Military buildup: Russia to add 40 new intercontinental missiles

MOSCOW – Russia’s military will add over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles this year alone that are capable of piercing any missile defenses, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday in a blunt reminder of the nation’s nuclear might amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Putin spoke at the opening of an arms show at a shooting range in Alabino just west of Moscow, a huge display intended to showcase Russia’s resurgent military.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused the Russians of “nuclear saber-rattling,” and said that was one of the reasons the western military alliance has been beefing up its ability to defend its members.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, briefing reporters via teleconference from Boston, where he is recovering from surgery on a broken leg, called Putin’s announcement concerning.

“We’re trying to move in the opposite direction,” Kerry said. “We have had enormous cooperation from the 1990s forward with respect to the structure of nuclear weapons in the former territories of the Soviet Union. And no one wants to see us step backwards.”

He said Putin could be posturing.

“It’s really hard to tell,” Kerry said. “But nobody should hear that kind of an announcement from the leader of a powerful country and not be concerned about the implications.”

Russia-West relations have plunged to their lowest point since Cold War times over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russia separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and the EU have slapped Russia with economic sanctions, and Washington and its NATO allies have pondered an array of measures in response to Russia’s moves.

The three Baltic members of the alliance, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have asked NATO to permanently deploy ground troops to their nations as a deterrent against an increasingly assertive Russia. And Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak says he and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter have held talks about placing U.S. heavy army equipment in Poland.

The NATO chief said he expected Carter to brief other alliance members on the proposal to stockpile tanks and other weapons and supplies in Eastern Europe during a NATO defense ministers meeting next week.

“I welcome all efforts to defend and protect allies,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.

Moscow bristled at the plans, warning Washington that the deployment of new U.S. weapons near Russian borders would foment dangerous instability in Europe.

“The United States is inciting tensions and carefully nurturing their European allies’ anti-Russian phobias in order to use the current difficult situation for further expanding its military presence and influence in Europe,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“We hope that reason will prevail and it will be possible to save the situation in Europe from sliding toward a military standoff, which could entail dangerous consequences,” the ministry added.

The NATO chief said the alliance had to respond to Russia’s actions by “increasing the readiness and the preparedness of our forces.”