Russia tests ICBM as Putin says nuclear deterrent must be maintained

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia must maintain its nuclear deterrence to counter what he called growing security threats, after Moscow test-launched an intercontinental nuclear missile.

With ties between Moscow and the West frayed by the crisis in Ukraine, Putin also took greater control of a commission that oversees the defence industry and made a new call for Russia to become less reliant on imported Western equipment.

He said NATO was using rhetoric over the Ukraine crisis to"resuscitate itself" and noted that Russia had warned repeatedly that it would have to respond to such moves.

Shortly before he spoke, Russia successfully tested its new submarine-launched Bulava intercontinental missile, a 12-metre-long weapon that can deliver a nuclear strike with up to 100 times the force of the atomic blast that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.

"We need a reliable and complete assessment of the potential threats to Russia's military security. For each of these threats, a sufficient, adequate response should be found," Putin told a Kremlin meeting of government defence officials. "First of all, we are talking about creating a rational series of assault capabilities, including maintaining a guaranteed solution to the task of nuclear deterrence."

He said Russia must ensure it develops high-precision weapons in the next few years, although he also said: "Someone might want to start a new arms race. We are not going to take part in that, of course."

Naval Commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov said the Bulava's test launch had been carried out from the White Sea and that the missile had hit its target in Russia's far east.

"In October and November of this year, the naval fleet will carry out two more launches with two rocket cruisers equipped with ballistic missiles," Interfax quoted Chirkov as saying.

A Bulava missile weighs 36.8 tonnes, can travel 8,000 km and hold six to 10 nuclear warheads. Intended to become the cornerstone of Russia's nuclear forces by the end of the decade, its development had been delayed by numerous failed tests.

Russia is slated to spend trillions of roubles (billions of singapore dollars) on the modernisation of its army, which still largely relies on Soviet-era weapons and arms technologies.

Putin reiterated that Moscow would find ways to replace defence-industry imports it has lost because of European Union and U.S. sanctions imposed in the Ukraine crisis.

"We are not planning to intentionally stop cooperation with our foreign partners ... (but) our industry should be able to produce critically important equipment, components and materials," he said

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