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Russia’s nuclear triad: Putin speaks on Army, security guarantees at defense meeting

The Russian president pointed to Moscow’s concerns over the military build-up and large-scale maneuvers near its western borders and the deployment of US missile shield elements

MOSCOW, December 21. /TASS/. Russia must further perfect and strengthen its Armed Forces as even legally binding security guarantees from the West are untrustworthy, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a Defense Ministry enlarged board meeting on Tuesday.

As the Russian leader stressed, Moscow’s proposals on security are not an ultimatum but the United States and its allies need to understand that Russia has nowhere to retreat. If the West continues its policy, Moscow will take "adequate military-technical measures" and will "respond toughly" to unfriendly steps, Putin warned.

Below TASS looks at the main talking points from the defense meeting

Security guarantees

"The military-political situation in the world remains tense, the conflict potential has grown and new hotbeds of tension have emerged in some regions," Putin said.

The Russian leader pointed to Moscow’s concerns over the military build-up and large-scale maneuvers near its western borders and the deployment of US missile shield elements. "If US and NATO missile systems appear in Ukraine, their flight-in time to Moscow will diminish to 7-10 minutes and up to 5 minutes, if hypersonic weapons are deployed."

The Russia-proposed draft agreements with the United States and NATO on giving up the deployment of strike weapons in Eastern Europe and halting the alliance’s eastward expansion are not an ultimatum but Washington and its allies will have to understand how serious the situation is, Putin said.

"What they are doing on the territory of Ukraine now, or trying to do and going to do — this is not thousands of kilometers away from our national border. This is at the doorstep of our home. They must understand that we simply have nowhere to retreat further," the Russian leader pointed out.

As Putin said, attempts "to talk down and swamp" its proposals won’t suit Moscow but even if it receives legally binding guarantees, they cannot be trusted in full because "the United States easily quits all international treaties, which become uninteresting for it for this or that reason."

The Russian leader stressed, however, that Russia would seek to resolve the problem by diplomatic methods. "Armed conflicts and bloodshed are not our choices, absolutely. We do not wish this march of events. We wish to address issues by political and diplomatic means, provided we have clear and well-formulated legal guarantees," Putin said at the Defense Ministry’s board meeting.

In his speech, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu cited a host of examples of escalating tension near Russia’s western borders: the intensity of US strategic bomber flights has more than doubled and they practice, in particular, nuclear strikes while the personnel of US private military companies have been spotted in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region and "containers with unidentified chemical components have been delivered to the towns of Avdeyevka and Krasny Liman for staging provocations."

Russian Army modernization

Advanced weaponry exceeded 71% in the Russian troops (about 70% a year ago) and 89% in the strategic nuclear forces, the highest figure on record, Russia’s defense chief pointed out.

"Our armed forces today hold leading positions in the world in terms of their modernity level while we are placed ninth by defense spending," Shoigu said.

In the Strategic Missile Force, the first missile regiment has been rearmed with the Avangard system whose missiles are outfitted with Avangard boost-glide vehicles, and the first Yars [intercontinental ballistic missile] launchers have assumed combat alert in another two regiments. Next year, the troops will receive another 21 Yars, Avangard and Sarmat ICBM launchers, he said.

In 2021, the Russian Armed Forces have received over 150 new and upgraded aircraft and will take delivery of another almost 260 aircraft, including two Tupolev Tu-160M strategic missile-carrying bombers next year. A regiment of MiG-31 fighters armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles has been set up in Russia’s Aerospace Force, the defense chief said.

This year, the Russian Navy has received four surface combatants and three submarines and is set to receive 11 combat ships and five submarines next year. Overall, Russian shipbuilders are set to construct 34 warships and submarines by 2030, including 20 designated for operation in distant waters.

In the coming years, Russia will focus on developing precision weapons: the number of their delivery vehicles will increase by 30% and cruise missiles of various classes by 100% before 2026, the defense minister said.

Russia will also keep developing the traditional ground forces that have received over 2,400 new and upgraded weapons this year while almost 500 armaments have arrived for the Airborne Force.

Maintaining combat capability

"The Armed Forces have fulfilled all the tasks defined for 2021. Their combat capabilities have risen by 12.8%. The desired level of maintaining the country’s defense capability has been ensured," the defense minister stressed in his report.

As Russia’s defense chief emphasized, the level of combat-fit military hardware in the Russian Army is maintained at 95%, as in the previous year, and exceeds 80% even in the military aircraft fleet, which is double the figure of 2012. The Russian Armed Forces are 91% manned with personnel, including the officers’ corps by 96%, Shoigu said.

"As a whole, the demographic gap of the previous years has been reversed," the defense chief stressed.

Contract-enlisted personnel is more than double the number of conscripts and two-thirds of them have higher or secondary vocational education diplomas, he said.

In his speech, Putin noted further growth in the level of the Russian troop combat training as demonstrated by the results of the Zapad 2021 strategic drills. In addition, Russia held other unique maneuvers in the outgoing year, in particular, the unprecedented Umka Arctic expedition to Franz Josef Land.

The pandemic did not prevent the high level of Russian troop combat training: 100% of the military and 70% of the civilian personnel have been vaccinated and the incidence of the disease in the Army has been more than twice as low and the mortality rate almost 50 times lower compared to the country’s average.