Russia conducts drills of its strategic nuclear forces

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military on Wednesday conducted sweeping drills of its strategic nuclear forces that featured several practice missile launches.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the maneuvers included the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Karelia nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.

As part of the drills, a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile was also launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia and Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers fired cruise missiles at test targets.

Russia has expanded its military drills in recent years amid tensions with the West as relations plummeted to post-Cold War lows after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The war games come less than two months before the New START U.S.-Russian arms control treaty expires in early February. Moscow and Washington have discussed extending the pact, but differences have remained.

New START was signed in 2010 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries still standing.

Arms control advocates have warned that its expiration would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, in a blow to global stability.

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