Why is Russia increasing its nuclear arsenal?

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that the Russian army would be getting 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Alexander Nemenov/Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to the media during a news conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto following their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, June 16, 2015.

Russia will be adding more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Speaking at an arms fair west of Moscow, Putin described the new missiles as "able to overcome even the most technically advanced anti-missile defense systems," Reuters reported.

NATO quickly condemned the move, saying the Russian president's remarks amounted to "nuclear sabre-rattling."

Putin's announcement comes of the heels of the US proposed increasing its military presence in NATO states in Eastern Europe and the Baltic nations.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have asked NATO to permanently deploy ground troops to their nations as a move against assertive Russia. Additionally, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Sunday that he and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter confirmed reports that they have talked about the permanent stationing of US battle tanks and other heavy weaponry in Poland and other countries in the region.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James expressed her concern over Ukraine on Monday adding that the US could be sending its most advanced warplanes to Europe over Russia 'threat', CNN reported.

On June 8, President Obama described Putin as having a “wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire.”

Putin, for his part, says he is trying to protect the Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014, pro-Russian separatist forces have seized a large part of Ukraine's east.

According to the BBC’s correspondent in Moscow, Russia has increased its defense spending substantially under Vladimir Putin in an attempt to modernize its military program, including its nuclear arsenal.

Putin did not say which missiles were being added to Russia's arsenal. Last year, Russia tested a new submarine-launched missile that can travel up to 5,000 miles and carry 100 times the explosive power of the blast that devastated Hiroshima in 1945. 

The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia has a military stockpile of about 4,500 nuclear weapons, 1,720 of which are currently strategically deployed. By comparison, the United States has about 4,700, some 1,900 of which are strategically deployed.

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