Putin flexes muscle in big test of Russia's nuclear arsenal

MOSCOW Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:34pm EDT

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with members of All Russia People's Front at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with members of All Russia People's Front at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin took a leading role in the latest tests of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal, the most comprehensive since the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

The exercises, held mostly on Friday, featured prominently in news reports on state television which seemed aimed to show Russians and the world that Putin is the hands-on chief of a resurgent power.

Tests involving command systems and all three components of the nuclear "triad" - land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles and strategic bombers - were conducted "under the personal leadership of Vladimir Putin", the Kremlin said.

An RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched from the Plesetsk site in northern Russia, and a submarine test-launched another ICBM from the Sea of Okhotsk, the Defence Ministry said.

Long-range Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers fired four guided missiles that hit their targets on a testing range in the northwestern Komi region, it said.

"Exercises of the strategic nuclear forces were conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia," the Kremlin statement said.

"Vladimir Putin gave a high evaluation to the combat units and crews and the work of the Armed Forces General Staff, which fulfilled the tasks before them and affirmed the reliability and effectiveness of Russia's nuclear forces."

The exercises included tests of communications systems and "new algorithms" for command and control, it said.

Russia says it is modernizing a nuclear arsenal that was largely created during the Cold War and will continue to use nuclear weapons as a key deterrent.

In the 2010 New START treaty, Russia and the United States set lower numerical ceilings on the weapons tested in the exercise.

But Putin has made clear further cuts depend, among other things, on Washington assuaging his concerns about anti-missile defenses it is deploying, including a European shield Russia says will make it more vulnerable.

Russian and American leaders say nuclear war between the Cold War rivals is now unthinkable.

But critics say Putin - in power since 2000 and back as military commander-in-chief since his return to the Kremlin in May after four years as prime minister - is exaggerating potential threats from the West to bolster support at home.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (80)
americanguy wrote:
These tests are actually directed at China, North Korea,and Iran.
The US knows Russia’s capabilities as Russia knows ours.
While Russia may pretend to be friendly with Iran and China, Russia does not trust either country.
Putin also wants to assure the world that the nuclear weapons must be authorized by him, just as it is in the United States and our President.
A strong Russian military provides stability and balance to the world.

Oct 20, 2012 3:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Progression wrote:
@americanguy

I think you are right. Russia and China are not, and never was joined at the hip. Russia wants to be the Asian super power, and they are reminding China that they are still relevant.

Oct 20, 2012 4:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
sangell wrote:
In a world where precision guided conventional warhead can land with a meter of its target the notion that nuclear weapon are militarily useful is obsolete. They are a sign of weakness not strength. That you do not have capable conventional forces.

Oct 20, 2012 5:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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