Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Beefs Up ICBM Capacity

President Vladimir Putin told top military commanders Thursday that Russia will put dozens of multi-warhead SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duty.

In a separate development, a Defense Ministry paper released ahead of Putin's comments warned that Russia might have to revise its plans for military reform and nuclear defense strategy if NATO did not drop what it termed its "anti-Russian orientation."

Putin explained the move was to prevent further aging of the country's land-based strategic nuclear arsenal, and maintain its capacity to overcome any missile defense system.

"I am speaking here about the most menacing missiles, of which we have dozens, with hundreds of warheads," Putin told a gathering of top commanders and Kremlin officials at Defense Ministry headquarters. "Their capability to overcome any anti-missile defense is unrivaled."

Putin said the SS-19s would be put on duty to phase out hundreds of Soviet-era ICBMs that have aged beyond repeatedly extended service lives. Such replacements would give the defense industry a breathing space to develop new systems, he said.

Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush signed the so-called Moscow Treaty last May that requires the two countries to cut the number of warheads on combat duty to between 1,700 and 2,200 a side. It allows both countries to store, rather than dismantle the warheads. It is the scrapping of the START-II strategic arms reduction treaty, however, that has allowed Russia to keep SS-19s on combat duty.

Russia acquired and stored an unspecified number of Soviet-era SS-19s from Ukraine in the 1990s, according to Alexander Pikayev, a security analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center. These stored missiles can remain in service until the 2030s, deputy chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky told the meeting.

In addition to the pending introduction of the modernized SS-19s, the military may also revise its own nuclear doctrine if NATO does not amend its "offensive" doctrine, according to an undated draft Defense Ministry document on the modernization of the armed forces released to the press ahead of the meeting.

The document calls for a "change of Russian nuclear strategy" and "thorough reformation of the principles of military planning," if NATO's doctrine remains offensive.

While containing warnings to NATO, the 73-page document also praises the cooperation between Russia and the Western alliance.

It is the "new level of relations" with the West, including the United States, that allows Russia to "radically cut" its nuclear forces, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

He added that Russia should be ready to carry out pre-emptive strikes anywhere in the world. According to the Defense Ministry, the military should be prepared to fight two "conflicts of any type" simultaneously as well as carry out peacekeeping operations.

Ivan Safranchuk, the Moscow representative of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, said Thursday that the armed forces would hardly be able to fight two regional conflicts simultaneously, let alone two "conflicts of any type."

But Pikayev said that some of the speeches, including warnings to NATO, could have been aimed at pleasing patriotic voters ahead of the State Duma elections.