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Report: 'New' Russian nuclear programs alarm neighbors

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Russia,Military Budget,Vladimir Putin,Nuclear Weapons

Russia is expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal, raising questions from surrounding nations about what Moscow and President Vladimir Putin are up to, according to a new report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In the March/April issue provided to Secrets, the report reveals that the former Soviet capital is working on new missiles, nuclear submarines and bombers capable of carrying heavy nuclear-tipped bombs and missiles.

“Since our last Russian Notebook in early 2013, Russia has taken several important steps in modernizing its strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces. These include continued development and deployment of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), construction of ballistic missile submarines, development of a new strategic bomber, and deployment of tactical ballistic and cruise missiles and fighter-bombers,” said the authors.

“While much of this development continues well-known programs that have been under way for many years, other developments are new. Combined, the steps contribute to growing concern in other countries about Russian intentions and help justify nuclear modernization programs and political opposition to reductions in other nuclear weapon states,” they added.

When added to Russia's surprising moves over the last week in Ukraine, the information revealed in the new nuclear report raises the stakes in the diplomatic standoff between Putin and President Obama.

On the nuclear side, the authors also said that Russia has some 3,500 warheads slated for dismantlement under an international deal, but still intact.

“Russia had a military stockpile of approximately 4,300 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,600 strategic warheads were deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. A large number — perhaps 3,500 — of retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement,” said the report.

The report also raised a new issue: Russia has not dismantled the nonnuclear weapons it promised to. “Despite Russia’s declaration in 1991 and 1992 that it would eliminate all ground-launched nonstrategic nuclear warheads, it has not done so. We estimate that approximately 170 warheads are assigned to SS-21 Scarab (Tochka) and SS-26 Stone (Iskander) short-range ballistic missiles. The SS-26 will replace the SS-21 completely over the next decade, eventually arming 10 tactical missile brigades,” said the Bulletin.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.