By all accounts, the first US-Russia summit meeting between presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana went rather well.
By all official accounts, that is. For this was a meeting that was condemned to succeed, regardless of substance.
It was a public relations exercise: not unimportant as such, at least in improving the bad vibrations that have prevailed between the two countries since Mr. Bush took office. But the protestations of new-found friendship had little to do with the reality of a relationship that is stagnating, if not in fact deteriorating.
Behind the smiles, two disturbing things emerged from the talks. One was the US president's remark afterwards: "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul." Now Mr. Putin is the sort of man who does not give much away, an apparatchik trained by the mighty KGB, whose smile seldom reaches his eyes. For Mr. Bush to believe that a two-hour conversation could really give him an insight into the Russian leader's "soul" suggests an alarming naivety in the heart of the White House.
The other disturbing fact is much more substantial. It is that in spite of the advance publicity, the new US administration has no coherent strategy for dealing with its former superpower rival. Or, to be more precise, there is a gaping contradiction at the heart of its policy.
Mr. Bush set out for Europe with two overriding policy aims, apart from his desire to be liked. One was to persuade all Europeans, from east and west, that missile defence remains a paramount ambition of his administration and a sensible strategy. That came with the important proviso, however, that he would seek to pursue it in co-operation with his allies - and Russia - not confrontation. As such, it was somewhat reassuring.
The second message was that he was determined to press ahead with the next phase of NATO enlargement. This time there would be no "red lines" set by Russia, seeking to block NATO membership for any country once part of the former Soviet Union. That would open the way for the three little Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
On the face of it, both missile defence and NATO enlargement are policy aims inimical to Russia. The former would mean scrapping the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the cornerstone of nuclear deterrence, of which Russia is co-signatory. The latter would thrust NATO, the military alliance established to counter the threat from Moscow, into the heart of its former empire.
So Mr. Bush set out with the third and laudable ambition of embracing Mr. Putin, assuring him of future partnership and making a statement of the obvious: that the cold war is over. The trouble is, the words were all there was.
The chances are that missile defence is not going to be the biggest problem between Washington and Moscow. Russia would welcome involvement in some sort of system protecting itself from the potential rogue states on its southern border. Even now, Russian officials are at work redrafting the ABM treaty to accommodate some sort of missile defence system, while ensuring that it is aimed only at rogue states.
It may sound absurd but the real difficulty for Moscow is with NATO enlargement. Mr. Putin has built his political base, and his considerable popularity, on the revival of Russian national pride. He won his election thanks to the vigorous (many would say vicious) prosecution of the war in Chechnya. He simply cannot afford the national humiliation of the Baltic republics joining the "old enemy," probably as soon as next year.
To press ahead with that aim, as Mr. Bush and his advisers on the Republican right seem determined to do, risks turning Russia into a "rogue state" - but, unlike North Korea, Iran and Iraq, a rogue state with a vast array of nuclear missiles. If it does not become a rogue state itself, it could easily become a supplier of hardware to rogue states.
The whole strategy of NATO enlargement has been ill-thought-out. The cornerstone of the NATO treaty is Article 5, which in effect commits all members to defend each other if attacked. "An armed attack against one or more of them . . . shall be considered an attack against them all," it says. Article 5 has always been taken to provide the threat of US nuclear defence for those NATO members incapable of defending themselves against conventional attack. That would undoubtedly be the situation of the Baltic republics, if threatened by an alienated Russia. Yet it is extremely difficult to imagine how the US Congress could contemplate launching nuclear war to protect such tiny countries, so far removed from any conceivable definition of US national interest.
The answer to Mr. Bush's dilemma is clear. It is not to reject NATO enlargement. It is to extend the invitation to Russia itself. That in turn would undoubtedly mean a fundamental reassessment of the alliance - both the political part and its essential military underpinning.
Ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, such a rethink is overdue. So far, the NATO member states have done little more than tinker with their organisation, although its tasks have been transformed. Indeed, the lack of an obvious strategic purpose for NATO is its biggest problem, causing growing tensions between the US and its allies.
Should it be an organisation to act as global sheriff - in another Gulf war? Or should it be primarily devoted to muscular peacekeeping, including peacemaking, as in the Balkans? Is the magnificent military machine created to fight the cold war to become no more than a crisis management organisation to deal with future Macedonias? Or is it simply an organisation to bind the US to Europe - and Europe to the US?
Those questions have never been properly answered, which is why the Europeans are worried about US commitment, the US is worried about Europe's own defence plans and Russia is convinced the whole thing is still above all an anti-Russian alliance. Pursuing the enlargement strategy without fundamental reform simply confirms those Russian fears.
Vaclav Havel, the Czech president, made a passionate plea last month for NATO enlargement. He said NATO should reach from "Alaska in the west to Tallinn in the east." In other words, Russia would be excluded. Surely that is precisely the sort of cold war thinking Mr. Bush says we must abandon? So the logic of Mr. Bush's position is that Russia itself must join NATO - and NATO must become a truly pan-European security alliance, from Vancouver to Vladivostok. return to menu
B. U.S. - Russia Relations
1. Russia Tests Old Missile in Apparent Hint to U.S.
June 27, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- Russia test-fired a 26-year-old ballistic missile on Wednesday, hinting the weapon could gain new life as a "hydra-headed" countermeasure if the United States pressed on with President Bush's defense plans.
The Russian military said it had test-fired a huge Stiletto missile from Russia's space base at Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
Missile tests are not uncommon in Russia, but Wednesday's came a week after President Vladimir Putin threatened to stack multiple nuclear warheads on Russian missiles as a countermeasure to a proposed U.S. anti-rocket shield.
The Stiletto, referred to by NATO as the SS-19, was built between the mid-1970s and 80s, and can carry a payload of more than four tons.
A Russian Strategic Rocket Forces official told Reuters the Stiletto could be re-equipped to carry up to six warheads.
Only the even older SS-18 Satan missile, which could carry 10-12 warheads, is bigger. The Satans are now set to be scrapped altogether under the START-2 arms control treaty signed by Bush's father in 1993. Russia's most modern strategic missile, the Topol-M, is more mobile than the older generations of rockets, but only carries one ton of payload. It could also be refitted to take more than one warhead.
Itar-Tass news agency said a military source had told it Russia's older, larger missiles would be "the only way of resolving strategic tasks in contemporary conditions."
"Compared to (the Topol-M, the Stiletto) has a considerably higher chance of overcoming the ABM system of the likely enemy," due to its larger payload, it quoted the source as saying.
Under START-2, Moscow and Washington agreed to scrap "hydra-headed" multiple-warhead rockets.
But Putin said last week that START-2 would be automatically void if Washington pulls out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile pact to build a new defense shield.
He said no missile defense system would be able to counter multiple warhead rockets for decades.
Bush has said the ABM treaty is a Cold War-era relic and should be scrapped to allow the United States to develop a high-tech shield against missiles that may be fired by states such as Iraq or North Korea. return to menu
2. Russian Presidential Aide Warns of New Nuclear Proliferation
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- Former Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev warned Tuesday that several nations could develop nuclear weapons in the next decade and suggested that stricter arms controls are needed, a news report said.
"About 12 types of ballistic missiles capable of reaching Russian territory are in the development, manufacture or deployment stage in threshold countries," Sergeyev, now an aide to Russian President Putin, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. "This means that the security of Russia will be more vulnerable than, for example, that of the U.S."
He did not name any countries, but said several could become nuclear states by 2010-2015.
Sergeyev visited the United States last week and met with top American officials to press Russia's opposition to U.S. proposals for a national missile defense. The shield would require amending or abandoning the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which bans nationwide defenses on the principle that countries won't launch nuclear attacks if they face certain retaliation.
Russia warns that the U.S. move would prompt a new arms race and render its own arsenal ineffective. Washington insists the system would be aimed at smaller potential nuclear states such as North Korea and Iraq.
Sergeyev, a former head of Russia's strategic missile force, suggested stronger measures are needed to prevent nuclear proliferation.
"While it is premature to say that regional nuclear armament races have begun, it is quite possible to speak about coming closer to the starting line for such a race unless effective measures are taken," he said. The report did not elaborate.
On Monday, Sergeyev's successor as defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, said the United States might not move ahead with plans for the anti-missile shield because if the decision were set in stone the Americans wouldn't be consulting Russia about it. return to menu
3. Putin's Futile Warhead-Rattling
R. James Woolsey
June 26, 2001
(for personal use only)
In his recent marathon press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to show both a velvet glove -- nobody here but us free enterprise democrats, folks -- and a barely concealed mailed fist: In essence, if you Americans deploy ballistic missile defenses we will put multiple warheads on our new ICBMs.
Some European and American observers have already declared that Putin has now trumped every card in the American hand. What could be worse, they ask, than more Russian strategic warheads? Destabilizing! Arms race! Stop Bush from provoking this horror!
The proper riposte to Putin's threat is the one given earlier this year by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when Russia's current defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, similarly told him that Russia would deploy more strategic warheads if the United States pursued defenses. Essentially, Rumsfeld shrugged.
Exactly right. If Putin wants to waste his rubles convincing the world that his nostalgia for the Cold War knows no bounds, it's his problem, not ours. The number of Russian strategic warheads was a central concern for us only in the historical context of the Cold War and the threat the Soviets then posed to Europe. Fixation on such numbers today is a demonstration of short-term memory loss -- about everything that's happened since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today we have two serious problems with Russia's nuclear forces, but neither has anything to do with the number of their strategic warheads.
First, Russian warning systems are thoroughly decrepit and riddled with gaps. Some of their radars are not even in Russia, due to the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the satellites in their warning network are starting to fail. In 1995 President Boris Yeltsin was falsely alerted because the wheezing Russian warning system mistakenly took the launch of a Norwegian scientific rocket (of which they had been notified) for a possible missile launch from a U.S. submarine. The Russians need help filling these gaps in their warning systems, and two years ago we agreed to do so -- by forming a joint U.S.-Russian warning center in Moscow that would use data from both countries -- but the Russians continue to delay its implementation.
Second, although Russian strategic warheads are well-guarded, large numbers of small tactical nuclear warheads and huge amounts of fissionable material usable for bombs are not, and these create a serious stockpile security problem. Nunn-Lugar funds from the United States have helped secure about two-thirds of this mess from theft and smuggling and could help secure the rest, but again Russian stalling (much of it from President Putin's old outfit, the domestic successor to the KGB) is holding up progress.
The numbers of Russian strategic warheads don't cause, or even exacerbate, either the warning or the stockpile problems. The warning gaps have to be fixed whether the Russians have 1,000 strategic warheads or 5,000 -- the accidental launch of even one would be an incredible disaster -- and this risk is basically unaffected by warhead numbers. The stockpile security problem is also independent of strategic warhead numbers. It is fissionable material and small tactical warheads that are in danger of being stolen or sold, not the well-guarded strategic systems.
So why the excitement about Putin's strategic warhead brandishing? It's been said that the most common form of mistake is forgetting what it is you're trying to accomplish. This is what has happened to those who have started fluttering about Putin's threat.
During the Cold War there was indeed a reason we cared about the number of warheads on Soviet strategic ballistic missiles. More than 20 armored and mechanized Soviet divisions were poised only a few days' march from the Low Countries and the English Channel. We needed to be sure that, in a crisis, our allies would hold firm. and thus we could brook no doubts about our steadfastness. We wanted them, and the Soviets, to have no doubt that if necessary we would use our strategic forces to defend Europe.
The bulk of our deterrent was in our silo-based ICBMs, and they were crucial to us because of their unique accuracy and reliable communications, and because, unlike the bomber force, the Soviets had no defenses against them. We were deeply concerned that if the Soviets could credibly threaten to strike first and destroy our ICBMs with a small number of their own ICBMs carrying multiple warheads -- while retaining the bulk of their strategic forces in reserve -- our allies would doubt our resolve.
Our ballistic missile submarine force was steadily modernized over the years, but most of us were unwilling to rely on it alone. Consequently in the arms control negotiations of the '70s and '80s, we bargained hard to limit Soviet warhead numbers, to protect our ICBMs from attack.
Today's world bears not the faintest resemblance to that of the Cold War. Brussels indeed stands naked to invaders, but it is to a golden horde of antitrust lobbyists. Some of our allies doubt our resolve, but their concern is our fetish for CO2-emitting SUVs. Missiles are still the heart of our nuclear deterrent, but the bulk of them are on Trident submarines; added numbers of strategic warheads, by anyone, do not make them vulnerable.
It is reported that President Bush may soon show he is not obsessed by strategic warhead numbers by unilaterally reducing ours. We should also keep trying to get the Russians to let us help them solve their real strategic problems -- decrepit warning and unsecured stockpiles. And if part of the administration's defense plan against rogue states includes boost phase intercept -- being able to shoot down offensive missiles very early in their flight -- the system would incidentally also defend Russia.
If, in spite of all this, Putin keeps threatening to add to Russia's strategic warhead numbers, we have two things to communicate to him. First, as an act of kindness we could point out that he'd get substantially more military utility out of battleships, the political currency of 1920s arms control. But if he ignores that friendly suggestion, then it's time for the shrug.
The writer, an attorney and a former CIA director, was ambassador, delegate or adviser in five U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations. return to menu
4. Powell Dismisses Putin's Threat on Nuclear Forces
June 24, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is brushing aside a warning by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin that he will upgrade his country's strategic nuclear arsenal if the United States deploys a missile defense system.
Putin has issued the warning on several occasions, and again yesterday, but Powell seemed almost dismissive of the Russian leader's stand when asked about it Friday in an interview.
"I am not in charge of Russia, but I don't think that's what they would do," Powell said. He said he was confident that Putin would not try to enhance Russia's strategic force once he took the cost into account. Powell added that Putin also would come to realize that a U.S. missile defense is not a threat to Russia.
Critics of the missile defense system argue that its deployment by the United States would touch off an arms race, with Russia and China taking steps to build up their arsenals to overwhelm the U.S. defense shield.
Yesterday, Putin again threatened a nuclear buildup if the United States abandons the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
"This means that all countries, including Russia, will have the right to install multiple warheads carrying nuclear weapons on their missiles," he told reporters in Moscow. He said that for Russia, installing multiple nuclear warheads on existing missiles" is the cheapest response."
That echoed his comments Monday that while he would try to work cooperatively with the United States in developing a new security framework, Russia would enhance its nuclear forces if the United States pursued a go-it-alone posture on missile defense. return to menu
5. Just What Game Is Putin Playing?
Patrick E. Tyler
New York Times
June 24, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- To earn his black belt in judo, President Vladimir V. Putin spent years sizing up opponents before trying a throw. So it shouldn't be surprising that soon after that soul-gazing summit with President Bush, the Russian leader delivered an unexpected blow to his new partner - and radically shifted the terms of the debate about missile defense.
Mr. Bush had seemed exuberant that he had created some momentum in Europe for his proposals when Mr. Putin shifted the ground under him. The Russian leader said if the United States acted unilaterally by withdrawing from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty to build the missile shield, Russia would pull out of all arms control treaties of the last 30 years. Then it would increase the power of its nuclear arsenal manyfold by abandoning its commitment to phase out multiple warheads on its ICBM's, one of arms control's signal achievements under the second strategic arms reduction treaty.
The Russian leader insisted he was not trying to threaten anyone. But with disarming candor he demonstrated that though Russia has a relatively weak hand to play in international affairs, he intends to play it as best he can to undermine American unilateralism where it threatens - at least in his view - Russian national interests.
Russia has inherited much of the bargaining power of the Soviet state as the only country with the capability to destroy the United States with nuclear weapons. It maintains a huge, if aging, nuclear arsenal that includes strategic rockets that have multiple warheads, but are due to be dismantled or replaced with single warhead missiles.
Because Europe is watching, Mr. Bush, for now, needs Russia's assent to modify the ABM treaty. Mr. Putin explained how he and Mr. Bush should proceed: first, examining the missile capabilities of so-called rogue states, then determining the best way to counter those threats with missile defense technologies and then discussing where such defenses conflict with the treaty.
And Mr. Putin laid down the markers of how Russia might respond if it turns out that Mr. Bush had feigned cooperation. Russia possesses an enormous potential to play the spoiler by spreading its most sophisticated weapons technologies to unstable places around the world - something Mr. Putin now says he has no intention of doing. But there have been rumors in Russia's defense establishment for a year that Moscow might sell an Oscar II class nuclear submarine to China. Like the ill-fated Kursk that sank last summer, the Oscars carry a complement of superfast torpedoes and cruise missiles designed in Soviet times to destroy American aircraft carriers. And China has been looking for weapons to keep the American fleet at bay in the event of a showdown over Taiwan. The list could go on: Syria, Libya, Iran and Iraq are hungry for the advanced missiles that Moscow produces, but Mr. Putin has withheld them while working with Europe and the United States to stem the flow of dangerous technology.
It seems Mr. Putin has found an excellent position. As long as he sticks to fundamentals - the long record of arms control that has created the only existing security guarantees in the nuclear age - Mr. Bush will carry the responsibility for any consequences of a decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty. The cost of a withdrawal, Mr. Putin said, will be Start I and Start II - not to mention the likely abandonment of Start III negotiations, which hold the promise to cut in half again the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States.
In addition, Mr. Putin knows he could put pressure on the United States from a series of other positions.
One involves China. Moscow and Beijing are moving closer together as their conflicts with Washington grow. Next month, the two countries are slated to sign a friendship and cooperation treaty and also initiate stronger defense cooperation. Mr. Putin has resuscitated the triangular diplomacy of the cold war.
China has a small missile force, but Mr. Putin's warning that more warheads could be put on Russian missiles quietly raises the specter of Russia helping China develop multiple warhead technology and expand its nuclear potential. This would only incite India, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to new levels of alarm.
IF the proliferation dominoes start falling - with India, Pakistan and other aspiring nuclear states making ready to build out their nuclear forces - Mr. Putin will be there to remind President Bush where it all started.
But these are not the only possibilities.
The Russian leader said that an American missile shield would not pose a threat to Russia for up to 25 years. Was he suggesting that Russia might do nothing in response now? If so, what would be the price? Could it be the cancellation of Russia's Soviet-era debt, as some Bush administration advisers advocate?
Mr. Putin seems willing to undertake a significant collaboration with the Bush administration on everything from controlling the flow of narcotics to taking stronger measures to undermine the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan. And there have been hints that Russia's policy of selling nuclear reactors and battlefield weapons to Iran might be up for negotiation.
And what of North Korea? The Bush administration position is not yet clear, but Russia, China and Europe have been working to reconcile the divided peninsula, giving North Korea's unpredictable leader, Kim Jong Il, enough face and financial incentive to forswear his ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
And finally, just as the United States is spending millions to send home 46 American diplomats from Moscow, kicked out by Mr. Putin in retaliation for Mr. Bush's decision to expel as many Russian diplomats accused of spying, Mr. Putin said it was time for both presidents to reform their intelligence agencies. Both were doing a lousy job, Mr. Putin said, in the era of new security threats. He suggested they could build an effective collaboration, one that ended the practice of leaks and disinformation - the cold war game.
In all these areas, there is as much room for cooperation as for opposition. It is too early to say whether the game might really end, but Mr. Putin is working to keep the United States off balance. return to menu
6. Powell Says Mutual Destruction Is Here to Stay
June 20, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday that mutual assured destruction, the basis of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, would be indispensable even if Washington builds a missile defense.
In remarks that challenge one of the Bush administration's main arguments for the missile defense, Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "You can't entirely do away with what has been known as mutual assured destruction."
"It means that you keep enough weapons so that you will always be able to deter anyone else who is planning to strike you," he added at a hearing.
President Bush, touring Europe for the first time last week, argued that opposition to a missile defense system was based on Cold War thinking, including the concept of mutual assured destruction, often known as MAD.
Bush wants to modify or scrap the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, signed in 1972 by the United States and the Soviet Union, so that the United States can develop a system to defend against "rogue states" or accidental launchings.
Advocates of missile defense have also argued that MAD is immoral because it is based on the threat to wipe out millions of civilians by nuclear attack.
Speaking of the Cold War in Brussels last week, Bush said: "The United States and Russia were bitter enemies and the whole concept of peace was based upon the capacity of each of us, each country, to blow each other up.
"The new threats are threats based upon uncertainty -- the threats that somebody who hates freedom or hates America or hates our allies or hates Europe will try to blow us up."
Critics of the proposed system argue that it would in fact stimulate a nuclear arms race because potential adversaries of the United States would want to build enough new missiles to maintain the credibility of their nuclear deterrent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin added weight to the argument of the opponents when he told reporters this week that Russia could respond to U.S. plans to putting multiple nuclear warheads on some of its missiles -- a practice banned by existing arms control agreements with the United States.
Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he doubted the Russians would do this in practice when they saw that the U.S. missile defense had limited objectives.
If the Russians had between 3,000 and 3,500 nuclear warheads and saw the United States build a defense against "unstable irresponsible" states, they would have no incentive to waste money on nuclear rearmament, he said.
"There would be such transparency about what we are doing. It's not clear to me why a Russian planner could successfully walk in and say to Mr. Putin, 'Rather than fixing our economy, let's double the size of our strategic force,"' he said.
"Claims that the Russians will suddenly break out in an arms race and start doing this, that and the other are a bit overstated, even by the Russians, even when they say it.
"We are not trying to put in place a defense of the kind that should cause Russia and China to have sleepless nights... It's quite a different thing," he added.
Committee chairman Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, cited reports that Russia only has between 150 and 250 "survivable" nuclear warheads and so would fear a U.S. missile defense.
But he agreed with Powell that he did not expect the Russians to embark on a nuclear rearmament program.
Biden told Powell that the United States could keep testing a missile defense system for some time without any change in the status of the ABM treaty.
Powell answered that sooner or later tests would run into constraints set by the treaty.
The United States is bound by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work for the abolition of all nuclear weapons but in practice U.S. officials ignore the obligation. return to menu
7. Kremlin Denies Nuclear Threat
June 20, 2001
(for personal use only)
A Kremlin official said on Wednesday President Vladimir Putin was not trying to send any "threat" to the west by discussing this week how Russia might respond if the US unilaterally breached the anti-ballistic missile treaty by building a missile defence system.
Mr. Putin told US media on Monday that Russia could put more nuclear warheads on its existing missiles, thus strengthening its offensive potential very cheaply. This option has been mentioned publicly by Russian officials in the past.
"Russia's position is very simple," the Kremlin official said. "Russia wants to act jointly in building a new security system. Russia does not want unilateral actions. But the president is stressing that if one side does take unilateral actions, then Russia will protect its vital interests."
Mr. Putin made his remarks after returning to Moscow from his summit with President George W. Bush in Slovenia, which both men said had built mutual trust.
Much of the summit was given over to US plans for a missile defence system, and Russian insistence that the US should not breach unilaterally the ABM treaty of 1972, which restricts such systems.
According to a transcript of Mr. Putin's remarks on Monday, released on Wednesday by the Kremlin, he said Russia wanted detailed discussions with the US about strategic threats to both countries now and in the coming 10 to 15 years. It wanted to establish "in concrete terms" what provisions in the ABM treaty "prevent us overcoming such threats," Mr. Putin said. "So far," he said, "we don't have a common position on that."
Mr. Putin said Russia had taken note of what he called a very serious remark by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, to the effect that the US did not want the complete destruction of the ABM treaty, but did want an effective but limited missile shield.
Mr. Putin repeated Russian scepticism that the US faced any real missile threat from so-called rogue states. They were armed, he said, with old Soviet rocketry based on German technology from the last world war. For such countries to develop modern rocketry capable of threatening the US would take decades, he said.
Later Mr. Putin discussed what Russia might do if the US did abandon the ABM treaty unilaterally. He said he was confident the US could build nothing within the next 25 years significantly diminishing Russian national security. He said Russia could reinforce its arsenal to overcome any shield by adding more warheads to its missiles. "And it would cost almost nothing," he said. "By this means, the nuclear potential of Russia would be strengthened many times."
Mr. Putin said Russia was worried by other aspects of US missile defence, however. He warned that "an uncontrolled arming of other countries would begin, and many of them would be close to us. That is what worries us." President Bush faced harsh criticism from Republican and Democratic senators yesterday for his newfound confidence in Mr. Putin, Richard Wolffe reports from Washington.
Members of the Senate foreign relations committee rounded on Mr. Bush for saying he could trust the Russian leader and had "a sense of his soul" after meeting with Mr. Putin last week.
Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican, said: "I criticised officials from the previous administration for using nearly those precise words to describe Mr. Putin, and I was dumbfounded to hear them from mine. Mr. Putin is far, in my judgment, far from deserving the powerful political prestige and influence that comes from an excessively personal endorsement by the president of the United States." return to menu
8. Study Says Russia Might Keep Missiles in Face of U.S. Shield
June 18, 2001
(for personal use only)
If efforts by the United States to build missile defenses lead Russia to stop reducing its long-range missiles, Moscow could end up in 2010 with 3,500 strategic warheads, three times the number now projected for the end of the decade, according to the directors of a new study of Russian nuclear weapons.
The "Nuclear Status Report on the Former Soviet Union," due for release today, is a nearly 200-page compendium of data on Russia's nuclear arsenal and the state of security at dozens of former Soviet nuclear plants. It was compiled by researchers at two think tanks, the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif., and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
If current trends continue and U.S.-Russian relations remain stable, they project that Russia's long-range missile and bomber forces will shrink dramatically, from nearly 6,000 warheads today to between 1,086 and 1,546 warheads by the end of the decade.
The authors do not take a position on whether President Bush's missile defense plan will prompt Moscow to reverse that course, or whether the Russian government could come up with enough money to do so. The report does, however, describe some steps that Russian leaders would be likely to take if they decided to begin rebuilding their arsenal.
"The Bush policy counts on Russia going down to 1,000 warheads no matter what the U.S. does, but missile defense may force them to make their deterrent secure by putting more warheads on missiles and stepping up production of new ones," said Joseph Cirincione, director of the nonproliferation project at Carnegie.
The report notes that only 20 of Russia's newest SS-27 ballistic missiles, each of which carries a single warhead, have been deployed since they became operational in 1999. Production has been "greatly lagging behind projections, fewer than 10 missiles per year instead of the planned 30-40," it says. Moreover, although the missile is designed to be mobile, all those deployed are in fixed silos, the report says.
At the current production rate, Russia would have only 100 SS-27s by the end of 2007. But if Moscow is determined to be able to overwhelm a U.S. missile defense, it could increase funding to produce 20 a year and could easily modify the SS-27 to carry three or four warheads each, giving Russia 600 to 800 warheads on 200 advanced, land-based ICBMs by 2010, the report says.
The SS-18, granddaddy of all big missiles with 10 warheads on each launcher, originally was deployed by the Soviet Union in 1975. About 180 remain at four locations in Russia. But because the SS-18 was designed and built in Ukraine, new ones are not available, and under the START II agreement, the existing ones are to be eliminated by 2007.
According to the report, the Russians could extend their lives and keep 90 missiles (with a total of 900 warheads) operational -- if Moscow follows through on its threats to stop adhering to the START II treaty should the United States pursue missile defenses and withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"That shows there is a real national security cost to be paid for missile defense," Cirincione said.
To encourage Russia to continue reducing its nuclear forces, Bush has held out the prospect that the United States will unilaterally cut its own arsenal, although he has not proposed any specific reductions.
The report credits U.S.-Russian cooperative programs, funded by more than $3 billion from the U.S. government over the past decade, with helping Russia to dismantle and destroy 258 intercontinental ballistic missiles, at least 50 ICBM silos, 42 strategic bombers and 17 nuclear-powered submarines containing 256 ballistic missile launchers.
In the next few years, the cooperative programs are expected to eliminate an additional 700 Russian land- and submarine-based ICBMs, including Moscow's largest, the SS-18s and SS-24s that each carry 10 warheads.
The new study also credits U.S.-Russian cooperative programs with improving security over Moscow's nuclear storage sites, which contain both warheads and materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. Although more than 45 sites with weapons-usable materials have been secured, at least 24 remain untouched, in part because the Russians have refused to provide U.S. experts direct access to those facilities.
For example, the reports says, security upgrades have not begun at the nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly plant at Sarov. Although U.S.-supplied monitoring devices and other security equipment were delivered in 1998, installation has been delayed because of the access issue.
Jon B. Wolfsthal, one of the report's three principal authors, said that "tens to hundreds of tons of Russian nuclear materials" remain in facilities without upgraded security. He also noted that this is one of several Energy Department programs whose funds are slated to be cut in Bush's fiscal 2002 budget.
Another Energy program facing a deep budget cut provides aid to Russian scientists who formerly worked on nuclear weapons in closed cities. A National Security Council study of several U.S.-Russia programs is underway, one part of which is to review charges by some members of Congress that the so-called Nuclear Cities program has not been successful in developing nonmilitary businesses and instead has provided support to scientists who still work on Russian military programs.
In a news conference Saturday after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush said Russia "has got a resource that's invaluable in this new era, and that's brain power." Without mentioning the U.S. budget cuts, Bush added that "Russia has got great mathematicians and engineers who can just as easily participate in the high-tech world as American engineers and American mathematicians. That's an area of great interest to me. . . . It's an area where we can begin fruitful dialogue."
Another program that is under review calls for each country to dispose of 34 metric tons of excess, weapons-grade plutonium -- enough to build thousands of warheads. A multibillion-dollar plan to turn the weapons material into fuel for nuclear reactors, signed in June 2000, has been stalled, partly for lack of funds. return to menu
C. Nuclear Waste
1. Greenpeace Urges Putin to Veto Nuclear Waste Imports
June 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
Thirty Greenpeace activists were arrested today after mounting a protest in Russia's Red Square calling on President Putin to overturn parliamentary approval of changes to the country's environmental law, which pave the way for vast radioactive waste imports. The activists unfurled banners in front of the Lenin Mausoleum saying "President: Stop the nuclear invasion!".
Yesterday, in contravention of the law, the Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroyev signed the amendments and passed them on for Putin's final approval without debate and agreement from the Council. Law amendments that have relevance for the Customs authorities require formal approval by the Federation Council under the Russian constitution.
"It's now Putin's choice to be remembered as the president who opened the Russian gates for deadly waste imports or as a protector of Russia," said Tobias Muenchmeyer of Greenpeace International.
According to an opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace and published today, 79.5% of the Russian population wants President Putin to block nuclear waste imports.
"After the rejection, earlier this year, of one quarter of the 2.5 million signatures calling for a referendum against radioactive waste imports, the bypassing of the plenary of the Federation Council is yet another undemocratic act. There is no public support for the plan which is exclusively in the interest of those corrupt structures, that hope to make money with this dirty business," said Muenchmeyer.
The permission for importing radioactive waste, being promoted by the cashapped Nuclear Ministry, Minatom, will turn Russia into the world's nuclear waste dump. Minatom wants to bring in up to 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from countries including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Spain over the next ten years -- in contracts worth up to $21 billion.
Tobias Muenchmeyer, Greenpeace's expert on Russian nuclear issues, was declared persona non grata by the Russian Foreign Ministry in December 1999 and has been banned from entering Russia ever since. No reason has been given why Muenchmeyer is not allowed to enter Russia anymore, except that it "is in the interest of state security" to deny him a visa. Greenpeace is campaigning to overturn this undemocratic decision, which strikes at the heart of free speech. return to menu
2. Spent Nuclear Fuel Import Bills on Putin's Desk
June 27, 2001
(for personal use only)
The spent nuclear fuel import bills will bypass the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, and go directly to the desk of President Vladimir Putin. There is little doubt that Putin will decline the bills, keeping in mind his promise to rearm Russian nuclear missiles with multiple reentry vehicles (MRVs), or simply missiles with multiple nuclear warheads. To Putin's administration mind, it would stop the US abandoning the ABM treaty. And such a step would require a lot of cash, which can be earned, as Russian nuclear lobby promises, by importing spent nuclear fuel.
The Russian State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, endorsed the spent nuclear fuel import bills in third reading on June 6. The first bill legalises spent nuclear fuel import from other countries by amending art. 50 in the Russia's Environmental Protection Law in favour of spent fuel imports. The second bill sets frames for leasing of Russia's manufactured nuclear fuel abroad. While the third functioned more as an incentive for the Duma members and public in general, stipulating the remediation programs for radioactively contaminated areas.
The pro-presidential faction Unity in the State Duma voted almost unanimously in favour of all the bills. This fact gives a clear indication that the bills are supported by the presidential administration.
The opposition to the importation plans in Russia consisting of environmental movement and Yabloko party, had hopes for the bills to be voted down in the Federation Council. The speaker of the Federation Council and some governors, who are also members of the Council, voiced their concern over the bills after they had been approved by the Duma.
But the Federation Council decided for some reason to avoid the responsibility for this matter in a prompt way.
In agreement with the Russian Constitution, after the State Duma approves a bill, the Federation Council has the right to put it on its own agenda during the next 14 days. The Council first set the date to evaluate the import bills for July 4th, while the official deadline was June 27th. Then the bills hearing was moved to June 29th, which was close but still beyond the deadline. But today the speaker of the Federation Council stated in an interview with Interfax news service that the bills were taken off the agenda for June 29th due to the fact that the deadline expires today. Thus the bills proceed directly to the desk of the president.
It is also remarkable that just a couple of weeks ago, both the speaker of the Council, Yegor Stroev, and a number of Council members had clear intentions to evaluate the bills properly and to send them most probably back to the Duma for reconsideration.
This decision coincidently or not came after President Putin had mentioned MRVs having failed to convince his counterpart President Bush to abstain from abandoning the ABM treaty.
The use of MRVs is prohibited by the START-II arms reduction treaty, which was ratified by the State Duma in April 2000. But should the USA abandon the AMB treaty the START-II will no longer be binding for Russia.
But developing and sustaining such weaponry requires funding. Apparently, to the mind of Putin's administration, such funding can be obtained easily by turning Russia into an international nuclear dumpsite.
According to various polls conducted in Russia, 70% to 90% of the population are against importation of spent nuclear fuel. Russian environmental groups collected around 2.5 million signatures last year in support for the national vote. In consent with the Russian legislation, two million signatures collected in 60 different regions are enough to initiate a national vote. But the Central Electoral Committee, which was verifying the signatures, said almost 600,000 were not valid and banned the referendum.
The liberal opposition in the State Duma, Yabloko party, said after the Duma approved the amendments in third reading that they would initiate another referendum. Kremlin's unofficial web site, Strana.Ru, quoted a source in the administration saying that they took the referendum threats seriously and would rather try to find a compromise with Yabloko, than waiting for the people to cast their vote. The deal, however, have not been worked out yet as it follows from what the source said.
To gain the support of the public the state controlled media started to use the presently popular rhetoric that the Western nuclear industry is plotting against Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy, Minatom, and that Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of Yabloko, is working as a lobbyist for the Western nuclear industry interests. It does not seem to help, however. The majority of the population is still against the importation.
But what will happen if Putin gives final endorsement to the bills? Will his popularity decrease or will the public in Russia accept the official version that turning the country into a nuclear dumpsite is for their own good? The latter is more probable. The recent polls show that around 75% trust Putin. And whatever he does the trust is apparently to remain there, although the public opinion does not rule in Russia anyway. The only trouble is that despite administration's truly belief in everything Minatom says, $20 billion in profit from imports is still very unlikely scenario.
The bills would allow Minatom, as it promotes it, "to enter the lucrative world market of fuel reprocessing." Minatom plans to import 20,000 tonnes of foreign spent fuel and earn $20 billion. Russia's own stocks of spent nuclear fuel amount to 14,000 tonnes and are managed in an unsatisfactory manner.
There are only two countries in the world engaged in commercial reprocessing - France and Great Britain. Minatom has a reprocessing facility in Chelyabinsk county called Mayak, or RT-1, but its design capacity is only 400 tonnes per year. During the past years the plant has been operating at less than 25% of the capacity. The plant can reprocess fuel from some first- and second-generation Soviet design reactors, as well as fuel from nuclear submarines and nuclear powered icebreakers. The technology used at the plant is such that reprocessing of each tonne of spent nuclear fuel leads to generation of 2,200 cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste. The most part of the waste is dumped into the nearby lake Karachay. Thus, to start commercial reprocessing Minatom would have to upgrade the Mayak plant, or, most likely, to commission a new one - RT-2 - at Krasnoyarsk county, which has been under construction since 1970s, but was never to be completed. Should Minatom go for it, it would eat up the whole predicted profit of $20 billion.
But Minatom says it will not rush with reprocessing. Ministry's officials stated explicitly on several occasions that they would rather store fuel in casks for at least 50 years before launching reprocessing. The casks existing today are designed to store spent fuel for exactly 50 years. After 50 years there will be neither present leaders of Minatom, nor Putin with his MRVs plans. The fuel, however, will still remain as waste in Russia.
The other issue is the fact that the USA controls from 70% to 80% of spent nuclear fuel accumulated in the world. And before Minatom can start importing this fuel, certain conditions formulated by the American administration have to be met. The key issue is the US demand to halt the ongoing Russia's involvement into construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran.
If Minatom is not successful in negotiating the deal with the USA, the countries where Minatom can take the fuel from are very unlikely to provide the $20 billion projected profit.
President Putin has a remarkable belief in all Minatom's initiatives. His speech at the UN summit in 2000 devoted to promotion of nuclear reactors developed by Minatom, which exclude the use of weapons grade nuclear materials, left a number of question marks. Even Russian academicians dared to come out and say publicly that such project is impossible to implement. Now Putin seems to have another interests. He desperately needs money to counter the American plans to launch the National Missile Defence. The trouble is that his belief into the money source will leave Russia with double so much nuclear waste and no funds to manage them. return to menu
3. Ukraine Not to Ship Spent Nuclear Fuel to Russia
June 25, 2001
(for personal use only)
Following up its strategy of dry storage facilities construction, instead of shipment of the spent nuclear fuel to Russia, Ukraine announced a plan on building a dry storage on the territory of Chernobyl NPP, which has been recently shut down for good, UNIAN reports. The facility should be capable to receive fuel from VVER-1000 type reactors from all Ukrainian NPPs. Although it was not finally agreed.
As alternative to this solution also dry storage container facilities at all nuclear NPPs are considered. Such storage containers, paid by the US, have been already installed at Zaporozhye NPP. They are, however, not in operation due to disagreement with local authorities that had been promised some new social projects in exchange for nuclear facility operation. The facility was granted, however, all required licences to begin operation from the local nuclear regulatory.
Today all spent nuclear fuel from Ukrainian VVER-1000 reactors is sent to the special storage in Krasnoyarsk in Russia, while VVER-440 fuel is sent to Mayak plant in the southern Ural for reprocessing. According to the Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Ministry, dry storage in Ukraine will be 10 times cheaper than sending it to Russia. Chernobyl spent nuclear fuel is stored in Soviet design facilities, but thanks to the international aid, a new facility is to be constructed where Chernobyl spent nuclear fuel could be safely stored for minimum 50 years.
Currently 5 out of 13 operating nuclear reactors in Ukraine have fresh nuclear fuel, and only one nuclear shipment was carried out while seven shipments are scheduled. Ukrainian officials say that each VVER-1000 reactor has 50-55 fuel assemblies replaced each year - one third of a VVER-1000 reactor core. Annual shipments of spent nuclear fuel to Russia cost Ukraine around $100 million a year. The price tag for these services went up in 1998 when Krasnoyarsk County Governor, Alexander Lebed, said his county would not accept spent fuel from Ukraine for "small money", so the rate was increased from $285 to $330 per kilogram.
Intention of the Ukraine shows no sign of future nuclear shipments to Russia what undermines the lucrative plans of the Russian nuclear ministry to earn $20 billion on spent nuclear fuel import. return to menu
4. Radioactive Russia?
June 22, 2001
(for personal use only)
OSLO -- Norway feels remote. The fjord-surrounded, ethnically homogeneous country, with its Nordic climate, seems something like a lost Viking colony, though any inclination to rape and pillage has been replaced by flights of neighborliness and environmental consciousness. Indeed, a traveler may well feel they've arrived at the globe's edge.
Unfortunately for Norway, its remote locale won't protect it from a potential crisis of radioactive proportions. Small, but rich, Norway shares a border with large, nuclear and impoverished Russia. And what a neighbor to have. While Norway provides the Kremlin with funding to store its Soviet-era nuclear waste more safely, Russia's Duma on June 6 gave final approval to President Vladimir Putin's ambition to convert Russia into the world's hub for fee-based nuclear waste disposal. (Mr. Putin always did have an eye for restoring Russian glory.) And while Norway (and the Russian people, for that matter) may feel the sting of this decision most sharply, it remains very much a global problem.
Once feared for its nuclear arsenal, Russia is now dreaded for the environmental havoc it could wreak, especially if its cash-for-nuclear waste designs hit stride. The Kremlin is angling to import up to 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear reactors in Germany, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Taiwan, South Korea and China in exchange for as much as $20 billion. More than 90 percent of Russians say they oppose the scheme. Large-scale international transport of nuclear waste increases the risk of ecological disaster for a number of countries and much of the world's supply of fish comes from waters in and off of Norway, in close proximity to Russia's huge build-up of nuclear waste.
But there are more ominous concerns regarding Russia's plans. Since the Kremlin has said it would reprocess its imported nuclear waste and convert it to energy, it will thereby increase its supply of weapons-grade material. And in Mafia-infested, cashapped Russia, a dramatic proliferation of this material would be alarming, since the country is ill-equipped to store it properly and there are plenty of elements willing to peddle it to mischief-makers. So in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new global challenge has emerged. Meeting this challenge will require diplomacy, resolve, firmness and money. Which is where Norway comes in.
Norway has a unique relationship with Russia. Indeed, Norway helped Russia with food during the hard winters between 1910-1920, which may be part of the reason the Soviet Union withdrew from Norway after it liberated the country in 1944 after four years of Nazi occupation. And when the Russians' Kursk submarine crisis hit in August, the Kremlin allowed only Norwegian divers to launch a rescue attempt, although Britain had sent ships to help. Russians do appear to lend the Norwegians a special trust. At the same time, World War II also reminded the Norwegians that, despite their remoteness and tradition of neutrality, they are nonetheless vulnerable to aggressors. "If Russia and Norway were to end up in some sort of quarrel, Russia might be inclined to demonstrate its position of power in the area," said John Kristen Skogan, a researcher at the Institute of International Affairs in Norway. "That's in the back of the Norwegian mind."
So Norway values its NATO membership, and Norway and the United States have many concerns in common regarding Russia. This is why the three nations entered a partnership in 1996 known as the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) Program, which is chiefly geared to helping Russia improve its nuclear waste storage. The economic program has made effective (if incremental) improvements in Russia's nuclear waste disposal. By 2002, when funding for the program runs out, the United States will have spent $25 million on the program and Norway $9 million. "Our main concern is that the United States is planning to withdraw by 2002. The mood seems to be swinging that way," said Rear Adm. Ole-Gerhard Ron, commander of naval forces in northern Norway.
It would be a shame if the United States pulled out, since Russia has been demonstrating increasing glasnost on its nuclear waste problems. Although not part of the AMEC program, earlier this month Russia allowed Norwegian officials to inspect the Bay of Andrejev nuclear waste site near the border with Norway. Once a very secretive Soviet-era military base, Russia continues to keep nuclear submarines at the installation. However, the Kremlin built high walls around the installation for the Norwegian visit, in order to restrict officials' view of non-waste-related equipment. Norway had been trying for six years to gain access before the Russians approved the visit in June.
"We actually knew quite a bit about this site, but to actually see it causes a big impression," said Norway's State Secretary Espen Barth Eide. Mr. Eide said that one of the installations doesn't even have a roof, and one of Norway's goals is to develop robotics technology to get that waste to a more secure place, but the first step is to stabilize containers. "It's first and foremost their problem and their rubbish. But on the other hand, it could affect us as much as them. So it's become a shared legacy of the Cold War," he said.
But if Russia becomes a large-scale importer of that rubbish, this already daunting problem could become worse. And what dangerous rubbish it is. return to menu
D. U.S. Nuclear Forces
1. Pentagon to Ask for Retirement of MX Missiles
New York Times
June 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, June 27 - The Pentagon will ask Congress for permission to begin scrapping all 50 of its nuclear-tipped MX missiles as a possible first step toward a unilateral reduction in the nation's nuclear arsenal, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced today.
The missiles with their multiple warheads and ability to decimate Russian missile silos, were a signature program of President Ronald Reagan, whose administration fought acrimonious battles with Congressional Democrats over the size of the program and the basing of the missile, which it called the Peacekeeper, in the 1980's.
But President Bush is, in essence, proposing to dismantle one of Mr. Reagan's legacies in order to advance another of Mr. Reagan's goals: building a system to defend the nation from long-range ballistic missiles. Mr. Bush has said he would be willing to cut "to the lowest possible number" the nation's nuclear arsenal as part of a new strategic "framework" with Russia that included a missile shield.
The request regarding the MX will be part of the detailed 2002 budget proposal that Mr. Rumsfeld will present to Congress on Thursday. That plan will ask for an $18.4 billion increase over the $310 billion defense budget that the president proposed in February, with most of the additional money going toward health care, higher pay, spare parts and missile defense programs.
In announcing the MX missile proposal today, the Pentagon offered almost no details about how quickly the weapons system would be dismantled, what would happen to the warheads and whether the administration was considering reductions in other nuclear weapons.
Indeed, Mr. Rumsfeld portrayed the proposal purely as a budget issue, saying he had been forced to decide whether to set aside money to maintain the missiles or to retire them before he had time to consider the appropriate size of the nuclear force. Air Force officials say it takes more than $70 million a year to maintain the missiles. The new budget asks for an initial sum of $17 million to begin retiring the weapons system.
Mr. Rumsfeld is overseeing a review of nuclear policy expected to include recommendations on the size of the nuclear force, consisting of missiles, submarines and bombers.
In a news conference today, Mr. Rumsfeld said he was recently told, "You've got the Peacekeeper, there's no money in the budget for the next five years to keep it, there's no money to retire it, and there's a law that says you can't retire it."
But defense officials acknowledged that in making his budget decision to retire the MX, Mr. Rumsfeld had dictated nuclear policy.
"The president has talked about an overall reduction in the nuclear forces, so this is heading in that direction," a senior Air Force officer said.
To retire the MX, the administration must ask Congress to rescind a law enacted during the Clinton administration that prohibits the Pentagon from reducing the nuclear arsenal below the levels set by Start I, with Russia. Congressional Republicans who supported that law said they wanted to review the administration's MX proposal before commenting.
Advocates of arms control, who have been dogged critics of Mr. Bush's missile defense plan, welcomed today's announcement, saying it was a start toward the fulfillment of Mr. Bush's campaign pledge to reduce the nuclear arsenal.
"I was happy to hear it," said John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World, a nonprofit group that promotes lower military spending. "Until I saw it, I couldn't be sure it would happen."
But Mr. Isaacs and other arms control experts said the significance of the proposal would rest in its details, which have yet to be worked out. For instance, it is not clear whether the warheads from the MX missiles - each missile has as many as 10 warheads - will also be retired or remounted on other missiles.
Even before the new proposal, the Pentagon had been considering dismantling its MX missiles - which are based in hardened underground silos at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
One plan called for remounting the missiles' W-87 warheads on Minuteman missiles scattered around the country and then retiring the older Minuteman warheads. The W-87 warheads are considered more powerful and reliable than most other nuclear weapons.
If all of the 500 MX missile warheads were retired, the American nuclear strategic arsenal would still include 6,700 warheads.
Bruce Blair, a former Minuteman launch control officer who is president of the Center for Defense Information, a Pentagon watchdog group, said Mr. Bush could have had a much greater impact on the debate over missile defense if he had proposed immediately deactivating all 50 MX missiles rather than retiring them over many years.
"It would be a spectacular announcement to say they are taking them all off alert at once," Mr. Blair said.
The MX program was initially approved by the Carter administration as a counter to a new generation of heavy Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. But Mr. Reagan championed the weapon, depicting it as a core part of his military buildup, but Congress whittled his request to build 200 missiles to 100, and eventually to 50.
Mr. Rumsfeld's budget proposal will also request a $3 billion increase in spending on missile defense, to $8.3 billion. The request will include restructuring missile defense programs to speed development of technologies that the Bush administration considers promising, including airborne and space-based lasers.
The plan will also call for developing new missile defense test sites in Alaska. Although Pentagon officials said those sites would be used to conduct more realistic flight tests on antimissile technology, they also said the Pentagon would consider declaring them fully operational if a missile attack against the nation seemed imminent.
Mr. Rumsfeld's plan also calls for cutting the nation's fleet of B-1 bombers to about 60, from 93, and for converting two Ohio-class submarines to carry conventional weapons instead of nuclear missiles.
After being adjusted for inflation, Mr. Rumsfeld's plan would represent a 7 percent, or $33 billion, increase over President Bill Clinton's final defense budget of $296 billion, making it the largest Pentagon increase since the Reagan years.
Despite that, some senior defense officials and their supporters in Congress have said the increase is too small. At the same time, fiscal conservatives in Congress have expressed strong skepticism about the size of the Pentagon request. return to menu
2. U.S. Hints at Considering Resumption of Nuclear Tests
Jonathan S. Landay
June 27, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has asked U.S. nuclear weapons scientists to examine ways to resume nuclear test explosions beneath the Nevada desert more quickly if the government decides to end a nine-year moratorium on nuclear testing.
It would now take one to three years to prepare a test. A recent study concluded that such long lead times could allow political opponents to block any resumption of nuclear testing.
Scientists are looking at "what it would take to do various kinds of tests on various time scales," C. Bruce Tarter, the director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said in an interview.
Tarter and others said the administration had not decided to resume testing. Nevertheless, the review is considered likely to add to fears that President Bush might end the nuclear testing moratorium and push for developing new "low yield" nuclear warheads that some weapons scientists and conservative lawmakers advocate.
Bush has said he has no plans to end the U.S. moratorium. But Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have argued that the safety and potency of the American arsenal can be assured only by periodically detonating randomly selected warheads underground.
"This is all part of a well-coordinated effort inside and outside the government to basically resume production of nuclear weapons," said Stephen Schwartz, publisher of the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an arms-control journal. "If you are going to do that, you are going to need to test, and this is what this exercise is all about."
Schwartz said the readiness review of the Nevada Test Site could provide "cover to China and Russia, and maybe even India and Pakistan," to begin preparations to resume their own nuclear tests if the United States abandons its self-imposed moratorium on testing.
Tarter dismissed such concerns. "Understanding the state of readiness, I think, is a nonprovocative activity," he said.
The test-site readiness study comes as the Pentagon is conducting a separate review of U.S. nuclear strategy and forces ordered by Bush. The issues being examined include radical cuts in America's nuclear arsenal and the future of the testing moratorium.
Bush supported the Senate's 1999 rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, saying a permanent global ban on nuclear testing would be unverifiable. His refusal to call for a new Senate vote on the treaty provoked a rare diplomatic protest by the European Union.
Britain, France and Russia are among 76 nations that have ratified the 1996 treaty. Like the United States, China has signed but not ratified the pact and is observing a test moratorium.
Many experts say returning to underground tests is unnecessary and could undermine the international nuclear arms-control system and provoke a new nuclear arms race.
These experts contend that the United States can continue to rely on the so-called Stockpile Stewardship Program to ensure that its estimated 10,500 warheads remain defect-free. The program uses experiments, computer simulations, warhead inspections and tests of non-nuclear components.
The Nevada Test Site is spread across 1,350 square miles of desert northwest of Las Vegas. The main U.S. nuclear proving ground, it conducted 100 atmospheric and 828 underground tests between 1951 and 1992. It still conducts "subcritical" tests of nuclear components and must remain prepared to resume full-scale testing if required. return to menu