Russia increased its deployed nuclear warheads over the past six months under a strategic arms reduction treaty as U.S. nuclear warhead stocks declined sharply, according to the State Department.
During the same period, the United States cut its deployed nuclear warheads by 114, increasing the disparity between the two nuclear powers.
Russia’s warhead increases since 2011 suggest Moscow does not intend to cut its nuclear forces and will abandon the New START arms accord as part of a major nuclear buildup.
“It is now highly unlikely that Russia intends to comply with New START,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear weapons specialist now with the National Institute for Policy.
At the same time, the Obama administration is continuing a program of unilateral nuclear disarmament despite promises by President Obama to modernize and maintain U.S. nuclear forces as long as strategic dangers are present.
The latest Russian warhead increases coincide with increased tensions between Moscow and the West.
The nuclear buildup is raising new fears Russia plans to break out of New START treaty limits rather than comply with the accord. Russian forces have deployed 249 warheads above the warhead limit set by the treaty to be reached by February 2018.
Since the treaty went into force in 2011, Moscow increased its total warhead stockpile from 1,537 warheads to 1,796 warheads, an increase of 259 warheads.
By contrast, the Obama administration has cut U.S. nuclear forces by 433 warheads during the same period.
Under New START, the United States and Russia agreed to reduce deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 warheads. Deployed land-based and submarine-launched missiles and bombers will be cut to 700. Missile launchers and non-deployed heavy bombers will be reduced to 800.
While U.S. nuclear forces are very old and in need of modernization, Russian nuclear forces are being modernized. By 2020, nuclear missile submarines, land-based missiles, and bombers will be modernized, with 70 percent of the nuclear forces replaced with advanced systems, according to U.S. officials.
Other troubling signs of Russian nuclear weapons advances include intelligence reports that Moscow is expanding underground nuclear command bunkers, violating New START terms, and planning to double its warhead stockpiles for new multiple-warhead missiles.
Schneider added that the sharp U.S. nuclear cuts indicate the Obama administration is moving ahead with a unilateral disarmament scheme.
“I think it is also clear that the Obama administration has an unannounced program to implement Obama’s proposed one-third reduction in strategic nuclear forces from the New START level unilaterally,” he said.
A strategic military balance that existed in 2011 when the treaty was approved has now been reversed by Russian increases and U.S. cuts.
“In 2011, the United States had a lead of 263 deployed warheads,” Schneider said. “We are now 429 deployed warheads below Russia. The Russians will think this is quite important. It could impact Putin’s willingness to take risks.”
Regarding other New START provisions, Russia had reduced its deployed strategic delivery systems—land-based and submarine missiles and bombers—slightly from 521 systems to 508 systems. The United States cut its missile and bomber forces by 60 systems over the same six-month period.
Russia cut its deployed and non-deployed delivery systems, another New START category, by 18 launchers and bombers. The United States cut 30 systems over the same period.