Russia was spurred into action by U.S. President George W. Bush’s December 13, 2001 decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. However, while the Russians are developing a host of new weapons, there will likely be little overall impact on the strategic balance between Moscow and Washington. The real problem is that these developments strain the hard-won arms control regime that played a decisive role in helping bring the Cold War with the Soviet Union to a close. Moreover, as tensions between the United States and Russia continue to increase, the two great powers seem to be drifting into what can only be described as a new Cold War.

    “During all these years since the unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, we have been working intensively on advanced equipment and arms, which allowed us to make a breakthrough in developing new models of strategic weapons,” Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said during a March 1 address to the Federal Assembly. “Let me recall that the United States is creating a global missile defense system primarily for countering strategic arms that follow ballistic trajectories. These weapons form the backbone of our nuclear deterrence forces, just as of other members of the nuclear club.”

    Preserving Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent

    To counter what the Kremlin sees as the United States’ goal of undermining Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent, Moscow has embarked on a program to develop new weapons capable of defeating any new American ballistic missile defense system. “Russia has developed, and works continuously to perfect, highly effective but modestly priced systems to overcome missile defense. They are installed on all of our intercontinental ballistic missile complexes,” Putin said. “In addition, we have embarked on the development of the next generation of missiles.”

    Among those weapons is the formidable Sarmat heavy liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missile, which is being developed as a replacement for the massive 210-ton R-36M2 Voevoda, which is appropriately called the SS-18 Satan by NATO. The weapon flies on novel trajectories to thwart any attempt at interception by missile defenses.

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