Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia could replace its nuclear weapons with high-precision bombs as factors of deterrence. Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

Russia could replace its nuclear weapons arms with high-precision bombs as factors of deterrence in order to strengthen world peace and to help decrease international tensions, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly said in a public lecture Thursday.

"By 2021, we plan to go beyond quadrupling the combat capabilities of Russian strategic non-nuclear forces, which will then give us the opportunity to solve the issue of non-nuclear deterrence", Shoigu said at the lecture on military manufacturing. He reportedly also said Russia would maintain its existing level of military but that the country did not want to be dragged into a new arms race in the future, saying: "The Kremlin plans to maintain the country’s current level of national security, developing its 'general-purpose' forces to operate in peacetime and in armed conflicts, including missions against international terrorists."

The defense minister's comments seemed to be at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin's earlier remarks. At a Dec. 22, 2016, meeting of the Defense Ministry Board, Putin said: "We need to enhance the combat capability of strategic nuclear forces, primarily by strengthening missile complexes that will be guaranteed to penetrate existing and future missile defense systems."

Shortly after Putin's remark, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump repeated one of his promises from the campaign, calling on U.S. to "strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

When asked about Trump's comment the next day, Putin had dismissed it, saying that it was "nothing unusual" for Trump to say such things.

A NATO report on nuclear deterrence in the 21st century said Russia had successfully undertaken a policy of what can be called "aggressive sanctuarization" with a crucial nuclear component, under which would not hesitate to use both conventional force and nuclear rhetoric to deter external involvement.