PRYLUKY, Ukraine - Ukraine broke up the last of its 19 Tupolev 160 strategic bombers and a Tu-22M Backfire bomber Friday, fulfilling part of a disarmament deal with the United States by destroying planes capable of carrying nuclear bombs. Huge scissors operated by an excavator cut the bombers' noses along the lines specified by Ukrainian and U.S. experts so that the bombers could never be reconstructed. The cutting, conducted at an airbase near Pryluky, 130 kilometers east of the capital, Kiev, by the Raytheon Technical Services Co., went on for about 25 minutes. Army engineers then cut the bomber into pieces with chainsaws. Only a few reporters were admitted to the closely guarded and brief ceremony, attended by a military delegation from the United States, which helped fund the destruction. As the official dismantling ceremony began, the Tu-160 stood with its tail already cut off and its hull gutted at Pryluky. The Tu-160, the last and most expensive warplane constructed in the Soviet Union, is a copycat version of the United States' B-1 bomber, capable of flying at more than twice the speed of sound.
A delegation of U.S. defense officials, headed by Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Brigadier General Thomas Kuenning, attended the dismantling.
Ukraine inherited the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal with the 1991 Soviet collapse, including 130 SS-19 missiles, 46 SS-24 missiles and 44 strategic bombers. Ukraine has since handed over to Moscow three Tu-95s and eight Tu-160s, as well as 581 missiles, reducing its debts for Russian natural gas supplies by $275 million.
Ukraine become a nuclear free state when it shipped its last nuclear warheads to Russia in exchange for around $1 billion worth of fuel for its nuclear power plants.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry asked the United States for assistance in dismantling 38 Tu-160s and Tu-95s and 487 Kh-55 air-launched cruise missiles, signing a corresponding treaty in 1997. Last October, it asked for more funding to dismantle the country's Tu-22M bombers and Kh-22 missiles.
By Friday, 10 Tu-160 and 20 Tu-95 Ukrainian bombers had been eliminated, and one Tu-160 and two Tu-95 aircraft were turned into static displays or converted for laboratory use. Four remaining Tu-95s are to be dismantled by May, and all work under the disarmament program is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 4.
Nonferrous metals from the dismantled bombers have been sold to fund social programs for military officers and their families, and to improve military units participating in the disarmament program, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. (Reuters, AP) return to menu
VLADIVOSTOK, Feb 2, 2001 -- (Military News Agency) The joint Russian-U.S. program on scrapping nuclear submarines at the Zvezda plant in the Maritime territory lags far behind the schedule, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet headquarters told the Military News Agency on Thursday.
This conclusion was made by U.S. Defense Department military experts that visited the plant in the town of Bolshoi Kamen.
The Russian-U.S. program envisages fitting the plant with a system capable of scrapping nuclear submarines phased out from the Pacific Fleet inventory. The project is financed by the U.S. Department of Defense, and a part of the equipment is also supplied by the United States.
There are three vessels being scrapped at the moment and, according to the schedule, the plant was to have started scrapping the fourth submarine in mid-January but failed to keep it. Construction of the technological complex has not been finished yet.
Zvezda Director General Valery Maslakov and U.S. inspectors headed by Mark Baker blocked out measures to overtake arrears of work. Particularly, the sides decided to speed up construction carried out by the prime contractor, the Primortransstroy trust, and start production of the necessary specialist equipment at Zvezda. return to menu
B. U.S. - Russian Relations
1. Ivanov Warns of Space Arms Race
February 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
MUNICH, Germany - Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said Sunday that U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile system would undermine world stability and lead to a new arms race in outer space. Speaking at a defense conference in Munich, Ivanov offered talks on deep cuts in strategic nuclear arms if Washington abandons its plans.
"The destruction of the ABM treaty will result in the annihilation of the whole structure of strategic stability and create prerequisites for a new arms race, including one in outer space," Ivanov said in remarks clearly aimed at the new administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Defense analysts say the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the then-Soviet Union would be breached by the new U.S. system if it were to come into force.
"Restraining the so-called rogue nations - to use the American terminology - may be carried out more effectively from the point of view of both expense and consequences by means of a common political effort," Ivanov said. "The situation in North Korea is the obvious example because the situation a year ago seemed much worse than today."
He spoke a day after new U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking in Munich, reiterated Washington's intention of developing a missile shield despite objections from its European allies, Russia and other nations.
U.S. officials have cited the threat of missile attacks from nations such as North Korea as a reason to deploy a defensive shield.
Ivanov held out the possibility of substantial arms control cuts if Washington drops its missile defense plans and preserves the ABM treaty limiting Russia and the United States to a single defensive missile site each.
Since the 1970s, only Russia has maintained such a site, which it deploys around Moscow.
"If the ABM treaty is maintained, Russia is ready for radical cuts with the United States of strategic offensive weapons to as low as 1,500 and even lower than this level," Ivanov told the conference. "We are also ready for an immediate start to official talks with the United States on SALT III."
The alternative was a dangerous arms race into space, Ivanov said, urging an international conference on preventing the militarization of outer space. "Such a conference is to give a new impetus of countries' efforts to keep outer space free of weapons of any kind," he said. "The problem is very urgent."
U.S. officials say the ABM treaty is an antiquated relic no longer essential in the post-Cold War world, an argument Russia rejects. "The cornerstone of strategic stability is the 1972 ABM Treaty," Ivanov said. return to menu
2. NATO Enlargement Could Sink Arms Treaty, Russia Says
February 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, Feb 5, 2001 -- (Reuters) Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said on Monday that NATO expansion eastwards into the Baltics and former Soviet states could destroy a landmark treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe.
Interfax news agency quoted Sergeyev as saying ties with NATO had improved since Britain's George Robertson became secretary general, but potential pitfalls remained.
Any offer of membership to the Baltic states and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a Russian-led grouping of ex-Soviet republics, could severely damage ties.
"If there was such a development, NATO's military infrastructure would virtually reach Russia's borders," he said.
"And if among the new members of the alliance there were Baltic countries and CIS states, then that could destroy the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty," Sergeyev told Interfax.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which regained independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, have striven to anchor themselves in the Western orbit by securing NATO membership. NATO is cautious because of deep Russian hostility to the move.
"Every state can, of course, build its own security according to its own judgment, but not at the cost of the security of others," Sergeyev said.
Signed in the dying days of the Cold War, the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, revised in 1999, limits the number of battle tanks, heavy artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters deployed and stored between the Atlantic Ocean and Russia's Urals Mountains.
RUSSIAN PLANS FOR "SON OF STAR WARS"
The Russian minister also renewed Russian attacks on U.S. plans to build a "son of star wars" national missile defense (NMD) shield, in breach of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which has guided arms control for three decades.
He said Russia would dust down countermeasures drawn up in the 1980s, when U.S. President Ronald Reagan vowed to build a space-based system dubbed "star wars", if Washington pushed ahead with NMD despite Moscow's objections.
"At the time of Reagan's 'star wars' we had three powerful projects to counter the U.S. anti-missile defense system," Sergeyev said. The schemes had been frozen when 'star wars' was dropped, "but they remain and we could return to them," he said.
Russia fears NMD would undermine its nuclear deterrent, and force it into a new arms race it can ill afford. Washington says the system does not target Russia and aims only to protect itself from attack by hostile states like North Korea and Iraq.
The new U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, reiterated Washington's determination to develop the missile shield in a speech to a defense conference in Munich on Saturday.
Sergei Ivanov, secretary of Russia's security council, told the same conference on Sunday that NMD would undermine world stability, and offered talks on deep cuts in strategic nuclear arms if the Bush administration dropped NMD and preserved the ABM Treaty.
France and Germany are among Washington's NATO allies in Europe to have misgivings about NMD. Their defense ministers have recently sought details from Moscow of its counter-offer of joint work on a regional missile shield that would preserve ABM.
Relations between Russia and NATO have slowly improved since hitting a post-Cold War low in 1999 during the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia, a traditional ally of Moscow, over Kosovo.
Although some bitterness remained, Sergeyev welcomed "positive tendencies" in a joint Russia-NATO council set up to give Moscow a voice in NATO affairs.
NATO planners are now taking on board Russian views before taking decisions, said Sergeyev. "We don't have the right of veto, but we take part in the discussion and elaboration of approaches to the key problems of European security," he said.
Joint peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans had also "changed for the better" with Robertson's arrival as NATO boss, he said. return to menu
3. Russian Warns U.S. on Arms Race
The Associated Press
February 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
MUNICH, Germany (AP) - A top Russian security official sternly warned the new Bush administration Sunday that a planned U.S. national missile defense system would trigger a new arms race that would eventually extend into space.
Sergei Ivanov, secretary of President Vladimir Putin's powerful security council, told an international conference of defense ministers and experts that the system would by definition abolish the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"And the destruction of the ABM treaty, we are quite confident, will result in the annihilation of the whole structure of strategic stability and create prerequisites for a new arms race - including one in space," he said.
Bush's new defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to reassure concerned European allies during the conference Saturday that the missile defense system would threaten no one except aggressors. Rumsfeld also said that while the United States would consult with its allies, it would not be dissuaded from the project.
However, Russia and the United States expressed clearly different views on the 1972 ABM treaty during the weekend conference. Ivanov said the importance of the treaty "has not faded."
By contrast, Rumsfeld, who returned to Washington Saturday, called it "ancient history."
Supporting that view, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman told delegates Sunday that the treaty "is an expression of a bipolar world.
"We are in a multipolar world, and therefore we need new documents that will indeed express what strategic interdependence means today."
The United States wants the missile defense system to defend itself against rogue nuclear threats - and has strenuously countered Russian fears that it is being constructed against Russia.
Ivanov urged in his speech that the rogue threat would be more effectively countered with politics - pointing out progress in the last year in normalizing relations between communist North Korea and South Korea.
Former U.S. Secretary of State William S. Cohen shot back that proliferation of Russian weapons technology to countries like Iran provided impetus to the national missile defense. "One way to deal with the problem is to stop proliferating. Russia must cease and desist in that regard," Cohen said.
Cohen also confronted Ivanov with Russian suggestions of U.S. involvement in the sinking of the Kursk submarine.
"The Kursk was a great tragedy. Many, many Russian sailors were doomed to death. We continue to see accusations, however faint or indirect, that somehow it was caused by a collision with an American submarine. That again is a complete fabrication. There was no collision with an American submarine." return to menu
4. There's No Hurry
The Moscow Times
February 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
President Vladimir Putin has indicated that he would welcome a dialogue with newly elected U.S. President George W. Bush, but the White House has made it clear that policy discussions at the summit level will not be held any time soon. Reports from Washington even say that the July Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, is planned to be no more than a "get acquainted" time for Putin and Bush. However, Moscow should not think that, because Bush is taking his time, a radical shift in U.S. policy is in the works or that Washington has decided to downgrade relations.
Columnist Jim Hoagland wrote in The Washington Post this week that Bush's "slow boat to Russia" can be explained by the fact that the new president will consult extensively with European allies before engaging Russia. He will seek their views on national missile defense, or NMD, NATO expansion and other issues affecting the broad pattern of U.S.-European relations.
This is in keeping with Bush's presidential campaign promises to tighten U.S. alliances.
There are other reasons for the delay in substantive negotiations with Russia, reasons that the White House doesn't want to talk about. Bush is neither well informed nor well traveled. American state governors do not have a foreign policy and generally pay little attention to the world at large. This was true of Bill Clinton and it is of Bush as well. During the presidential campaign, the Republican candidate had to be heavily scripted and briefed. He made only three foreign policy campaign speeches, only one of which - while staying close to the script - provided a broad perspective. He spouted only memorized sound bites supplied by his knowledgeable foreign policy advisers during the presidential debates.
Engaging in substantive policy talks with Russia (or China) without substantial knowledge presents Bush with multiple hazards. It will take time for the president to "get up to speed." Bush is fully aware that making a mistake on early policy decisions will influence his reputation with Congress, the media and public. He remembers Clinton's imbroglio when he charged ahead with a controversial gays-in-the-military policy early in his administration. Clinton's reputation with the Pentagon, already tarnished by his Vietnam draft-dodging, never fully recovered. Bush, in contrast, has chosen the relative safe ground of education policy as his first policy initiative.
Major foreign policy initiatives can wait. Bush and the rest of the world are fully aware that Vice President Richard Cheney and the president's foreign policy team - headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - are experienced, opinionated, tough-minded realists. Proceeding while unprepared would make Bush a captive of his advisers when they speak with one voice. Already some in the media expect Cheney to act like a prime minister, leaving Bush a more regal, even ceremonial role. However, Bush will not play that game.
It is also apparent that Bush cannot expect his foreign policy team always to speak with one voice. Major conflicts over policy are inevitable. Powell, for example, has indicated that he will try to attain negotiated modifications to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty before proceeding with NMD. Rumsfeld's position holds that the ABM Treaty is an "ancient" Cold War relic and "ought not to inhibit a country, a president, an administration, a nation, from fashioning offensive and defensive capabilities that will provide for our security in a notably different national security environment." Cheney will also enter the policy mix. Any policy dispute, therefore, will place inordinate burdens on Bush. And as all executive officials - whether governors or presidents - recognize it is necessary to be somewhat knowledgeable on issues in order to tell the difference between good and bad advice.
Finally, there is no foreign policy urgency toward Russia. No crisis demands immediate attention. Reports from the White House say that patience will buy time to see what policies Putin will pursue. Concern has been expressed over Russian arms sales and technology transfers to Iran, especially those that could assist Tehran's nuclear program. The announced preparation of a Russian-Chinese political pact also calls for patience to see what eventually transpires. Others express fear that Putin's crackdown on oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky and Media-MOST may signal a shift to more authoritarian policies that would make congressional and media support for America's Russian policies, such as the Comprehensive Threat Reduction program (also called Nunn-Lugar), less tenable.
After considering Bush's situation, it might well be in Moscow's interest to match Washington's patience with its own. return to menu
C. Export Controls
1. Moscow Sets Up New Export Control Regime
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
February 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
Boris Kuzyk, the general director of the New Programs and Concepts Industrial Holding, told Interfax on 1 February that President Putin's recent decree setting up an export control commission for high technology items was "the finishing touch" to Moscow's effort to improve control over Russian military-technical cooperation with other countries. He added that the new commission shows that Russia will live up to "its commitments under international accords on the non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons and their means of delivery." return to menu
D. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
1. Nuclear Interests of Putin's Doctrine
Vek (translation from RIA Novosti)
February 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
The Institute of Strategic Stability state unitary enterprise of the Ministry of Atomic Energy of Russia was established on January 19 last year. Since then, the institute won broad recognition of specialists in the military-political, military-technical, international treaty and other spheres. But the general readers were kept in the dark about the operation of that institute. Viktor MIKHAILOV, the director of the institute and Russia's atomic energy minister from 1992 to 1998, discloses this secret in an interview he granted to Gennady VOSKRESENSKY.
Mikhailov: As sealed in its statutory documents, our institute was set up "to consolidate the branch potential" and to provide "a conceptual analysis of the military-political situation." It was for the first time that a research and analysis centre with such global tasks was set up at the Ministry of Atomic Energy.
To be more specific, the institute carries out research, analytical, review and other projects in the sphere of nuclear weapons, inspects the normative-legal documents on strategic security, analyses the progress of the fulfillment of obligations and conditions stipulated in international treaties on nuclear weapons. It also drafts corresponding proposals and recommendations, in particular on combating nuclear terrorism, and takes part in the elaboration of draft international treaties on the non-proliferation, reduction and liquidation of nuclear weapons.
In short, the institute acts as the organiser and coordinator of all research and analytical projects "in the interests of ensuring strategic stability in the military-political sphere, above all the sphere of nuclear weapons." The results of our efforts are provided directly to the leadership of the Ministry of Atomic Energy of Russia.
Of course, this is not a new sphere of operation for the industry. Its leadership has always been concerned with problems of strategic stability, but the goals are different. In the past, our goal was to have more nuclear warheads than the USA and its allies had. The situation is fundamentally different now, because the military threat has diminished. It is clear to everyone now that Russia, the USA and other countries no longer need the giant nuclear arsenals of the past. The time has come to conceptually analyse the notions of nuclear weapons, the peaceful atom and nuclear energy.
This is what the institute is doing, namely making forecasts on trends in the research-technical progress in all countries in the next 15-20 years. And I mean ALL countries. On the one hand, the structure of the nuclear complex should be rather conservative. But on the other hand, it should take into account the global realities in the next 10-20 years ahead. How can we tackle these mutually exclusive tasks? That is the question.
Question: And yet, I am convinced that you are spotlighting above all the USA.
Question: Including probably in connection with the ABM Treaty. The Americans are arguing about the need to "modernise" the treaty, which we regard as fine words designed to justify their unilateral withdrawal from the treaty. Will you comment, please?
Mikhailov: A treaty is a treaty. Indeed, it is said that the USA has revised it. But what is a revision? There are two parties to the ABM Treaty and either can withdraw from it after notifying the other side (six or 12 months prior to withdrawal). This is standard practice.
I think the USA will eventually withdraw from the treaty.Should Russia fear this? I'm not sure. Instead, it should analyse and try to understand why one of the parties to the treaty should explode one of the most important international treaties, what the reasons for this are, and what new circumstances the current situation has added to the treaty.
When we understand why this is happening, we should suggest something that would interest the whole of the international community. We should also cancel the 1973, 1976 and 1977 treaties on preventing a nuclear war, signed by the Soviet Union with the USA, Britain and France. The world is actively collaborating now in all spheres of non-proliferation. There are well-oiled mechanisms of influencing specific countries. And since we have these mechanisms, we can also find solutions to problems.
Question: You said the military threat has diminished. But has the nuclear component of global security diminished, too? Or will it diminish in the future?
Mikhailov: No. Nuclear weapons continue to be the guarantor of peace. Moreover, the role of the nuclear component is growing. Certainly. And it will continue to remain one of the key factors of the system of global security. A factor of peace. I stress this and I am perfectly convinced of this. But local conflicts are quite another matter. They can hardly be stopped.
Question: Not even with nuclear weapons, right? And how should we regard the presence of nuclear weapons in the countries that are involved in local conflicts, such as Israel, India and Pakistan?
Mikhailov: Without dramatising the situation. Israel? Yes, it does not refute the fact that it has nuclear weapons. Or rather, it is happy to think that others believe it to have nuclear weapons. In fact, there is a good umbrella, called the USA, over that country. India and Pakistan? The same. The struggle for independence? No, for the status quo. Look how jubilant the people of India and Pakistan were after the 1998 tests! They were jubilant!
In general, many countries are worried by the absence of nuclear weapons. And I think many will go to all ends to acquire nuclear weapons. It is another matter that not all countries can create their own nuclear weapons. It is a fiction that anyone can create nuclear weapons. This is not true. To do this, a country should have extremely high standards of science, technology and production.
Question: It is widely discussed now that the use of weapons with depleted uranium during the NATO operation in Yugoslavia resulted in radioactive pollution. Is this true?
Mikhailov: The pure Uranium 238 is a specific material. In itself, it could not engender the processes that are widely discussed now, and any respected commission will prove this. Although it is highly active chemically at high temperatures. And toxic when ingested. Such uranium exists in nature and is sufficiently stable. I think this ado is dominated by emotions fanned by the words "uranium," "plutonium" and the like.
Question: Do you think Russia's nuclear potential is sufficient for the country to be a part of global nuclear trends?
Mikhailov: Yes, it is. We are maintaining broad cooperation with the USA, Canada, European countries, India, China, Japan, Brazil and all other nuclear countries. What does this mean? I mean that, according to your dictionary, the Russian atomic industry certainly fits in with the global nuclear trends. Moreover, the Russian nuclear power engineering is one of the few high-tech spheres ensuring the country leading positions in the camp of other developed countries.
Question: The Ministry of Atomic Energy has stepped up its international activities of late. What is the role of nuclear interests in the so-called Putin's foreign policy doctrine?
Mikhailov: Why "of late"? Nuclear questions have always been at the top of our foreign policy agenda. In 1996, Moscow hosted the G8 summit on nuclear safety. It was stated then that there can be no confrontation in questions of learning to use nuclear energy and that we should develop broad international cooperation in that sphere. So, President Putin only expanded this sphere to the UN framework. In its turn, this means that the president is perfectly aware of the role of nuclear energy, including its peaceful and military uses. This is why nuclear interests make up one of the key components of Putin's doctrine.
Question: What does you institute plan to contribute to the implementation of this component part of the doctrine?
Mikhailov: Many things, and this concerns not only analysis of the development of the existing nuclear arsenal, its reduction and the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime. I would say that these are tactical tasks. And everything is more or less clear in this sphere.
But there is also another side to this question. We have only begun to tap nuclear energy. We are at the very beginning of its large-scale use. There is incredibly much to do in this sphere. Our institute is generating ideas in this direction, and the implementation of these ideas will result in the creation of nuclear technologies of the 21st century, the technologies of finding new sources of energy. Safe, completely safe sources. Such sources could be much higher than the ones we are using now. return to menu
2. Russia Plans to Build 40 Nuclear Reactors by 2020
January 31, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, Jan 31, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia plans to build 40 nuclear reactors by 2020 to prevent a potential "energy crisis" deputy atomic energy minister Boulat Nigmatulin announced Monday.
"We are 20 years behind. These reactors have to be built by 2020," Nigmatulin told AFP.
He explained that the original plan to build the reactors was devised in the 1980s but stalled in the 1990s.
Russia currently has 19 nuclear reactors operating at nine plants.
"Russia's European flank will soon face an energy deficit. The only possible solution open to the government is to build new reactors," the vice minister said.
"We can't burn up all our gas reserves and what kind of future can our children look forward to?"
Another advantage to the nuclear option is that the plants operate using Russian equipment and technology, unlike the thermal power stations which required imported equipment, Nigmatulin added.
Over the next decade, Russia plans to build 10 new nuclear reactors, he said.
He said that Russia would spend the money required to assure security at the reactors "in line with international norms".
The world's most infamous nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine -- then part of the Soviet Union -- was the site of the worst nuclear accident in history in 1986.
An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 people have died as a result of the explosion that contaminated three quarters of Europe, spewing radiation into the atmosphere equivalent to 500 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 41 years earlier.
Nigmatulin said that 1.4 billion rubles (50 million dollars) had been earmarked for the scheme in 2001.
Last year production at Russia's nuclear power stations increased by 8.3 percent over 1999, producing 130 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, said Yuri Iakovlev, director of Rosenergoatom, the state monopoly in charge of the nuclear reactors.
It was also stressed that security at the plants had improved last year when 67 incidents were registered against 88 in 1999.
However Rosenergoatom announced in a statement Tuesday that a fault at a nuclear power plant in Russia's central Urals region forced a partial shutdown of one of its generators as a security measure.
The fault was discovered in generator number five at the Beloyarsk nuclear plant, and as a result the generator's output was reduced by 33 percent early Tuesday.
Radioactivity levels at the plant remained normal, and the safe operation of the plant had not been put at risk, the statement went on. return to menu
E. Russian Nuclear Forces
1. Rivalry, Hesitancy Leave Russian Nuke Force in Flux
February 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Forty-five years after Moscow first tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a shortage of cash and confidence has left Russia's aging nuclear deterrent in crisis.
On February 2, 1956, Moscow confirmed its arrival as the world's second nuclear superpower by firing an R5-M rocket 750 miles to the Karakum Desert in central Asia, where its nuclear warhead exploded at a top-secret test range.
Almost half a century later, defense chiefs row publicly over the fate of the strategic rocket force and attempts founder to whip the demoralized armed forces into a modern, effective fighting force.
For almost a year Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin have fought a vicious feud over the future of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF).
Kvashnin wants to slash the SRF, merge it with the air force and use the savings to streamline the army into a force capable of quickly crushing Chechnya-style internal conflicts.
"Insane," fumed the normally placid Sergeyev.
"Above all this is a clash of personal ambitions between the group headed by the defense minister and supporters of the chief of staff," said Mikhail Khodarenok, military affairs specialist with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.
"The clash long ago went beyond the bounds of decency, and what is rather surprising is the position of the commander-in-chief, President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites)," he said. "If it's carrying on then it's probably because the president has not yet made up his own mind."
Reform Stymied, Putin Dithers
The ensuing row has placed a question mark over the size and status of Russia's nuclear forces and stifled Putin's drive to slash the country's 1.2 million strong armed forces.
Analysts say Putin only acts when governed by gut instinct or guided by a clear majority. Shorn of either, he dithers.
Dmitry Trenin, a senior defense analyst at Moscow's Carnegie Centre, said the president's dilemma underscored a fundamental flaw in Russia's attempts to overhaul its creaking military.
Russia is seeking to downsize its forces for economic, not strategic, reasons, and has no clear vision of its role in the new world order that followed the collapse of Communism.
"The biggest unanswered question of Russia's military reform and foreign policy and security policy in general is how to treat the United States," Trenin said.
"If you treat the United States as a potential adversary you have one sort of answer. If you conclude that the time of military rivalry with the United States is over...you have a totally different mission for the armed forces."
The row over Russia's nuclear arsenal has further hamstrung Moscow's ability to respond to U.S. plans for a national missile defense (NMD) shield to counter the threat of so-called "rogue states" like Iran, Iraq and North Korea (news - web sites).
Moscow bitterly opposes the $60 billion dollar scheme that it fears will undermine its own deterrent and launch a new arms race that would suck in another nuclear power, China.
Such alarmist voices strike a false note, says Charles Dick, head of Britain's Conflict Studies Research Centre. "The Russians know perfectly well they can't run another arms race.
"The only way they are going is down, and the question is how far and how fast," he said by telephone. By 2007, much of Russia's nuclear arsenal will be obsolete and screeching about NMD is a ploy to win U.S. concessions, he said.
A campaign pledge by new U.S. President George W. Bush (news - web sites) to make unilateral cuts to America's vast nuclear warhead stockpile could meet some Russian concerns.
But Putin was still left with a major policy headache, said Khodarenko. Irrespective of a decision by Washington on whether to unilaterally abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and forge ahead with NMD, Moscow should set its own long-term policy goals.
"I think it's a mistake for Russia to link policy changes to personnel changes, because on the whole policy does not change much when this or that president comes to power," he said. return to menu
1. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Says All Nuclear States Should Negotiate START III
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
February 1, 2001
(for personal use only)
Duma Defense Committee chairman Andrei Nikolaev (People's Deputy) said on 31 January that all countries with nuclear weapons should participate in START III talks, but that those negotiations should begin only after the U.S. Senate completes ratification of two documents under this treaty. return to menu