Russia will boost its nuclear arsenal with 40 new ballistic missiles this year, President Vladimir Putin told the crowd at an arms show today, while pledging to continue modernizing his country's arms capacity in the face of a faltering economy.
Speaking at the convention, which took place at a shooting range west of Moscow, Putin said that the new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) will be able to overcome anti-missile defense systems.
"Over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of penetrating any, even the most technologically advanced missile defense systems, will join the nuclear forces in the current year," Putin said on Tuesday.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, last year the country added 38 ICBMs.
While Putin was the main attraction at the arms show on Tuesday, Russian arms makers and the military also showed off major defense projects in the works. The Russian navy unveiled a carrier with a capacity for 90 aircraft, along with an amphibious landing ship similar to the one Russia had commissioned France to build for it, delivery of which was suspended in response to Russia's support for a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Tuesday's weapons announcement follows a statement on Sunday from Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, who said he and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter discussed plans for deploying American heavy arms equipment in the country. Russia's government said that the plans to place new weapons close to Russia's border could incite dangerous instability in Europe.
"The United States is inciting tensions and carefully nurturing their European allies' anti-Russian phobias in order to use the current difficult situation for further expanding its military presence and influence in Europe," the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday. "We hope that reason will prevail and it will be possible to save the situation in Europe from sliding toward a military standoff which could entail dangerous consequences."
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US-Russia relations have over the past year and a half reached their lowest point since the Cold War in the wake of Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and the ensuing crisis in eastern Ukraine. As a result, the US has imposed economic sanctions on Russia while working with NATO member states to develop a strategic response to Russian aggression.
As tensions between the two countries escalated last year, the US alleged that Russia had violated the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty that the two countries signed in 1987 by developing a cruise missile at a range barred under the agreement.
For its part, Russia denied the allegation and claimed that elements of America's missile defense system were in violation the treaty. At the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons held in New York in May, Russia's non-proliferation and arms control head Mikhail Ulyanov said that US provocation could prompt Russia to start build its nuclear stockpile.
"US actions have led to the appearance of completely contradictory factors which, in some circumstances, may even push Russia to begin increasing [its nuclear arsenal]," Ulyanov said. "At the moment, we are not planning to do so, but what is being done by the Americans makes it very difficult, and maybe impossible, to see real prospects for further steps toward nuclear disarmament."
In a statement on Tuesday, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow was prepared to hold consultations with the purpose of addressing both countries complaints regarding non-proliferation violations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.