Vladimir Isachenkov / Associated Press – 2006-12-18 22:03:25
MOSCOW (DECEMBER 14, 2006) — President Vladimir Putin on Thursday inspected Russia’s top-of-the line intercontinental ballistic missiles, hailing their ability to penetrate prospective missile defenses.
Putin flew by helicopter to a forested area near Teikovo, a small town about 150 miles northeast of Moscow, to visit a unit of newly deployed Topol-M missiles mounted on mobile launchers.
After watching the new missiles, Putin said their deployment was a “serious step forward in strengthening Russia’s defense capability.”
“It has a stronger survivability, faster launch and an ability to penetrate any prospective missile defense,” Putin said of the new weapon in televised remarks.
Speaking on a trip to the northern Plesetsk cosmodrome later Thursday, Putin described the Topol-M as a “21st century weapon” and said that it would ensure a “long-term efficiency of Russia’s nuclear forces,” the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The Topol-M missiles, capable of hitting targets more than 6,000 miles away, have so far been deployed only in silos. The new version, which is mounted on a heavy off-road vehicle, makes it harder for an enemy to track it down.
“For the near future, Topol-M will have no rivals in the world,” Strategic Missile Forces chief Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said on state Rossiya television.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had said earlier this year that Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces would get 69 Topol-M missiles by 2015; Russia so far has deployed over 40 silo-based Topol-Ms.
The Topol-M’s chief designer, Yuri Solomonov, said earlier this year that the missile drops its engines at a significantly lower altitude than earlier designs, making it hard for an enemy early warning system to detect the launch. He added that his design also ensured that warheads and decoys closely resembled each other in flight, making it extremely difficult for a foe to select the real target from a multitude of false ones.
Russian officials said that Topol-M and the Bulava missile, which is being developed for the navy, will form the core of Russian nuclear deterrent forces.
Washington withdrew in 2002 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense shield — a move opposed by Russia, which described it as destabilizing and harmful for global security.
Moscow has also bristled at NATO’s eastward expansion and warned that the redeployment of U.S. forces closer to Russian borders threatened its security. It particularly criticized U.S. plans to deploy its missile defense components in Eastern Europe, describing it as a hostile move.
Amid increasingly strained ties with the United States, Putin has said Russia needs a strong military to resist foreign pressure. Windfall oil revenues over recent years have allowed Putin’s government to increase weapons purchases and fund the development of new weapons.
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