Russia 'playing with fire' with nuclear saber-rattling: Pentagon

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
NATO: There Will Be No Arms Race with Russia

Russia is "playing with fire" with its nuclear saber-rattling and the United States is determined to prevent it from gaining a significant military advantage through violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the deputy U.S. defense chief said on Thursday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, speaking to lawmakers in the House of Representatives, also said modernizing and maintaining U.S. nuclear forces in the coming years would consume up to 7 percent of the defense budget, up from the current 3 to 4 percent, and could squeeze other programs unless additional funding was approved.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, Work said Moscow's effort to use its nuclear forces to intimidate its neighbors had failed, actually bringing NATO allies closer. He also criticized what he called Russia's "escalate to de-escalate" strategy.

See photos from when the US and Russia met this past May:

8 PHOTOS
John Kerry and Vladimir Putin, Kerry Russia visit
See Gallery
Russia 'playing with fire' with nuclear saber-rattling: Pentagon
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, is welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the presidential residence of Bocharov Ruchey in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday May 12, 2015. (Joshua Roberts/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, is welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the presidential residence of Bocharov Ruchey in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday May 12, 2015. (Joshua Roberts/Pool Photo via AP)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 12: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) stands with with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) during talks as U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft looks on May 12, 2015 in Sochi, Russia. Kerry is in Russia to discuss the crisis in Ukraine the Russian President. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd R) meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) at the presidential residence Bocharov Ruchey in Sochi on May 12, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JOSHUA ROBERTS (Photo credit should read JOSHUA ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images)
US.Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) watch as members of the US and Russian delegations place red flowers at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi on May 12, 2015. Kerry began high stakes talks in the Russian resort of Sochi Tuesday aimed at pushing President Vladimir Putin to fully implement a shaky Ukraine ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JOSHUA ROBERTS (Photo credit should read JOSHUA ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images)
US.Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) watch as members of the US and Russian delegations place red flowers at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi on May 12, 2015. Kerry began high stakes talks in the Russian resort of Sochi Tuesday aimed at pushing President Vladimir Putin to fully implement a shaky Ukraine ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JOSHUA ROBERTS (Photo credit should read JOSHUA ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images)
US.Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) lay a wreath at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi on May 12, 2015. Kerry began high stakes talks in the Russian resort of Sochi Tuesday aimed at pushing President Vladimir Putin to fully implement a shaky Ukraine ceasefire. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JOSHUA ROBERTS (Photo credit should read JOSHUA ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


"Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire," Work said. "Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation."

The deputy defense chief said Russia continued to violate the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which bans ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (315 to 3,450 miles).

Work said the Pentagon was developing options for President Barack Obama to consider to respond to the treaty violations and would not let Russia "gain significant military advantage through INF violations."

The United States is about to embark on a costly long-term effort to modernize its aging nuclear force, including weapons, submarines, bombers and ballistic missiles. Estimates of the cost have ranged from $355 billion over a decade to about $1 trillion over 30 years.

The modernization comes as the Pentagon struggles with tight budgets and the need for other expensive weapons like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and new warships.

Work said the nuclear force modernization was expected to cost an average $18 billion per year from 2021 to 2035 in constant 2016 dollars.

The Pentagon's annual base budget has been about $500 billion for several years.

"Without additional funding dedicated to strategic forces modernization, sustaining this level of spending will require very, very hard choices and will impact the other parts of the defense portfolio," Work said.

Arms control groups say the U.S. nuclear force is larger than needed to accomplish the president's strategic aims, and the Pentagon could save money by prudently trimming the size of the nuclear triad and other steps.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Paul Simao)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners