Russia will begin deploying a new type of long-range missile in 2018 to replace a Cold War standby known in the West as "Satan", a military commander said on Tuesday in a signal to the United States that Moscow is improving its nuclear arsenal.
A new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) called the Sarmat is being developed to supplant the RS-20B Voyevoda, the Interfax news agency quoted the commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, General Sergei Karakayev, as saying.
President Vladimir Putin has emphasized that Russia must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent, in part because of an anti-missile shield the United States is building in Europe and which Moscow says could undermine its security.
A pro-Kremlin newspaper reported on Monday that Moscow has deployed missiles with a range of hundreds of miles in its western exclave of Kaliningrad, alarming the governments of neighboring Poland and the Baltic states.
It was unclear whether the Sarmat was a missile that Russia tested in May 2012 and said should improve Russia's ability to foil missile defense systems. The Defense Ministry did not reveal the name of that missile.
Russia Strategic Missile Force Commander announced today that Moscow plans to deploy rail-mounted nuclear missiles as a defensive measure against the United States’ Prompt Global Strike missile program.
“A Defense Ministry report has been submitted to the president and the order has been given to develop a preliminary design of a rail-mounted missile system,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Karakaev told RIA Novosti, adding that work will begin on the project early next year.
The benefits of a rail-mounted program include the ability to camouflage the missiles amidst commercial rail traffic, unlike more conventional silo-based nuclear missiles which can more easily be located and targeted.
The START Treaty, signed by the United States and Russia in 2011, does not prohibit the development of rail-based missiles.
The fact that Russia decommissioned the last of its rail-based missiles eight years ago but is now restarting the program again suggests that Russia is embarking on a nuclear arms build-up.
Russia’s military build-up is a response to Washington’s plans to complete a project to install a missile defense system in Redzikowo, Poland by 2018 while another ballistic missile defense system in southern Romania is expected to be operational by 2015.
Moscow fears that the missile shield is in fact offensive in nature and part of a NATO military encirclement of Russia.
The news follows a separate announcement on Monday that Russia had moved nuclear-capable Iskander missiles closer to EU borders, a development that spurred complaints from the United States as well as Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
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