Russia has condemned the decision by the UK government to boost its nuclear arsenal, saying the move would harm international stability.
The UK will increase the cap on its nuclear warhead stockpile by more than 40 per cent, prime minister Boris Johnson revealed as part of his foreign and defence policy review on Tuesday.
Russia’s foreign ministry described the British plans – which ends decades of gradual disarmament since the fall of the Soviet Union – as a serious blow to arms control.
Moscow said it would take Downing Street’s move into account when working on its own military planning, the RIA state news agency reported Russia’s foreign ministry as saying on Wednesday.
The UK had previously been committed to cutting its stockpile to 180 Trident warheads by the mid-2020s, but the government review said the policy would now be to increase capacity to 260 warheads.
Increasing the stockpile would amount to a violation of international law, campaigners and experts have warned – pointing to the UK commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Mr Johnson’s review also stated that the UK reserves the right to withdraw assurances that it will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear armed state “if the future threat of weapons of mass destruction … or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact makes it necessary”.
British foreign secretary Dominic Raab claimed the UK’s stockpile of Trident warheads were the “ultimate insurance policy” against threats from hostile states.
Asked why the government wanted to end three decades of gradual disarmament, Mr Raab told the BBC: “Because over time, as the circumstances change and the threats change, we need to maintain a minimum credible level of deterrent.
“Why? Because it is the ultimate guarantee, the ultimate insurance policy against the worst threat from hostile states.”