MOSCOW – Russia's foreign minister on Wednesday criticized U.S. plans to deploy conventional warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, warning that they posed a threat to strategic stability.
In a strategy paper released in February, the Pentagon announced it would convert some submarine-launched Trident missiles to carry conventional instead of nuclear warheads in order to enable the U.S. to respond adequately to a wider range of global threats.
"We are very concerned about the U.S. plans to develop low-yield nuclear weapons and to equip submarine-launched ballistic missiles with conventional warheads," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
"These plans could have a destabilizing effect, lower the nuclear threshold, have destructive consequences for nuclear nonproliferation regime and undermine strategic stability," he told Russian lawmakers.
According to a report carried by the Washington-based Arms Control Association, 12 U.S. submarines would be armed with both conventional and nuclear missiles.
Some arms control experts have said the planned conversion program could greatly harm strategic stability, since the launch of such a missile could provoke a mistaken nuclear strike in retaliation.
Lavrov also said that U.S. plans to deploy elements of anti-missile defense system in nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic pose a threat to Russia.
"The reason they give is the protection of eastern European nations from Iranian ballistic missiles. For us, that means in the future a real possibility of intercepting Russian ballistic missiles," he said.
NATO leaders are expected to discuss the prospects of building missile defense for Europe at a November summit in Riga, Latvia. Officials from the member states have previously expressed concern about the proliferation of technologies that could allow hostile regimes in the Middle East or North Africa building extended-range missiles.
Lavrov on Wednesday also voiced concern about a possibility of structures intended for anti-missile defense in eastern Europe being modernized for stationing ballistic missiles. "There is a danger that silos designed for anti-missile weapons could be used for covert deployment of ballistic missiles," he told lawmakers.