Saturday, April 11, 2015

With Fewer Soldiers, Poorer Weaponry and Scarcer Allies, Russia Turns To Nuclear Saber-Rattling as a Defense Strategy

It wasn’t an ordinary Valentine’s Day for the students from across Russia arriving at a military institute outside Moscow. Their date was with a Topol, the intercontinental ballistic missile at the heart of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Mobile intercontinental ballistic missile launchers being 
sent to a testing range near Moscow in February. 
Photo: Vladimir Smirnov/Zuma Press
The new event was part of an initiative to promote careers in Russia’s missile forces, and it also reflected another phenomenon: the rising boastfulness about nuclear weaponry in public life here.
Amid the wave of bellicose rhetoric that has swelled in Moscow since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, officials as high up as President Vladimir Putin have been making open nuclear threats, a public saber-rattling with weapons of mass destruction largely unseen even in the days of the Cold War.
An RS-24 Yars mobile intercontinental ballistic missile
 launcher of the Teikovo missile division en route to the 
Alabino testing range in the Moscow region in February 
in preparation for the Victory Day military parade in 
Red Square. Photo: TASS/Zuma Press
Remarks about Russia’s nuclear strength play well to Mr. Putin’s domestic constituency, hungry for a restoration of lost military might.
They also come at a time when Russia has grown more reliant on nuclear weapons, as the imbalance with Western conventional forces has widened. During the Cold War, Warsaw Pact conventional forces outnumbered NATO’s in Europe, leading the West to depend heavily on its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent.
These days, Russia has fewer soldiers, poorer weaponry and scarcer allies. The inferiority and isolation have changed its defense strategy.
“It’s not just a difference in rhetoric,” said Bruce G. Blair, a research scholar at Princeton University and nuclear weapons expert. “It’s a whole different world.”
Recent Russian military exercises have included nuclear elements, and the Kremlin has vowed a full overhaul of Russia’s land-based nuclear arsenal in the next five years.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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