Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 19:55 UK

Russia to upgrade nuclear systems

A picture taken on May 9, 2008 shows a Russian Topol-M ICBM on Red Square during a Victory Day Parade in Moscow
Russia sees the US missile defence in central Europe as a threat

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to build a "guaranteed nuclear deterrent system", to be in place by 2020.

He said he wanted military chiefs to submit plans by December.

He called for a programme to build new nuclear submarines as well as "a system of aerospace defence".

The announcement comes just weeks after Russia accused the US of starting a new arms race by siting part of its missile defence shield in Poland.

"We must guarantee nuclear deterrence under various political and military conditions by 2020," Mr Medvedev told military commanders.

He said it was necessary to build "new types of armaments" and to "achieve dominance in airspace", according to quotes carried by the Itar-Tass news agency.

Two modified Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptors are launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (5 June 2008)

"We plan to start serial production of warships, primarily nuclear-powered submarines carrying cruise missiles and multifunctional submarines," Mr Medvedev said.

"We will develop an aerospace defence system, as well," he added.

Russia's move would not change the balance of power, said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

She told Reuters: "The balance of power in terms of nuclear deterrence is not going to be affected by those measures."

She said the US nuclear deterrent was "capable" and "robust".

Moscow has repeatedly criticised the US for going ahead with plans for a missile defence shield, using rockets based in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, saying it destabilises the strategic balance and builds "a ring of steel" around Russia.

Russia warned it would be "forced to react".

This, it seems, is Russia showing its own determination to bolster its nuclear deterrent, says the BBC's defence correspondent, Caroline Wyatt.

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