Both Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump have issued statements expressing their intent to build their countries’ nuclear arsenals. While giving a speech recapping military activities in 2016 Putin stated:
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”
He would later go on to say that the Russian military should focus on monitoring changes the global balance of power. He concluded the speech by saying:
“We can say with certainty – we are stronger now than any potential aggressor. Anyone!”
Donald Trump allegedly responded to the Russian saber-rattling by Tweeting:
The two nations combined account for over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. Russia reportedly fields 7,300 warheads while the United States controls 7,100. Current President Barack Obama has been a strong proponent of nuclear disarmament. Trump on the other hand hopes to modernize and improve America’s nuclear arsenal to ensure America has the firepower to deter nuclear attacks from foreign nations.
Some analysts fear that these threats will lead to either Russia or the United States violating the bilateral arms limitations treaties that limit the number of warheads and delivery systems each nation can field. They argue that this could launch the world into a second Cold War.
Other experts disagree. Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, states that Russia would exercise caution before engaging in an arms race with the United States. He claims that a bomb-building style race would be costly and that the Russian government realizes the United States would quickly overtake Russian production. Sutyagin said:
“That’s why these arms control treaties have lasted as long as they have – Russia is more interested in maintaining them than the United States.”
He went on to say that he believes Putin would be “very, very worried” to hear statements like the one made by Trump coming from Washington. Sutyagin also said that Russia is working on a multi-year nuclear upgrade program that focuses on upgrading strategic bombers, ballistic missiles, and strategic missile submarines. Despite their improvements, Sutyagin believes they would not be able to participate in a full out nuclear arms race with the U.S..