Earlier we reported that in response to the escalation in the Syria proxy war, where the latest development was yesterday's arrival of German warplanes and supporting troops in Turkey, Putin gave one simple command: "I order to act extremely tough. Any targets that threaten Russian forces or our infrastructure on the ground should be immediately destroyed."
However, Syria was a secondary topic on Putin's mind today when during a meeting with his defense chiefs, Putin gave the order "to strengthen Russia’s strategic nuclear forces amid rising tensions with the U.S. over the global balance of power."
As Bloomberg reports, new weapons should go to “all parts” of the nuclear triad of air, sea, and land forces, Putin told a Defense Ministry meeting in Moscow on Friday. Action must also be taken “to improve the effectiveness of missile-attack warning systems and aerospace defense.”
According to Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s military will have five new nuclear regiments equipped with modern missile complexes next year, adding that more than 95% of the country’s nuclear forces are at a permanent state of readiness.
About 56 percent of Russian nuclear weapons are new, including modern missiles, upgraded aircraft and a strengthened submarine capacity, Shoigu said. Russia has also expanded the military’s combat capabilities by reinforcing its western and south-western army groups and building four bases in the Arctic region, he said.
Just in case it was unclear before, it is clear now: the nuclear arms race is not only back, but the probability of an accidental launch, in this day and age of "hackers" is so much higher.
That Putin decided to make the topic of nukes front and center just days after NATO's most recent European expansion is hardly surprising. Still, as Bloomberg notes, "Putin’s moves to reinforce Russian nuclear capabilities are reviving Cold War tensions with the U.S. and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The U.S. warned in June that the Kremlin’s “nuclear saber-rattling” is undermining stability in an attempt to intimidate European neighbors."
Russia’s nuclear arsenal, its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, in July led Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to call the country the most pressing threat to U.S. national security.
Putin said Russia’s military must continue its program of training drills and devote special attention to the “transport of troops over long distances” as well as “strategic nuclear deterrence” and the ability to airlift forces including “anti-aircraft, missile and electronic elements.”
Why is Russia escalating like this? Simple: NATO’s troop presence in the Baltic states and central Europe increased sharply in the past year, Shoigu said. The U.S. also has about 200 nuclear weapons sited in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey and has plans to modernize them, he said.
Russia has always said it will respond with by expanding its nuclear armament if NATO continues its expansion. Today, it did just as promised.