Nuclear weapons in Russia's National Security Strategy are traditionally considered a priority. Since the end of the Cold War, the relations between Russia and the United States have undergone a complex transformation, but Russia still considers the strategic balance with the United States a status quo guarantee.
During the recent negotiations on arms control, Russia expressed its interest in missile defense and conventional strategic carriers. These issues may directly affect the control and prevention of any encroachments on the part of potential adversaries.
However, deputy defense minister of Russia, Anatoly Antonov, believes, to date, no country can oppose its armed forces to Russia. Tactical nuclear weapons ensure security of the state.
During a conference in Moscow last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that an attack with the use of 3,500-4,000 units of high-precision weapons would deprive Russia of the possibility to resist in only six hours. "According to current estimates from the United States, as a result of such an attack, 80-90 percent of the Russian nuclear potential could be destroyed," said Deputy Prime Minister.
When asked whether the U.S. had a real opportunity to neutralize the nuclear potential of Russia, Antonov said that no one in the world had such a "unique" opportunity.
Across the ocean, however, no one falls into euphoria. According to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller, U.S. nuclear weapons are in need of urgent modernization. Defense structures experienced global reduction that affected nuclear armed forces of the United States. The Americans are also concerned about Russia's efforts to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.
In February last year, Russian armed forces conducted large-scale exercises to test the tactical nuclear weapons near Europe, thereby raising "concerns" at the European U.S. Command. According to officials, Russia's main military body in charge of nuclear weapons, 12 GUMO, took part in the exercises. Military reports indicated three large objects for transportation and storage of nuclear weapons near Europe, including one - a few miles from the intersection of the Russian-Latvian border. Two other nuclear munitions storage complexes are located in Zhukovka, near Belarus, and in Golovchino, near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Remarkably, the exercises of the Russian armed forces coincided with Rose Gottemoeller's visit to Moscow, who serves as acting assistant secretary of state for arms control and international security. General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of Russia, referring to the nuclear drills, said that they were the largest maneuvers of the kind during the past twenty years (7,000 troops and 48 aircraft took part in the drills).
Russia's nuclear forces
As of April 2013, Russia has 492 deployed delivery vehicles, 1,480 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and 332 launch vehicles that can carry 1,092 warheads. Russia's strategic fleet also includes eleven operational and strategic missile submarines, eleven different types of submarines, equipped with 96 sea-launched ballistic missiles. Last year, Russia passed into service the new ballistic missile Bulava developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology. It can carry up to ten multiple warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers.
In August 2012, Bulava was commissioned on board two strategic submarines of Borei class. In addition, by 2020, Russia plans to build eight more Boreis. At the end of last year, Sevmash shipyard officially launched the construction of the first A-class submarine of Project 955, Prince Vladimir. The Russian strategic aviation also includes 66 operational and strategic bombers with 200 cruise missiles and bombs.
Other nuclear powers
Today, five countries are considered to be the largest holders of nuclear weapons: Russia, China, Britain, France and the United States of America. They signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The agreement legitimizes the number of nuclear arsenals, and excludes indefinite storage of nuclear arms.
Political analysts believe that due to secrecy, with which most governments treat the information of their nuclear arsenals, official statistics regarding the number of strategic warheads, might be incorrect.
There are also three other countries: India, Pakistan and Israel that did not accede to the NPT in spite of their possession of nuclear weapons. India held its first nuclear weapons test in 1974. The test spurred Pakistan to start its own nuclear program. India and Pakistan publicly demonstrated their nuclear capabilities in the late 1990s. Israel has never officially tested a nuclear weapon, but the country does not deny its existence, while stating that it will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons in the East. However, it is believed that Israel has nuclear weapons.
Another possible owner of nuclear weapons is Iran that has its own uranium enrichment program, as well as other projects in the field. Uncertainty remains only in the number of nuclear devices. Reportedly, Iran conducts active clandestine activities to create domestic production of fissile materials. The IAEA continues to investigate and monitor Tehran's nuclear program to this day. North Korea, according to experts, has from four to eight nuclear warheads.
In South Africa, a small number of nuclear warheads was secretly developed and then dismantled. Libya voluntarily gave up its secret nuclear forces in December 2003. Argentina, South Korea, Brazil and Taiwan postponed indefinitely its program to develop nuclear weapons.
As we can see, most powerful weapons on the planet are owned (or are able to create it) by quite a few countries. Russia has no open external enemies, but that does not mean that we are surrounded by "friends," who wish us nothing but good. Russia should build friendly relations with all countries of the world, increasing the technological potential of its armed forces. One should defend their interests strongly, but gently.