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Russia slams UK’s decision to boost its nuclear arsenal

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HMS Vanguard, one of the UK's nuclear-armed submarines
HMS Vanguard, one of the UK's nuclear-armed submarines   -   Copyright  Defence Imagery/Creative Commons
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Russia has slammed the UK’s decision to increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons, saying the decision “harms global stability and strategic security”.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson unveiled his government’s new foreign policy and defence strategy on Tuesday, raising eyebrows with the announcement that the country’s ceiling on nuclear weapons would be rising from 225 to 260.

Despite plans by the UK government in 2010 to reduce its stockpile, the current government claimed in its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy that this would not be possible, due to “the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats”.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday "We very much regret that Britain has chosen the path of increasing its nuclear weapons.

"This decision harms global stability and strategic security.”

He also said “there is no threat from Russia” for the UK after the review highlighted the country as a major threat.

In recent years critics of the Russian regime have been poisoned on British soil, such as former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were attacked with the Russian novichok chemical weapon in 2018.

The UK’s decision to increase its nuclear arsenal ends a gradual disarmament process that has been underway since the break-up of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

It runs counter to international anti-proliferation goals, weeks after the US and Russia agreed to extend a nuclear arms control treaty.

The UK claims to have a continuous at-sea deterrent, with at least one of its four nuclear submarines on patrol at all times.

Other than France, it is the only nuclear-armed state in western Europe, with Russia, the US, Israel, India, Pakistan, China and North Korea the other global powers to have an officially declared stockpile of nukes.

The executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) called the UK’s decision “irresponsible, dangerous” and a violation of international law.

“While the British people are struggling to cope with the pandemic, an economic crisis, violence against women, and racism, the government chooses to increase insecurity and threats in the world. This is toxic masculinity on display,” said Beatrice Fihn.

“While the majority of the world’s nations are leading the way to a safer future without nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the United Kingdom is pushing for a dangerous new nuclear arms race.”