STRATCOM Chief Says Russia Has World’s ‘Most Diverse’ Nuclear Arsenal

The head of the US Strategic Command has warned that
Russia poses a serious challenge to America’s military dominance, adding that Washington desperately needs to modernize its own nuclear forces.

Air Force General Anthony Cotton told the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee that Moscow already possesses a nuclear arsenal that exceeds Washington’s and is actively modernizing.

He urged senators to facilitate a rapid upgrade of the US’ own arsenal, saying “it is absolutely critical we continue … at speed, with the modernization of our nuclear triad.”

RT reports: Together with China, Russia is swiftly improving its position against the US and its allies “in multiple domains,” the general warned, adding that the pace of these changes is increasing and is now much faster than that seen “just a few years ago.”

He pointed to a recent statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said in early February that the Russian strategic nuclear forces had been “almost completely modernized.” The naval component of the nation’s nuclear deterrence triad had been almost 100% upgraded, he said.

“Russia is currently in possession of the largest and most diverse nuclear arsenal of any nation,” Cotton said, specifically pointing to Moscow’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles and brand-new submarines, also capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The Sarmat ICBM was approved for combat duty in September 2023. Addressing the Russian Federal Assembly on Thursday, Putin promised to release footage of the missiles in their silos. One of Russia’s most capable nuclear weapons, the Sarmat reportedly has an estimated range of 11,000 miles (about 18,000 kilometers), with a payload weighing around ten tons. Other weapon types mentioned by Cotton included the Borei-class and Yasen-M class submarines.

According to the US general, Moscow is also “expanding and modernizing its nuclear options” beyond the classic nuclear triad. In particular he drew senators’ attention to the Kinzhal and Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, both of which he claimed could carry nuclear payloads.

In this week’s address to the Federal Assembly, Putin said that both types of weapons had already been used by Russian troops in combat during the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev. The hypersonic missiles were launched against high-value Ukrainian military targets, he added.

In 2018, the Russian president said that the air-launched Kinzhal missiles could have nuclear warheads. So far, however, only their conventional variants have been used in Ukraine. Tsirkon are anti-ship hypersonic missiles developed for the Russian navy, which can also be used against ground targets.

The US strategic forces are currently operating “in the face of challenges unlike anything America has ever encountered,” Cotton warned, adding that the combined potentials of Russia and China, together with North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, “add new layers of complexity to our strategic calculus.”

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