MOSCOW, June 25 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in his recent address to officers at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that Russia was focused on strengthening its nuclear capabilities rather than building up its regular armed forces, which makes maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal increasingly important.
The two nuclear superpowers may be building up their nuclear capabilities, but no reasonable person can imagine using them. On the other hand, more armed conflicts are taking place in the world every year, which means the world needs more conventional arms or, better still, precision weapons with effects comparable to those of nuclear weapons.
As it draws attention to a Russian nuclear threat, the United States has accelerated its transition to conventional armed forces, lessening its dependence on its nuclear arsenal. Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John C. Rood said as much in late May.
Why is the defense secretary expressing this concern about Russia's nuclear strategy? Does he know more than we do? And, is Russia really preparing to make a breakthrough in the sphere of conventional weapons?
Western press reports acknowledge Russia has increased its expenditures on its armed forces as part of a concerted program aimed at restoring the nation's international standing after the collapse of power and international influence it experienced in the 1990s following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism.
These reports also have noted that during the two four-year terms in office of President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government worked hard to modernize its armed forces and make them professional and efficient in 21st-century terms. However, some analysts, both in Russia and the West, also have argued this modernization program has moved very slowly and encountered a number of difficulties.
Gates certainly appeared to be of this view. "Russia is really not investing very much in their conventional forces. It's really clear and for a whole bunch of reasons, demographics and everything else," he told reporters after his visit to Langley.
It seems to me the Americans are painting the situation in Russia's defense sphere all black.
Russian three-star Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Problems, commenting on Russia's triad of strategic nuclear weapons, including ground-based missiles, submarines and bombers, said: "We are really worried by what is happening. The mobile Topol-M missile systems are vulnerable to conventional strikes; their mobility is no longer a guarantee of concealment or protection. Rather, they have become a deterrence factor only toward the east."
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(Andrei Kislyakov is a military commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of the RIA Novosti news agency. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of the RIA Novosti news agency. )
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