Russia Orders Military to Watch for U.S. Missile Deployments

Russia has ordered its military to watch for new U.S. missile deployments as the Pentagon pressed forward in developing weapons banned for decades by Moscow and Washington.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a conference call Friday with military leaders, whom he told that "it is necessary to conduct a deep analysis of potential military threats and outline measures to improve the Armed Forces." Shoigu called on his personnel to keep an eye on the United States' burgeoning short-to-mid-range missile program.

"It is necessary to monitor the deployment of medium-range and shorter-range missiles by the United States of America," Shoigu said.

The move comes as the world's top two military powers appear to be teetering on the brink of an arms race. President Donald Trump has walked away from key, historic arms control deals and the Pentagon is shoring up its offensive and defensive systems around the world.

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accelerated efforts to revamp his own weaponry.

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The U.S. Air Force, in partnership with the Strategic Capabilities Office, conducts a flight test of a prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, December 12, 2019. The missile would have been banned under the INF Treaty, but the U.S. withdrew months last. Michael Stonecypher/30th Space Wing Public Affairs/U.S. Air Force

At Friday's meeting, Shoigu instructed his top brass to "progressively rearm the Strategic Missile Forces on the Avangard and Yars complexes and the naval nuclear forces on the latest strategic submarines of the Borey-A class."

The RS-24 Yars is an intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard is a hypersonic glide vehicle said to be capable of traveling across the globe at up to 20 times the speed of sound. Both are nuclear-capable weapons and part of Moscow's efforts to modernize its military prowess.

This improvement drive also included the development of the Novator 9M729 cruise missile, a weapon that Washington has long argued violates the 1987 bilateral Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that bans land-launched weapons ranging from 310 to 3,420 miles. Russia denies any violation and accuses the U.S. of violating their pact by deploying anti-missile systems that Moscow argues could also be used to attack as well.

After months of warnings, the Trump administration officially left the INF in August and, shortly after, tested a short-range ground-based cruise missile using the same kind of launchers deployed defensively at NATO Western military alliance positions in Easter Europe. The U.S. conducted a second short-range test last month, this time a ballistic missile.

Both times, Russia—and China—reacted with deep criticism. Putin has ordered his military and defense industry officials to develop such short- and medium-range missile as well, but has announced a self-imposed moratorium on deploying such weapons.

Still, Russia continues to develop other advanced, nuclear-capable platforms such as the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, the nuclear-powered Poseidon underwater drone and the nuclear-powered 9M730 Burevestnik cruise missile. Another such weapon, the hypersonic, air-launched Kinzhal missile has already been deployed, creating a potential strategic gap for the U.S.

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Russia tests an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Mirny, Arkhangelsk province, October 17, as part of the Thunder 2019 Strategic Missile Forces drills. Russia and the U.S. have by most of the world's nuclear weapons and both have nuclear triads capable of delivering them from land, sea and air. Russian Ministry of Defense

Trump told reporters Wednesday that "under construction are many hypersonic missiles," touting that the "U.S. Armed Forces are stronger than ever before" under his administration. While the president has focused on securing U.S. military dominance, another longstanding non-proliferation agreement hung in the balance.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is effectively the final mechanism limiting the U.S. and Russia's nuclear capabilities and allowing them to inspect and monitor one another's stockpiles. The deal, which is the latest incarnation of an agreement first reached in 1991, was set to expire in February of next year. The Trump administration has given no indication it was willing to extend it.

A five-year renewal would require no legislative authority from either Washington or Moscow and Putin has already pledged to "immediately" prolong the agreement "without conditions." Following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the U.S. would be interested in only a new agreement covering more countries and new technologies.

Beijing, which has worked increasingly closely with Moscow on military and political affairs, has rejected any participation in such deals, arguing that its own nuclear arsenal was far small and less sophisticated than that of the U.S. and Russia. China does, however, have a formidable range of missiles, including those long forbidden to the U.S. and Russia as a result of the INF.

Russia Orders Military to Watch for U.S. Missile Deployments | World