17 November 2004 -- President Vladimir Putin said today that Russia is developing a new form of nuclear missile unlike that of any other country and unlikely to be matched by others.
The White House reacted calmly today to Putin's statement, saying it was not news to the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Putin said he expects the missile to be in service in the next few years, but he gave no further details.
"We will continue to persist in consistently building up the armed forces, in general, including its nuclear component. We are not only doing research and successful testing of new nuclear missile-systems technologies," Putin told his armed-forces chiefs in Moscow today. "I am sure that, in the near future, these weapons will appear -- systems that other nuclear powers do not and will not possess."
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier this month that Russia expected to test-fire a mobile version of its Topol-M ballistic missile this year and that production of the new weapon could be commissioned in 2005.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said U.S. President Bush and Putin had discussed the issue previously. McClellan noted U.S.-Russian agreements in place to reduce the two countries' nuclear arsenals and Washington's view of Moscow as a crucial partner in the antiterror battle.
"This is not something we look at as new," McClellan said. "We are very well aware of their longstanding modernization efforts for their military. I might point out that we have a very good relationship with Russia. The President and President Putin have worked very closely together to establish that relationship, and they have worked together to move beyond some of the issues of the past and developed an agreement to significantly reduce our nuclear arsenals."
McClellan suggested that close ties between Bush and Putin render alarm unnecessary -- but don't eliminate Washington's concern.