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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Promises New Nuclear Missiles

Itar-TassA Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile being moved Thursday to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome to be test-fired.
President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday that the defense industry was developing new nuclear weapons as part of a "grandiose but fully realistic" plan to rearm the military.

"We will develop missile technology, including completely new strategic complexes," he said during a televised call-in show.

"Our plans are not simply considerable, but grandiose. At the same time, they are absolutely realistic," he said. "Our armed forces will be more compact but more effective and better able to ensure the defense of Russia."

The clearly populist remarks were worded in a way that the public could easily understand. But the message also appeared to be aimed at the United States, which is determined to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, despite Russia's objections.

Putin also took a question on U.S. missile defense during the call-in show, vowing that the armed forces would respond if the plans went forward.

"If these decisions are made without factoring in the interests of the Russian Federation, we will take steps to ensure our security," he said.

The military's General Staff is preparing the response, he said in answer to a question from an officer who participated in the testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile earlier Thursday.

The Topol-M, the nation's newest intercontinental ballistic missile, was fired from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia and flew across the country to hit a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Senior Russian and U.S. officials have met repeatedly to try to resolve differences over the U.S. missile defense plans. Russia has expressed concern that the shield might be used to target its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Washington says it would only monitor and intercept missile launches from Iran and North Korea.

Putin met with the U.S. secretaries of state and defense last week to discuss the issue again, and initial reports indicated no progress. But Putin said Thursday that the two sides had edged closer to a compromise.

"The latest contacts with our American colleagues show that they have indeed given some thought to the proposals we made, and they are looking for a solution to the problems and for ways to ease our concerns," he said.

The Financial Times reported Thursday that the United States had offered to scale back its missile defense plans if Iran halts its nuclear program. The report, citing senior U.S. officials at a meeting of NATO governments Wednesday, said visiting U.S. officials told Putin about the offer last week in an effort to convince him to put pressure on Iran. Putin visited Teheran on Monday and Tuesday.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Wednesday that Putin had carried a "special message" that included the nuclear issue in talks with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But on Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied that Putin had discussed any such trade-off during his visit.

During his call-in show, Putin also promised upgrades for the naval and air components of the country's strategic nuclear triad, including for Tu-95 and Tu-160 long-range bombers. He said conventional forces would be beefed up as well, with the commissioning of a much-delayed fifth-generation jet fighter in 2012 as part of a rearmament program that will be completed by 2015.