Putin’s Nuclear Weapons Announcement Ratchets up Arms Race

Statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist and co-director, Global Security Program

Published Mar 1, 2018

WASHINGTON (March 1, 2018)—Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the development of several new nuclear weapons systems that are designed to evade and defeat U.S. missile defense systems. 

Below is a statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

“Both nations understood that missile defenses would block reductions and encourage increases in offensive weapons when they signed the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, but the United States pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Current U.S. missile defenses against long-range ballistic missiles are modest in scope, ineffective, and easily defeated by countermeasures. However, the United States spends billions of dollars a year on missile defense research. 

“Putin’s announcement is a predictable reaction to the ongoing missile defense efforts of the United States. Now, it appears that the Trump administration is going to ramp up these defenses, increasing Russia’s concerns. 

“Even if deployed, these new Russian weapons will not increase the military threat to the United States—Russia already has hundreds of long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that can reach the United States.  

“What will change is the dynamic between the United States and Russia, which is fast deteriorating. Both nations have now stated they will deploy new types of nuclear weapons. In its Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration lays out plans to deploy a smaller-yield warhead on its Trident submarines and a sea-based nuclear-armed cruise missile.   

“Putin’s announcement further ratchets up what is clearly a new arms race between the two countries, increasing the risks that nuclear weapons will be used and making the world a more dangerous place.”