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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Calls for Strong Nuclear Forces

APVladimir Putin and Sergei Ivanov attending a meeting of senior military officials in the Defense Ministry on Thursday.
The country's nuclear forces must remain capable of guaranteeing the destruction of any potential aggressor, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

"Maintaining a strategic balance means that our strategic deterrent forces must be capable of destroying any potential aggressor, no matter what modern weapons systems it has," Putin said at a meeting of senior military officials.

He said Russia needed to build "principally new strategic weapons systems" to maintain the balance of forces.

"We're not going to keep comparing quantities of strategic forces in nuclear powers as we have been doing for decades, although it still makes some sense," Putin said in televised remarks. "In the modern world, it's the quality of weapons that is more important than the number of nuclear warheads."

He said that along with a strong nuclear deterrent, the military should also preserve efficient conventional forces.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said a strong military power was essential for Russia to "protect the nation's security and territorial integrity, firmly defend our national interests and, if necessary, adequately respond to any attempts of political pressure and blackmail," Itar-Tass reported.

In his state-of-the-nation address in May, Putin emphasized that Russia needed a strong military to resist foreign pressure. Windfall oil revenues over recent years have allowed the government to increase weapons purchases and fund the development of new weapons.

"The period of patching holes and elementary survival is over," Putin said Thursday in a reference to a cash shortage that followed the Soviet collapse. "The Army and the Navy are again acquiring power and self-confidence."

Ivanov said that of the military's budget of 820 billion rubles ($30.7 billion) next year, 300 billion rubles would be spent on new weapons, including 17 new intercontinental ballistic missiles. That is a significant increase over recent years, when the military was buying just several new strategic missiles per year. Ivanov added that a state weapons program for 2007 to 2015 envisaged spending the total of 5 trillion rubles ($188 billion) on the development and production of new weapons.

In response to broad criticism of poor conditions and rampant bullying of young conscripts by older soldiers, Ivanov pledged Thursday to punish officers who allowed abuses and open the military to more public scrutiny.

Ivanov said there were 473 noncombat deaths in the military in the first 10 months of the year, compared with 876 during the same period last year. Of that number, 20 deaths resulted from bullying compared with 26 during the same period last year, and 167 were suicides, compared with 206 in 2005, he said.

He said the military this year would disband all construction battalions, notorious for the most vicious bullying and other abuses. He added that three generals were fired this year for assigning to soldiers tasks unrelated to service.