Moscow (CNSNews.com) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to build new nuclear weapons, which he said other nuclear powers did not yet have and were unlikely to develop.
"We will continue to persist in consistently building up the armed forces, in general, including its nuclear component," he said on Wednesday.
"We are not only doing research and successful testing of new nuclear missile-systems technologies," Putin told a meeting of Russian generals in Moscow. "I am sure that in the coming years, we will acquire them and these will be things that other nuclear powers do not and will not possess."
Putin said the weaponry "must become the core and the main striking force of the army."
Both the president and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told the meeting that while the government still viewed terrorism as the greatest threat to Russia's national security, the nuclear threat should not be forgotten.
"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."
Russia has long argued it has the capability to defeat the U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield now being developed, given the size of its arsenal. Washington says the ballistic missile defense shield is designed to protect America against single missile attacks from rogue states or terrorists, not from the arsenals of countries like Russia and China.
After President Bush pulled out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty to pursue the ballistic missile defense program, Moscow announced that it no longer felt bound by previous agreements that prohibited missiles with multiple warheads.
Russia has been looking into equipping its new Topol missile with multiple warheads, an option that would reduce the weapon's vulnerability to the American BMD shield, which is designed to intercept and destroy one warhead at a time.
Last February, Russia said it had successfully tested a new strategic supersonic system that would allow "deep maneuvering, both in altitude and course" of long-range missiles and avoid U.S. defenses.
Russian officials claimed that the prototype weapon proved it could maneuver so quickly as to make "any missile defense useless."
In September, Russia test-launched Bulava, a new submarine-mounted intercontinental ballistic missile. Russia also is expected to test-fire a mobile version of the Topol ICBM before the end of the year and begin production in 2005.
Putin's nuclear announcement came on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Chile, where he is due to meet Bush and other APEC leaders.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told a press conference Wednesday that the U.S. government did "not perceive Russia's nuclear sustainment and modernization activities as threatening."
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