Amid international calls for nuclear disarmament, Russia has launched the most comprehensive tests on its nuclear arsenal since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kremlin said Saturday.
The exercises, held mostly on Friday, featured prominently in news reports on state television which seemed aimed to show Russians and the world that Putin is the hands-on chief of a resurgent power.
Tests involving command systems and all three components of the nuclear "triad" - land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles and strategic bombers - were conducted "under the personal leadership of Vladimir Putin", the Kremlin said.
"Exercises of the strategic nuclear forces were conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia," the Kremlin statement [added].
"Vladimir Putin gave a high evaluation to the combat units and crews and the work of the Armed Forces General Staff, which fulfilled the tasks before them and affirmed the reliability and effectiveness of Russia's nuclear forces." [Emphasis added]
In 2010, the United States and Russia agreed to scale back their nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 warheads by 2018. However, while Putin appears to be fine-tuning his arsenal, President Obama has made his commitment to total nuclear disarmament perfectly clear.
"I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he said to a Nobel Peace Prize panel shortly after he was elected. "This goal will not be reached quickly - perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence."
Republicans have harshly criticized the president's ambitions, however, saying it is highly unlikely our enemies will follow our lead. On the contrary, they will likely just grow bolder as the balance swings in their favor.