Pentagon sees no change in Russia's strategic nuclear force posture

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has not seen a change to Russia's disposition of its strategic nuclear forces, it said on Monday, despite what it called "irresponsible rhetoric" from Moscow detailing plans for exercises involving the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

Russia said on Monday it would hold military drills that will include practicing the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons after what Moscow said were threats from France, Britain and the United States. It said the exercises were ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Missile forces in the Southern Military District, aviation and the navy will take part, the defense ministry said.

"We've not seen any change in their strategic force posture. Obviously, we'll continue to monitor," said U.S. Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson.

The exercise of what Russia calls its non-strategic nuclear forces were aimed at ensuring Russia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, its defense ministry said.

Russia's foreign ministry said the drills also aimed to cool down "hotheads" in the West, who Moscow accused of pushing for a direct military confrontation between the U.S.-led NATO military alliance and Russia.

Ryder slammed the comments coming from Moscow.

"This is an example of the kind of irresponsible rhetoric that we've seen from Russia in the past. It's completely inappropriate, given the current security situation," Ryder said.

Russia and the United States are by far the world's biggest nuclear powers, holding more than 10,600 of the world's 12,100 nuclear warheads. China has the third-largest nuclear arsenal, followed by France and Britain.

Russia has about 1,560 non-strategic nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists, though there is uncertainty about exact figures due to a lack of transparency.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Bill Berkrot)