Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who along with President Barack Obama renewed the START deal for another five years in 2019, defended Russia’s right to use nukes if necessary.
“If the United States wants to defeat Russia, then we have the right to defend ourselves with any weapons, including nuclear weapons,” he said on his Telegram channel Wednesday.
However, Major-General Yevgeny Ilyin, a senior Russian defense official, told the lower house of the Russian Parliament that the armed forces would continue to adhere to the terms of START, which limits the number of warheads each side can hold.
The war in Ukraine has largely remained a stalemate over the winter, but a new Russian offensive is pushing for advances in the eastern Donbas region.
Both sides have struggled to ensure the supply of arms to key areas as the conflict wearily grinds on. Ukraine has relied almost entirely on Western supplies, while Russia is attempting to increase its production capacity.
“[A] modern and efficient army and navy are a guarantee of the country’s security and sovereignty, and a guarantee of its stable development and its future,” Putin said in the remarks issued by the Kremlin. “That is why, as before, we will give priority attention to strengthening our defense capability.”
“Our industry is quickly increasing the production of the entire range of conventional weapons and preparing for mass production of advanced models of equipment for the army and navy, as well as the aerospace forces,” Putin added.