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Meeting with senior Defence Ministry officials, heads of federal agencies and defence industry executives

November 10, 2020, Sochi

The President opened a new series of meetings with senior officials from the Defence Ministry, federal agencies and defence industry.

The meeting participants held a moment of silence to honour the pilots of the Russian helicopter downed over Armenia. The President instructed Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to provide assistance to their families.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers,

Today, we are launching the 15th series of meetings with senior officials from the Defence Ministry, federal agencies and the defence industry. We will examine a number of matters relating to the state of and development prospects for Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

I want to emphasise that, despite the constantly changing nature of military threats, the nuclear triad remains the primary, key guarantee of Russia’s military security. From a broader perspective, this applies to global stability as well. Preserving this balance of power neutralises the threat of a large-scale military conflict, making vain any attempts to intimidate or pressure our country.

At the same time, we have to take into consideration a number of new and potentially dangerous external factors we currently face. For example, NATO is expanding its military presence in Europe close to the Russian border, and has failed to respond to our proposal to scale down military activity during the epidemic. Moreover, NATO countries’ air forces and navies have even stepped up their operations.

There have also been considerable changes in the conceptual approaches to the use of nuclear weapons as per US strategic planning documents. Today, US nuclear doctrine provides for using nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear weapons, while there are no specific provisions regulating the use of nuclear weapons. The doctrine directly specifies Russia as the main military adversary, which by the way is totally unjustified.

We also see that the arms control system is faltering and deteriorating. Having terminated the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, the United States said it intended to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty as well, let alone the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty some time ago.

In fact, the future of the last major treaty on strategic offensive arms limitation is up in the air. I am referring to New START, which expires, as we all know, in February 2021, which means very soon. This document ensures adequate transparency, if I may say so, in terms of strategic nuclear arsenals and helps avert an uncontrollable arms race. For this reason, we proposed extending it, as it was signed by the parties, to give us more time to work on it.

Overall, Russia has been a firm and consistent proponent of reinforcing and improving strategic stability mechanisms and arms control frameworks. We have forwarded our proposals on devising a new “security equation” to our US partners. These proposals take into consideration all factors affecting strategic stability with a special emphasis on first-strike capability. We believe a first-strike attack to be unacceptable. Russia’s proposals could lay the groundwork for further comprehensive dialogue with the United States about the future framework to control nuclear-missile weapons. This is critical for our two countries and for the whole world, considering that we are the two biggest nuclear powers.

Here is what I wanted to say in this regard. First, as you know, on June 2, 2020 I signed Executive Order On Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence. This document clearly spells out the conditions that have to be met in order to decide on using nuclear weapons. In fact, Russia reaffirmed its principled position whereby using nuclear weapons remains the last resort for ensuring national security. Essentially, it means that we can use the nuclear weapons we have at our disposal, but only in response to a nuclear attack against our country. This is what these fundamental documents are all about.

Second, considering the military and political risks in today’s world, we will further upgrade our strategic nuclear forces and consistently strengthen all their components. Let me note that the Army and the Navy have been receiving new missile and aircraft systems. As such, the share of modern weapons has reached 82 percent for the strategic nuclear forces.

The first regiment armed with Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles has entered combat duty. About half of Strategic Missile Forces units have received the state-of-the-art Yars system. Tests of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile are advancing on schedule. The lead Borei-A class missile submarine has been delivered to the Navy.

Today, I am asking you to deliver a detailed progress report on defence procurement orders related to strengthening of the nuclear triad. Is everything on schedule?

Third, Russia will maintain its nuclear capability at the level it deems appropriate. It is true that with a number of strategic weapons our country has left other leading military powers far behind. As I said, this is the first time in history that our country, Russia, is not catching up, but producing weapons that are years or even decades ahead of similar foreign systems. Some of our weapons are second to none in the world, and this will probably be the case for a long time to come.

However, while leveraging our intellectual potential, our research schools and the advances we have, as well as the infrastructure, we do not intend to get drawn into an all-consuming arms race. We will not do this, and there is no need for us to act this way at this time. Let me reiterate that we have all the necessary strategic forces to reliably secure Russia’s interests.

Let’s move on to our agenda.

* * *

Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers,

As you know, yesterday two of our comrades, pilots on duty at Russia’s military base in Armenia, were killed in a tragic incident. Major Yury Ishchuk, who commanded the crew, and First Lieutenant Roman Fedina. The systems operator, navigator-pilot also suffered injuries in the crash. We wish him a speedy recovery.

The President of Azerbaijan assured me that a thorough investigation will be carried out as part of a criminal case that has been initiated. The guilty will be held to account.

I am asking the Defence Minister to provide assistance to the families of the deceased.

We will now hold a moment of silence to honour their memory.

(A moment of silence.)

November 10, 2020, Sochi