KUBINKA (Russia) - President Vladimir Putin said yesterday Russia would add more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year and a defence official accused Nato of provoking a new arms race.
Mr Putin made his announcement a day after Russian officials denounced a United States plan to station tanks and heavy weapons in Nato states on Russia's border as the most aggressive US act since the Cold War.
"More than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles able to overcome even the most technically advanced anti-missile defence systems will be added to the make-up of the nuclear arsenal this year," Mr Putin, flanked by army officers, said in a speech at a military and arms fair.
Tension is high between Russia and the US over the crisis in Ukraine, and Washington and Moscow have disagreements on a range of other issues.
Russian officials have warned that Moscow will retaliate if the US carries out the plan to store heavy military equipment in Eastern Europe, including in the Baltic states that were once part of the Soviet Union.
"The feeling is that our colleagues from Nato countries are pushing us into an arms race," RIA news agency quoted Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov as saying on the sidelines of the arms fair.
Though no final decision has been taken, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 troops, a US official told Reuters at the weekend on condition of anonymity.
Russia is planning to spend 23 trillion roubles (S$572 billion) on revamping its military at a time when relations with the US and Europe are at a post-Cold War era low.
Russia has about 1,500 nuclear munitions, including 385 intercontinental missiles, according to data covering 2010-2012 published by think-tank PIR Centre.
Stung by sanctions over Ukraine and the plunge in oil prices, Mr Putin is turning to defence spending to revive a shrinking economy: "It's clear that the efficiency of the military-industrial complex is the most important source of economic growth."