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Nuclear News - 04/29/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 29 April, 1999

1. Russia Wants Nuclear Arms Upgrade, Associated Press (04/29/99)
2. Kremlin to Bolster Nuclear Stockpile, Washington Post (04/30/99)
Russia Wants Nuclear Arms UpgradeNick Wadhams
Associated Press
April 29, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Boris Yeltsin and the country's top securityofficials sought ways today to maintain and upgrade Russia's nucleararsenals despite the country's lack of money.

After Yeltsin's meeting with his Security Council, council secretaryVladimir Putin said Russia would move ahead "in the sensitive sphere" oftesting nuclear arsenals while honoring international agreements.

Yeltsin told the council that nuclear forces remain the "key element" inRussia's military might, stressing that Russia must keep a sufficientnumber of nuclear weapons to guarantee its security.

With its conventional forces in sharp decline, the country has becomeincreasingly reliant on its nuclear forces as a deterrent.

Last fall, Russia carried out a series of five sub-critical nucleartests at an Arctic test range, intended to modernize components in itsaging nuclear weapons.

The tests didn't violate the international Comprehensive Test Ban Treatybecause the amount of radioactive plutonium used was too small to createa nuclear explosion, officials said.

Critics, however, contend that even limited tests could encourage othercountries to conduct full-scale nuclear tests.

Russian officials insist such tests are crucial to ensure safety ofRussia's nuclear weapons and modernize them, replacing some mechanicaland electronic components with more advanced ones.

Yeltsin didn't mention the START II arms reduction treaty with theUnited States in his opening remarks to the council. The U.S. Senateratified the treaty in 1996, but the Russian parliament has yet to act.

The NATO raids against Yugoslavia have drawn the outrage of Russianlegislators, and there is virtually no chance they will take action onthe treaty until after the conflict is settled.

Meanwhile, one Russian lawmaker said Moscow's nuclear strategy shouldallow for the possibility of launching a pre-emptive strike.

"We must definitely include a provision in our doctrine to the effectthat Russia reserves the right to deliver a first or a pre-emptivenuclear strike," said Roman Popkovich, chairman of the defense committeein parliament's lower house.
Kremlin to Bolster Nuclear Stockpile
NATO's Airstrikes Are Making Russia Worried, Sources Say

David Hoffman
Washington Post Foreign Service
April 30, 1999

MOSCOW, April 29-In a rare meeting of the Kremlin Security Councildevoted to nuclear weapons policy, President Boris Yeltsin approved anew blueprint today for beefing up thousands of short-range or tacticalnuclear weapons that were taken out of service unilaterally earlier inthe decade, officials said.

The decision was announced by the Security Council secretary, VladimirPutin, who said it had nothing to do with the conflict over Kosovo. Butother sources said the decision clearly reflected Russia's growinganxiety about the NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia and its continuingweakness in conventional, or non-nuclear, weapons.

A second document approved today dealt with the entire Russian nuclearweapons complex, Putin said. A third document was described as topsecret.

Putin also said that Russian weapons designers feel cramped by the longperiod in which they have been unable to test nuclear weapons, whileother countries use sophisticated computer modeling. Putin said a wayhad to be found for Russia to evaluate its nuclear stockpile withoutviolating the international agreements banning actual tests.

Details of the decision on tactical nuclear weapons were not disclosed,but Putin said Yeltsin had endorsed "a blueprint for the development anduse of nonategic nuclear weapons." The precise actions were notspecified, but some experts and Russian news reports said modernizationor rebuilding tactical nuclear weapons was possible. This category ofweapons generally includes nuclear short-range missiles, bombs,artillery shells and submarine-based tactical nuclear weapons.

In 1991, Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, in back-to-backunilateral announcements after the August putsch here, withdrew largenumbers of these tactical nuclear weapons. However, unlike thecontinent-spanning long-range weapons, which are covered by treaties,there was never a formal agreement governing the pullback of tacticalnuclear weapons.

Russian specialists have been speculating in recent weeks about thepossibility of reactivating and modernizing some tactical nuclearweapons in the wake of the Kosovo conflict, and even moving them intoneighboring Belarus.

However, experts said Yeltsin's latest action could be a prelude toscrapping the Bush-Gorbachev agreement if the war drags on. "The firstvictim of this bloody crisis will be the Bush-Gorbachev tactical nuclearagreement," said Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the Studyof the United States and Canada here.

It is not clear that Russia has the wherewithal to rebuild or modernizeits tactical nuclear weapons, but the mere threat of doing so may bepart of the goal of making NATO think twice about the Kosovo conflict.

Russia's conventional forces are a shambles, and in recent years itsmilitary and security doctrines have emphasized the nuclear deterrent.The strategic nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles also have been goingthrough a sharp decline, driven by obsolescence and lack of money.

On tactical weapons, William C. Potter, director of the Center forNonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., said recently that thereare "growing pressures" in Russia to remanufacture or modernize itstactical nuclear weapons force. Although precise numbers are notavailable, Potter estimated Russian tactical nuclear weapons at 7,740,after the reductions announced by Gorbachev.

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