NUCLEAR WEAPONS, LIKE the poor, seem likely always to be with us. Even though arms-control agreements between America and the Soviet Union, and then Russia, have drastically reduced overall numbers, both countries are committed to costly long-term modernisation programmes for their strategic nuclear forces that should ensure their viability for the rest of the century.
Russia is about halfway through recapitalising its strategic forces, which include a soon-to-be-deployed road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); a new heavy ICBM; eight new ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs), most of which will be in service by 2020; upgraded heavy bombers; and a new stealth bomber able to carry hypersonic cruise missiles. America will replace every leg of its nuclear triad over the next 30 years, at an estimated cost of $1.2trn. There will be 12 new SSBNs; a new penetrating strike bomber, the B21; a replacement for the Minuteman III ICBMs; and a new long-range air-launched cruise missile. As Tom Plant, a nuclear expert at RUSI, a think-tank, puts it: “For both Russia and the US, nukes have retained their primacy. You only have to look at how they are spending their money.”
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