Russia will be able to ensure nuclear deterrence even with 500 delivery vehicles, while the new Russian-U.S. arms pact limits the number of deployed vehicles to 700, a former military commander said on Friday.
"I am sure that Russia should not try catch up with the United States. The most important thing is to maintain a potential that can ensure nuclear deterrence," said Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin (Ret.), who served as chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in 1991-93.
"In my estimate, 500 strategic delivery vehicles and 1,550 nuclear warheads should be enough for that."
He recalled that as of July 1, 2009, when the two sides last exchanged information on the number of strategic offensive weapons, Russia had 809 delivery vehicles and 3,987 nuclear warheads while the United States had 1,188 delivery vehicles and 5,916 nuclear warheads.
The new strategic arms pact, signed on Thursday, stipulates that the number of nuclear warheads is to be reduced to 1,550 on each side over seven years, while the number of delivery vehicles, both deployed and non-deployed, must not exceed 800.
The new pact addresses the return capability ("reconversion") of missile launch facilities and heavy bombers, which would lay the legal groundwork for the subsequent elimination of some types of delivery vehicles.
It contains guarantees that strategic submarines and heavy bombers armed with conventional weapons will not be modified to carry nuclear weapons. Russia has been concerned that the United States could circumvent the arms cuts by returning mothballed delivery vehicles.
The new pact establishes a simplified verification mechanism, which would almost halve verification costs. Russia has in the past bridled at some of the more intrusive elements of the START 1 treaty, which expired on December 5, 2009.
The verification regime includes on-site inspections, data exchanges and notifications.
MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti)