MOSCOW (AP) -- Viktor Kholstov, head of the Munitions Agency and the official responsible for reducing weapons stockpiles, accused the United States of inventing irrelevant political conditions for funding Russia's chemical weapons disposal program.
Kholstov said that while the United States had pledged more than $500 million to help eliminate the world's biggest chemical stockpile, its financial aid was "dependent upon completely far-fetched political conditions," Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Thursday.
Kholtsov said that the United States suspected that Russia was selling chemical weapons to so-called "problem countries," making reference to Iraq.
1. Armenia Intercepts Radioactive Cargo Bound For Iran
Radio Free Europe
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Armenian experts are seeking to identify the origin of a highly radioactive object found by Armenian customs officials in a consignment of scrap metal bound for Iran, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February, quoting State Nuclear Control Committee Chairman Ashot Martirosian. He said the object did not originate at Armenia's nuclear-power station, and that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been informed of the find. LF
ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) -- Kazakhstan has opened an investigation into the nuclear black market that helped Iran, Libya and North Korea, exploring suspected ties in the country that housed much of the Soviet Union's atomic arsenal, officials told The Associated Press.
Kazakhstan's intelligence agency is examining the Almaty office of a Dubai company linked by President Bush to the market headed by the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, the officials said.
The black market's potential connection to Kazakhstan -- which served as a nuclear testing ground until it disarmed after its 1991 independence -- has raised concern about the proliferation of remnants of the Soviet weapons program. Kazakh officials strongly deny any highly enriched uranium -- the form used in weapons -- has leaked out of the country.
Bush accused Sri Lankan businessman Bukhary Syed Abu Tahir of brokering black-market deals for nuclear technology using his Dubai-based company SMB Computers as a front. That firm also has an office in the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty.
The Kazakh intelligence agency, the National Security Committee, is investigating allegations that SMB Computers' affiliate was dealing with highly enriched uranium, spokesman Kenzhebulat Beknazarov said Thursday.
SMB Computers' office in Almaty was closed Thursday.
According to a receptionist in the building where the company rents a room, the only person who staffed the office hasn't shown up there for a week. The receptionist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had been planning to ``wrap up business'' and move out.
The Dubai headquarters of SMB identified the head of its Almaty office as Shaul Hameed, but said they didn't have any further contact details for him. A receptionist there, who didn't give her name, said ``our company has nothing to do with this,'' regarding allegations of nuclear smuggling.
Bush named SMB Computers' owner Tahir as a key link in a clandestine network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program who has confessed to leaking nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Tahir was described as the network's chief financial officer, money launderer and shipping agent -- using the firm as a cover to ship parts for centrifuges, used to enrich uranium.
Kazakhstan transferred all its Soviet nuclear warheads to Russia by April 1995, and destroyed its nuclear testing infrastructure at the major Semipalatinsk weapons test site by July 2000. About 1,320 pounds of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium was removed to the United States from the Ulba Metallurgy Plant in 1994.
Yet the Central Asian nation still holds weapons-grade nuclear material, including 3.3 tons of plutonium at a mothballed breeder reactor in the country's west, and small amounts of highly enriched uranium at two nuclear research institutes, according to the Web site of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a U.S.-based foundation.
Still, Kazakh nuclear officials denied the chance of any weapons-grade uranium leaks.
``It is impossible to illegally take any uranium out of Kazakhstan,'' said Shinar Zhanibekova, spokeswoman for Kazakhstan's national atomic energy company, KazAtomProm.
The Atomic Energy Committee, which grants licenses for the export of nuclear materials, said it had never done any business with SMB Computers and never granted it a license.
Kazakhstan has 30 percent of the world's uranium reserves and is the fourth biggest uranium producer, according to KazAtomProm.
Zhanibekova said the country now produces only low-enriched uranium tablets for nuclear power plants, which require a maximum 3 percent enrichment. Weapons-grade uranium has to be enriched to at least 98 percent.
She said all uranium exports from the country were monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and tightly controlled by Kazakh nuclear and security agencies. All shipments are accompanied by armed guards, Zhanibekova said.
A Europe-based Western diplomat working on issues of nuclear proliferation questioned the reliability of Kazakh safeguards for its nuclear assets.
``Nobody can pretend that everything is perfectly secure,'' the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, he had no further information on SMB Computers' possible activities in Kazakhstan.
Beknazarov, the intelligence agency spokesman, said there had never been leaks of highly enriched uranium from Kazakhstan.
However, huge amounts of unguarded nuclear waste -- material that could potentially be used by terrorists to create a ``dirty bomb,'' combining conventional explosives with radioactive materials -- are scattered around the country and are unguarded.
WASHINGTON — Certain senior Bush administration officials have kept President George W. Bush from increasing U.S. nonproliferation funding and supporting other arms control initiatives, a senior Senate Democrat said recently, prompting some candid comments from Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“I worry that in too many cases ideology for the first three years of this administration has trumped, or at least gotten in the way of, nonproliferation policy,” said Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Powell last week.
Biden, the senior committee Democrat, said that in an earlier meeting with Bush, the president seemed enthusiastic about increasing support for programs to secure and eliminate WMD and missile arsenals in former Soviet states. Currently, the United States spends about $1 billion annually on such programs.
Biden said, however, that Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials opposed the idea, arguing that the increased U.S. assistance would simply free Russian money for other objectives.
Bush’s “enthusiasm was real. But the enthusiasm of others in the room was not only not real, it was in opposition,” Biden said.
Calling such assistance “the single most important nonproliferation tool available to us,” Biden said, “This is mindless. It’s ideological idiocy.”
Powell said he supports the programs and appeared to dismiss concerns about the impact of U.S. funding.
“Of course, money is fungible, but in this case, we have ways of making sure that this fungible money is serving our interest, not serving the interests of the Russians alone,” he said.
In its fiscal 2005 budget request, the administration has requested $409 million for the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, a $42 million decrease from current funding levels (see GSN, Feb. 11).
Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the leading Senate advocate of those programs, gave a similar, though more diplomatic, explanation for the administration’s approach to the program.
Bush has appeared “very supportive of these programs,” Lugar said, but “down in the weeds sometimes, the president’s enthusiasm is not followed through.”
“That’s not to suggest that you’re the weeds. The weeds are down below you,” Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) said to Powell.
Biden added, “I think there’s one weed above you, [a] big weed. His name is Cheney. And I’m not nearly the diplomat that my colleague is.”
The White House and the vice president’s office provided no comment in time for this story.
Biden also said that Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton was partially responsible for the administration’s current reconsideration of a previously supported ban on nuclear weapons fuel production.
“For over two years the administration has castigated — rightly — other countries for preventing negotiations from starting. Now [that] there’s a chance of success, however, the administration announced that our policy is under review,” he said.
“Well, tell Mr. Bolton that it’s a good idea for him to go on vacation,” Biden said, prompting an, “I beg your pardon?” from Powell.
“It’s Bolton. Bolton is the guy who thinks this is a bad idea, along with Mr. Feith and a few others,” he said, referring also to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
“Don’t worry about Mr. Bolton. He works for me and we’ll work it out with respect to our position,” Powell said.
Biden charged that ideology has guided other administration decisions, citing Bush’s opposition to ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the administration raising “the specter of the possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states,” and the administration’s interest in developing new nuclear weapons capabilities.
Those policies could undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Biden said.
“Over the last three years I believe we have sent mixed signals at best, and negative signals at worst,” Biden said, “The United States has undermined our message that other nations must forgo the bomb.”
Powell said that while the administration has no plans to resubmit the test ban treaty for Senate approval required for ratification, a U.S. test moratorium would remain in effect.
“There’ll be no testing on our side,” he said.
Powell also expressed opposition to using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.
“Whatever contemplation may be given to this, it’s my own personal judgment that this would not be a sensible policy,” he said.
"We have more work to do," President Bush told the world in a speech on WMD proliferation last week. That particular sentence referred to the "Nunn-Lugar" program to dismantle, destroy, and secure weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Bush's one-liner puts the "under" in "understatement." The program championed by former Sen. Sam Nunn and Sen. Richard Lugar is grossly behind schedule. What was supposed to be accomplished in 10 years is now in its 13th year, and the work is not even half done.
Since 1991, all of the nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus have been removed; 6,252 nuclear warheads have been deactivated; and more than 20,000 scientists employed in WMD have found peaceful work. That's progress.
But it leaves more than 7,000 warheads to go, and hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium to properly secure. Most of the 40,000 tons of chemical weapons - much of it in suitcase-size shells - has yet to be destroyed.
Some critics, noting the administration's decreased budget request for 2005, argue that more funding would speed things up.
The real need here, however, is not money but political will. Serious bureaucratic delays are stalling efforts, preventing allocated money from being spent. The wrangling covers everything from physical access at Russian facilities to liability concerns.
Pouring money into a system where it gets stuck in bottlenecks can't do much good. These problems could be more speedily resolved if they received sustained attention at the highest levels in the White House and the Kremlin.
It won't be easy to get the nuclear genie back into the bottle. No sooner had President Bush announced his very worthy initiative to combat proliferation, unveiled during a speech atthe American Defense University on Wednesday,than newspaper reports over the weekend detailed disturbing findings of a trail of nuclear designs from China to Pakistan to Libya. This is one hot and scary topic.
In fact, Libya has released a mother lode of information, which is now being analyzed by experts from the United States and Britain, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The designs in question were handed over to American officials after Libya's Moammar Gadhafi decided to renounce weapons of mass destruction (WMD), presumably to avoid going the way of Saddam Hussein. Readers of The Washington Times won't be too surprised,ofcourse;this newspaper's Bill Gertz long since broke the news of the Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation.
Revelations about Iran's program for enriching uranium are equally disturbing. Also last week, international inspectors discovered that Iran had hidden blueprints for a highly sophisticated centrifuge, capable of producing a key element in nuclear weapons. This means that even as Iran was pretending to be cooperating with the IAEA, it was engaged in a double-cross. Who knows what else they have tucked away?
And overshadowing it all are the revelations about Pakistan's black market in nuclear technology, run by the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan. Mr. Kahn is accused of running a veritable Wal-Mart of black-market proliferation, as IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has put it. Eager customers included Libya and North Korea.
Do these deplorable failings of anti-proliferation measures invalidate the main point of Mr. Bush's speech that "every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction"? No. What it does is to reinforce his message that we must put teeth into the IAEA.
Mr. Bush wants to give the atomic inspection agency an enforcement arm to verify compliance from member countries. He also wants known and suspected violators of IAEA rules to be barred from positions on its board of governors, which seems a very reasonable idea. Iran, for one, has been able to flout the rules for 18 years. Most significantly, he appealed to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which includes the 40 countries that sell most nuclear technology, to stop selling equipment to any country that is not already equipped today to handle nuclear fuel.
Mr. Bush also announced the addition of three new countries -- Norway, Canada and Singapore -- to the group of 11 that already cooperate with the United States in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the purpose of which is to block shipments of WMD. Directed so far primarily at North Korea, the PSI represents an inspired bit of multilateral thinking on the part of the administration, primarily Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton.
The argument could be that our best defense against the proliferationofnuclear weapons is missile defense. According to this school of thought, primarily conservative, the nuclear genie has escaped for good, which means that we might as well get used to a growing number of nuclear states. Were we dealing only with state actors, that argument might hold, but in an unpredictable world of international terrorism, even a "dirty bomb," a primitive radiation device, unleashed by terrorists in a U.S. city is a nightmare scenario.
Another argument, advanced by liberal arms-control advocates, is that we must deal with our own nuclear weapons in order to occupy the high ground in the nuclear proliferation field. The U.S. stockpile is indeed shrinking, but the fact remains that we can account for our weapons and our nuclear fuel. They are not likely to end up in terrorist hands.
The approach suggested by the Bush administration falls into the realm of the realistic, somewhere between idealism and despair. Proliferation takes place mainly within a loop of rogue nations -- Iran, North Korea, formerly Libya and Iraq, -- and is fed by scientists and material from Pakistan, China and Russia. Looked at this way, it is still a deeply troubling, but not unmanageable, phenomenon.
Our focus needs to be on effectively cutting that loop and disrupting the work of the merry band of rogue states. Provided the political will is there, that is not an impossible aspiration.
Helle Dale is director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at the Heritage Foundation.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Don't Ignore Proven Gaps Fueling Nuclear Black Market
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Recent revelations about celebrated Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's secret dealings provide a stark moment of truth about the difficulty of limiting the spread of nuclear weapons in an age when rogue states go to great lengths to get them.
Khan operated a one-stop-shopping venture that sold the know-how, designs and equipment for making nuclear weapons to Libya, Iran and North Korea — and he even arranged delivery. His audacious and lucrative enterprise, started in the late 1980s, began unraveling last October when Italian authorities seized illegal centrifuges from a ship bound for Libya. Since then, Libya has cooperated with international inspectors, Khan has confessed, and new details are emerging thick and fast.
The disclosures force the world to face up to a disturbing reality: Cold War-era safeguards that were supposed to stop countries beyond the five declared nuclear powers from getting nuclear weapons have become dangerously ineffective. They fail to prevent the sale of materials and equipment used in making nuclear bombs.
That reality isn't lost on President Bush, who is pushing new steps to crack down on the nuclear black market. But to succeed, the effort has to go beyond stricter enforcement of current rules and meet a "Pakistan test": Would they have stopped Khan?
Meeting that standard requires more stringent rules and controls to better:
•Keep track of weapons material. A 1970 treaty was supposed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, but it has a fatal flaw. It lets nations make uranium and plutonium for nuclear power plants, even though the materials can be reprocessed for bombs. The loophole has enabled Iran, Iraq and other countries to launch weapons programs merely by proclaiming that the purpose of the nuclear programs is to generate energy.
From now on, Bush wants to force countries to purchase the fuel for power plants if they can't already make it. The international nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, would regulate the sales under tough inspections. But more than 40 nations, including Iran, already can produce the fuel. Making all countries' plutonium and uranium supplies subject to international registration and regulation could close the loophole.
•Strengthen international pacts. Last May, Bush formed the Proliferation Security Initiative, a group of 11 countries that stop and search suspect cargo, such as the intercepted Libyan shipment. Now he proposes expanding the group and broadening its powers. He also wants the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution criminalizing the spread of sensitive nuclear materials. Enforcement, however, will be more effective if all nations are forced to sign the 1970 treaty, which requires non-nuclear states to pledge that they will remain that way. Then, stricter inspections can ensure they keep their word. The eventual aim would be to dismantle nuclear weapons in countries that haven't signed the treaty or have withdrawn from it — Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea.
•Remove scientists from temptation. Khan's story shows the lures offered to nuclear scientists. He became so rich from his illicit dealings that he bought a string of estates and hotels. Bush proposes offering jobs and other financial rewards to idle nuclear scientists in countries such as Libya and Iraq so they don't look to sell their services elsewhere. The idea would expand on a program operating in former Soviet republics. Creating jobs as part of an expanded international nuclear-monitoring program could provide a needed deterrent against surreptitious sales of weapons know-how.
Bush's proposals don't rule out the adoption of more rigorous international safeguards that many nuclear experts want incorporated in the 1970 non-proliferation treaty. But some administration officials argue that renegotiating the treaty would be too difficult. That's a poor argument when set against the sobering dangers illustrated by Pakistan.
In spite of the fact that Pakistan has proved itself to be the world's most prolific distributor of nuclear-weapon-making capabilities, Bush's proposals wouldn't require the country to open its nuclear activities to international inspectors. Nor would they give outside investigators access to Khan, who already has been pardoned by the Pakistani government.
While the Bush administration says it trusts Pakistan to share vital information on Khan's activities, the country's track record for nuclear secrecy does not build confidence that it will be forthcoming now.
The fallout is far from over. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, other countries that may have received nuclear technology or materials from Khan include Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma (also known as Myanmar). And experts say the international nuclear black market may slow with Khan sidelined, but it likely won't end.
The nuclear genie is out of the bottle, but bolder measures that pass the "Pakistan test" can help prevent it from making its way into dangerous hands.
1. Russian Deputy FM To Discuss Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation In Tehran
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TEHRAN, February 20 (RIA Novosti correspondent Nikolai Terekhov) - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak will discuss bilateral cooperation in peaceful nuclear developments with representatives of Iran, RIA Novosti learned from diplomatic sources in Iran's foreign ministry on Friday.
During his three-day visit to Tehran, Kislyak will hold talks with high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic and will discuss the state of Russian-Iranian cooperation in nuclear power sphere.
The parties also intend to consider international regional transformations and directions of expanding cooperation between the two countries in different spheres.
"Russia is Iran's most important partner in the nuclear power sphere and cooperation with the Russian Federation in this sphere is considered a priority," Iran's Vice President and head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization Gholam Reza Aqazadeh said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
2. Mild U.S. Reaction as Russia, Japan Pursue Iran
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As President Bush pushes a global effort against proliferation, Russia and Japan have signaled plans for more cooperation with Iran, which the United States considers a growing nuclear threat.
Despite repeated statements of U.S. concern,, Russia last week restated its intention to provide nuclear fuel to Tehran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr. And Japan on Wednesday signed a ground-breaking $2 billion deal to develop Iran's giant Azadegan oil field.
U.S. officials have reacted only mildly to both developments. While the oil field deal could make Japan subject to U.S. sanctions, a senior U.S. official told Reuters there will be no rush to judgment.
"I suppose once the actuality of what they are going to do becomes clear we'll look at that appropriately under the law," he said.
Both cases show "that despite the president's speech, there is no international consensus on how to approach the issue of nuclear proliferation and nuclear supply," said Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"If the president is serious about developing a consensus, he and his administration have to do a lot more work and be a lot more engaged than they have been. ... The speech seems more for public consumption than for policy action," he said.
In a major new initiative after the father of Pakistan's nuclear program confessed to selling nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea, Bush called for limiting nuclear technology to countries that forswear atomic weapons and an intensive global effort to stop a nuclear black market.
While Iran has denied pursuing a nuclear weapons program in violation of international obligations, new revelations suggest Tehran has been hiding incriminating evidence.
On Thursday, diplomats at the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna and a senior U.S. official based in Washington said U.N. inspectors found components that could be used in advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium, which can be used for atomic bomb fuel.
"These reports of further disclosures by Iran of possessing more advanced centrifuge designs underscore the serious concerns we have," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The administration has pressed Russia not to provide Iran with fuel for the Bushehr reactor, which is supposed to produce nuclear energy, and urged Japan to hold off.
But Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry said last week it still planned to sign a nuclear fuel deal with Iran and on Wednesday, the Iran-Japan oil field agreement was signed.
U.S. officials still believe Russia will not transfer the fuel, at least while Iran's nuclear ambitions remain an issue. They stress that the reaffirmations come from an atomic agency eager for revenue from Iran, not from the government itself.
"Delivery of fresh fuel is not now scheduled until after January 2005," one senior U.S. official told Reuters. "Actions speak louder, as they say."
Experts say mixed messages may be a problem. According to Bush's speech, Russia would be entitled to sell reactors and fuel if Iran abandons its uranium enrichment program.
On Japan, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted that U.S. policy opposes petroleum investment in Iran and that Washington is "disappointed" in the deal. He made no mention of sanctions, which fall under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.
Japan has worked closely with Washington on the war on terrorism and has sent troops to Iraq, so there is little U.S. interest in picking a public fight.
"There are certain statements that Japan has made in terms of Iran adhering to the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) and its IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) obligations that could affect such projects and could affect their future relations," McClellan told White House reporters.
Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that as revelations about Iran's nuclear program mount, Japan might hold off, especially since the deal is a risky venture for a country that has weakened financial resources and no large oil companies to carry it out.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has already trained 600 specialists for a nuclear power station it is building in Iran despite U.S. concerns that Tehran wants to use it to develop nuclear weapons, Itar-Tass reported Wednesday.
Russia insists the $800 million Bushehr project is purely for peaceful purposes and will press on with the construction. The specialists had been undergoing training in Novovoronezh, some 400 kilometers south of Moscow, Itar-Tass reported. Russia plans to train over 700 workers by next year.
1. Moscow Hopes For Written Agreements On North Korean Nuclear Program Cessation
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Anna Bobina) - The forthcoming six-sided talks in Beijing on the Korean peninsula's nuclear problem may result in the signing of written statement outlining conditions of the cessation of the North Korean nuclear program, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The final document will be brief but it should concern the key issues, first of all, North Korea's readiness to give up its nuclear program, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, the head of the Russian delegation, told RIA Novosti on Thursday. Pyongyang should be given written security guarantees and economic assistance, he added.
The second round of the talks involving South and North Korea, the USA, China, Russia and Japan is scheduled for February 25. The first round was held in August 2003.
2. Russia Ready To Help North Korea If It Stops Its Nuclear Program
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti). Russia could help North Korea to solve its energy problems if this is needed to stop Pyongyang's nuclear program, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told RIA Novosti.
"If we consider return steps concerning the cessation of Pyongyang's nuclear program, economic assistance to North Korea can be one of them, in particular, in energy sphere. Russia could play a certain role in it," Losyukov said.
He is heading the Russian delegation at six-sided talks on the North Korean nuclear settlement. The second round of the talks will open on February 25 in Beijing.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's top Asia diplomat was quoted as saying on Thursday that Moscow saw the chance for ``some progress'' at six-sided talks in Beijing next week on North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program.
``We believe there are specific hopes that some progress can be achieved at the talks,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, Russia's Korean specialist, told Interfax news agency.
``Recently a better understanding of the specific positions of the various sides has emerged. But much will depend on how this second round goes.''
But he warned against any far-reaching solution to the North Korean dispute being clinched in Beijing.
``We don't expect any significant progress or breakthroughs,'' he was quoted as saying.
``But at the same time we believe it would be important first to anchor the negotiating process, agree on continuing the talks and possibly agree on setting up some sort of bodies which could work between sessions.''
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Thursday that North Korea might discuss the program at the talks, the second round since the United States confronted Pyongyang in October 2002 with allegations of a program for enriching uranium.
The talks bring together the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia. At the first round last August, the six did little more than state their positions in the dispute.
Losyukov said the notion of extending multilateral security guarantees to North Korea in exchange for a halt to the program, as sought by Pyongyang, was open for discussion.
``It is in this regard that I believe there is a greater understand now and a better acceptance of this topic than there was a year ago,'' he was quoted as saying.
4. Standing Consulting Body To Deal With North Korean Nuke Program: Russian Diplomats
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Six countries are negotiating in Beijing on what to do about a crisis round the North Korean nuclear program. The negotiators may eventually establish a permanent consultative body to deal with the matter, says Alexander Losyukov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Russian delegation leader at the talks.
The idea envisages an ad hoc team, or several, for unbroken work in between basic negotiation rounds, with high-level experts on such teams. That was what the Foreign Ministry had in mind as it recently announced that Russia could be expected to appoint a special envoy for North Korean affairs, Mr Losyukov said to Novosti.
An envoy can devote all his time and stamina to the matter-something a deputy minister cannot do, he explained.
The negotiators understand each other, where prospects for a consultative body are concerned. The cause will make spectacular progress if such a body is set up, the diplomat is sure.
1. Deputy Chief Of Russia General Staff On Outlook For Antimissile Defence Counteraction
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The general staff of the Russian Armed Forces sees several directions in counteracting the perspective antimissile defence system, its first deputy chief Yuri Baluevski said.
"It is above all the improvement of strategic offensive armaments," he told the press conference in Moscow on Thursday. It is also the taking of efficient steps to neutralise whatever perspective antimissile defence systems, he added.
The third direction is the search for new methods of operational use of strategic offensive armaments.
As regards the improvement of strategic offensive armaments, the Russian top officer said that in the plans is the unfolding of novel systems of sea-based carriers of missile systems.
When commenting on the second direction of counteracting the antimissile systems Baluevski said: "Yesterday's experiment /the strategic command-and-staff drill/ showed that we can create a weapon to incapacitate the system of antimissile defence".
"By virtue of our financial and economic capabilities, we do not have to create systems as other countries do. But we will keep an eye on their development," the first deputy chief of the Russian general staff said.
At the same time, modern antimissile defence systems cannot ensure protection against a massive strike by intercontinental ballistic missiles, Baluevski emphasised. This goes for both the Russian antimissile defence system and the systems under development in the United States, he said.
2. EUROPE: Mishaps Mar Putin's Show Of Military Might
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It was meant to be a high-profile display of Russian nuclear muscle. Billed as the country's biggest military exercise in 20 years, it was attended by Vladimir Putin, providing an impressive backdrop for next month's presidential elections, which he is certain to win.
Dressed in military uniform, Russia's president and former KGB operative first boarded a nuclear submarine, then flew to a cosmo-drome to watch the launch of a rocket carrying a military satellite. The exercise had more than an air of Soviet-era military parades.
But the show was marred by mishaps. On Tuesday two ballistic missiles were aborted - though naval ranks insisted this was perfectly normal. And yesterday another ballistic missile launched from a different submarine went off course and half "self-destructed" in mid-air, raising embarrassing questions about Russia's defence system.
"This incident requires an immediate investigation. It is hard to talk about the readiness of our strategic nuclear fleet until the reasons for the self-destruction of the missile have been established," said Vladimir Chernavin, an admiral who acted as last commander of the Soviet military fleet.
Mr Putin put on a brave face. Speaking in northern Russia at the end of exercises, he said the launch of the military satellite confirmed "the high level of research and space technology of our country". His speech aimed to restore Russia's national pride in its military that was lost with the end of the Soviet Union.
Mr Putin promised to equip the armed forces with a new generation of long-range weapons equal to those of the US. One day Russian strategic rockets would be "capable of striking targets at an intercontinental range with supersonic speed and high accuracy".
But he was at pains to stress that these plans were not aimed at the US. He added: "We reserve the right to modernise our weapons in the interests of guaranteeing the security of our country."
PRAGUE - Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent the past 24 hours submerged under the Barents Sea, on board a nuclear submarine. Overhead, bombers fire cruise missiles while battleships prepare to launch intercontinental ballistic rockets. Amid much fanfare, Russia has begun widescale military exercises that the Defense Ministry says are aimed at increasing the efficiency of Moscow's nuclear deterrent and the ability to penetrate enemy missile defenses.
The war games, which are expected to last several weeks, will include the test-launch of several ballistic missiles from submarines and ground silos at sites across Russia. TU-95 strategic bombers also will reportedly fly over Russia's Arctic regions and test-fire missiles at targets near the Caspian Sea. Although the Russian military has been tight-lipped about further details, satellite launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia - which Putin is due to visit - are also expected.
Billed as the largest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union, the exercise takes place against a backdrop of growing political tensions with the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, prompting some to wonder about the significance of its timing.
RFE/RL asked Moscow-based defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, who closely monitors Russian military developments, whether the West should be alarmed. The answer, he believes, is "no". Felgenhauer says the war games do not signify a change in Moscow's military posture. Rather, they reflect a need to test aging missiles and bombers - something Russia has done regularly since the end of the Cold War
"There is a need to test old missiles, old strategic planes, to fire old cruise missiles, because all of this equipment has been there in service since Soviet times, and there have been no replacements, or very limited replacements in the last years," Felgenhauer said.
And if old equipment needs to be tested, Felgenhauer says, one might as well package the exercise as a major strategic undertaking. It boosts the military's standing in the eyes of the nation and gets noticed internationally.
"Beginning in the early 1990s, the Russian General Staff and Defense Ministry decided that since they have to make these tests anyway, [they would] build strategic military exercises around them, to write a scenario and play out a military game," Felgenhauer said.
British-based defense expert Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems, agrees. Some of Russia's missiles are more than 25 years old, and regular testing is a way to prolong their shelf lives. "They don't want to develop new missiles if they can keep old ones going for a longer period," he says. "And that's what they're doing, which is a more economic approach."
This being an election year, the exercises are garnering more attention than usual - but that may be what Putin intended. Just as US President George W Bush sought to boost his popularity ratings last May by donning a flight suit and landing on an aircraft carrier, so, too, may the Russian leader believe his image could benefit from a photo opportunity below decks. The symbolism of Putin visiting a submarine in the Barents Sea, where the Kursk sank in August 2000 with its entire crew on board, will not be lost on the Russian public.
But symbolic value may be all there is to it. As Felgenhauer points out, in a genuine conflict, a submarine at sea is just about the last place a commander in chief should find himself.
"For a commander in chief to go out on a submarine during a simulation of a nuclear war is totally senseless because he has to be in command. And a nuclear submarine in a simulation of a nuclear war should not communicate," Lennox said.
The craft should, in fact, remain silent and undetectable. But that would play far less well on the evening news.
What also does not play well on Russian TV these days is the ongoing war in Chechnya. The battlefield body count and regular terror attacks in Russia's cities are grim reminders that the country's military seems ill-equipped to tackle what many perceive as a far more real threat than any nuclear attack.
"The real state of the Russian military is reflected by its rather unsuccessful campaign in the northern Caucasian republic of Chechnya, although our strategic bombers can still fly - at least some of them - and our missiles can also fly. But Russia right now is not facing any kind of real military problems that can be resolved by strategic nuclear forces. Our problems are happening in fighting Muslim radical rebels in the Northern Caucasus, and these kinds of exercises do not really help or prepare for the enemies that Russia does really have," Lennox said.
Putin, who came to power four years ago on a promise to resolve the Chechen conflict, may be hoping voters will prefer instead to focus on what does work in the Russian military.
4. Investigation Launched After Missile Self-Destructs
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Moscow, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent). A special commission is investigating the cause of the self-destruction of a missile launched on Wednesday from the Karelia nuclear-powered submarine. The destruction of the missile occurred during the command post strategic exercise in Barents Sea, reported Yury Baluenskiy, first deputy chief of Russian Armed Forces General Staff, at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday.
"The incident will be thoroughly investigated by a special commission that will make all of the necessary conclusions and to compile a report," said General Baluevskiy.
"A deviation indeed took place, and in this case a standard self-destruction system was initiated," he added.
According to General Baluevskiy, the commission will "deal with the status of technical assets. We are not going to penalize a certain person, we just want to know what caused the problem." "The RS-54 missile that self-destructed yesterday is considered to be one of the most reliable," added General Baluevskiy. "Since 1992 only one out of 36 launches has ended in failure."
5. Military Rot Spreads To Russia's Nuclear Forces
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MOSCOW (AFP) Feb 19, 2004 Moscow's latest bid to flaunt its military might backfired dramatically when three failed missile tests revealed that even Russia's final line of defense -- a fearsome nuclear arsenal -- was not immune from the rot eroding the post-Soviet military.
Russia this week staged its biggest war games in 20 years aimed primarily at demonstrating that its powerful nuclear force could penetrate a missile defense shield being built by the United States.
Their launch only a month before Vladimir Putin's expected re-election on March 14 were also due help the president's tough guy image that has played so well among voters traumatized by Russia's loss of international prestige.
But little went according to plan in the Arctic waters this week.
Putin went out to sea in a nuclear submarine Tuesday to witness two failed launches of missiles that could theoretically deliver a nuclear strike on the United States.
A third missile veered off course and self-destructed the next day. It was the first such accident in 36 tests.
"Our fictitious enemy won" the war games, the popular Gazeta.ru Internet site scoffed.
"The navy's defense shield of Russia blew up over the Barents Sea," the centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily agreed. "The naval exercises ended in complete failure."
The disintegration of Russia's ground and air forces -- equipped by Soviet tanks that no longer work and with planes grounded because there is no cash to pay for fuel -- has been an open secret since the military got bogged down in the first 1994-96 Chechen war.
The navy's troubles came to prominence with the August 2000 Kursk nuclear submarine disaster. But Russia has in fact not been sending more than a few ships out to sea for years. It has only one functioning airplane carrier.
Meanwhile morale among soldiers has largely collasped. Recruits regularly complain of brutal hazing, or initiation ceremonies, and corrupt generals who force them out into the Siberian cold in threadbare outfits. Food is limited and teenagers try almost anything to avoid the draft.
But Russia's nuclear arsenal has always served as a defensive backbone that keeps politicians here referring to their country as a "great power."
That backbone appeared to develop an unpleasant crack this week.
"These mishaps tell us one clear thing: We have little money and a lot of weapons. And these weapons are growing old," said Ivan Safranchuk of the Center of Defense Information.
"This shows that these weapons are reaching the end of their lifetimes and should not be further used."
Maxim Pyadushkin of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies agreed that "what happened shattered all illusions that our nuclear and rocket forces are the most battle-ready element of our armed forces."
Russia's main problem is that it has been churning out only a handful of missiles a year while keeping in service rockets which were built as far back as the early 1970s.
Analysts urge the military to carry out an urgent re-think of their strategy.
But the official Krasnaya Zvezda defense ministry daily announced proudly that the missile that exploded Wednesday -- first constructed in 1979 -- would be "exploited for another 10 years, and possibly 20 or more, serving as our nuclear backbone."
And Russia's deputy chief of staff general reported Thursday that a new class of ballistic missiles would not be introduced until 2010.
"I wish that we had these rocket complexes yesterday -- but we fully understand the government's financial means," Yury Baluyevsky said.
Meanwhile analysts scorned the military's effort to cover up their embarrassment by initially denying and then giving conflicting accounts over the accidents.
The national state-controlled television stations refused to report on the test failures and instead focused on three other successful ground-based missile tests.
Military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the navy was trying to confuse foreign intelligence services which were closely following the war games.
"But if the most modern ballistic missile available to our navy really did misfire, any serious foreign intelligence service will eventually find out about it," Felgenhauer wrote in Novaya Gazeta.
MOSCOW, February 19th, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Russia is not coming out against anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems if they do not threaten national security, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Yuri Baluyevsky said Thursday.
"We are working in this direction and co-operating with other countries," he said at a press conference. The goal of our co-operation is to create ABM systems providing defence for our facilities from single launches of missiles that might be in the terrorists' disposal.
7. Navy Again Fails to Launch Missile in Exercises
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In a new blow to military prestige, the Navy failed for the second consecutive day Wednesday to launch a ballistic missile from a Northern Fleet submarine during maneuvers attended by President Vladimir Putin.
But Putin pronounced the strategic nuclear exercises -- the largest in more than 20 years -- a success and said they would facilitate the deployment of a new generation of strategic weapons.
"The experiments conducted during these maneuvers, the experiments that were completed successfully, have proven that state-of-the art technical complexes will enter service with the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in the near future," Putin said after watching the launch of a military satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, which was part of the massive exercises.
The new weapons will be "capable of hitting targets continents away with hypersonic speed, high precision and the ability of wide maneuver," Putin said, adding that the new weapons -- unparalleled in the world -- would "reliably ensure Russia's strategic security for a long historical perspective."
Putin insisted that the designing of new weapons was not directed against the United States. "Modern Russia has no imperial ambitions or hegemonist strivings," he said.
Russia is continuing research in missile defense systems, and may build a new missile shield in the future, Putin said. Russia currently has a missile defense system protecting Moscow that was designed in the 1970s.
Despite the ambitious statement by Putin, the exercises he attended were tarnished by the Navy's failure on two consecutive days to launch missiles from nuclear submarines.
The Navy on Wednesday sent a Northern Fleet nuclear submarine to repeat Tuesday's unsuccessful launch -- only to fail again.
The missile launched from the Karelia submarine started erring from its designated flight path 98 seconds after the launch and was blown up by its self-liquidation system, Navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said.
No one was hurt, he said in a telephone interview.
An official investigation has begun.
Some Russian media described the Navy's attempt on Wednesday as an effort to rehabilitate itself after the previous day's failure.
Putin went to the Barents Sea on board the giant Arkhangelsk nuclear submarine to observe that missile launch firsthand. But the launch from the Novomoskovsk submarine, which military officials had announced in advance, and which was described on the front page of Tuesday's official military daily, Krasnaya Zvezda or Red Star, did not take place.
Russian officials and media made conflicting statements about the reason for the failure. The naval chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, ended up saying Tuesday that the Navy had never planned a real launch and successfully conducted what he described as a simulated one.
Many Russian newspapers, however, assailed what they described as a clumsy cover-up of Tuesday's failed launch, saying that Kuroyedov's statement resembled official lies about the August 2000 sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, which killed all 118 aboard and badly dented the Navy's prestige.
"Apparently they decided not to smear President Vladimir Putin's participation in the exercise with negative information," Kommersant said.
The exercises are widely seen as part of campaign efforts in the run-up to the March 14 presidential election aimed at playing up Putin's image as a leader bent on restoring Russia's military power and global clout.
Putin, who is expected to easily win the election, swapped the naval officer's garb he wore on the submarine for the green uniform of an officer of the Strategic Missile Forces on his visit Wednesday to the Plesetsk launch pad.
While there he watched the successful launch of the Molnia-M booster rocket, which carried a Kosmos military satellite into orbit. He also viewed the trouble-free liftoff of an RS-18 ballistic missile from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan, via video hookup.
State-run television channels, which are lavishly covering the daily activities of Putin, ran footage of the president watching the launches and congratulating officers in Plesetsk, but kept mum about the failed launches.
8. New Missile Systems Developed For Strategic Forces-Baluyevsky
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MOSCOW, February 19 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian strategic nuclear forces are to be armed with new strategic nuclear systems before 2010,” First deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces Yuri Baluyevsky told a news conference in Moscow on Thursday.
“The systems are now being practically developed for the ground-based component of the strategic nuclear forces. I mean better missiles and mobile parts of the system, as well as vehicles to take charges to targets,” Baluyevsky said by way of explanation in response to a question from Itar-Tass.
“We naturally wish for this to have been done yesterday in order to rearm the Russian strategic nuclear forces as soon as possible, but we are perfectly aware of the financial potentialities of our state. But I think that even before 2010 you will all witness the arming of the Russian strategic of nuclear forces with new strategic nuclear systems,” said the first deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
9. Russia Tests Missile That Could Evade U.S. Defense
Los Angeles Times
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MOSCOW — After two days of high-profile military exercises, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said Wednesday that Russia had successfully tested a new strategic missile system, a development that analysts said could allow nuclear warheads to avoid U.S. defenses.
Putin, who is seeking reelection next month, did not identify the system, which he said would allow "deep maneuvering" of Russia's long-range missiles.
Russian and U.S. military analysts said his cryptic description could mean that Russia has developed a "maneuverable reentry vehicle" — a technology under development for decades that could provide a rudimentary guidance system for intercontinental missiles and render them difficult or impossible to destroy.
"Not a single country in the world has such a weapons system at the moment," Putin said, adding that the new "powerful means of warfare" would be deployed with the Strategic Rocket Forces "in the near future."
The Cold War ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union, but Putin's announcement at the conclusion of Russia's biggest nuclear exercise in 20 years is a signal that Russia is prepared to commit billions of dollars to continue an arms race with the U.S.
"This illustrates that the U.S. and Russia both continue to develop ever more modern and deadly ballistic missile systems, and the Cold War continues, despite the friendly words from Putin and despite the so-called arms-reduction treaty which they agreed to last year," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn., an arms control advocacy group in Washington.
The Pentagon downplayed the announcement, saying that regardless of any successful test of new missile guidance technology, Russia has long had the capability to defeat the $30.2-billion antimissile defense program to be deployed in the U.S. this year, if only through the size of its ballistic missile inventory.
But former Assistant Defense Secretary Phil Coyle, now a senior advisor at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, said that if the Russians had developed a maneuverable warhead, "I think it would be very alarming to the Pentagon, because this would represent a kind of threat against which no missile defense system would be effective."
Putin's announcement followed a frustrating day during which an RSM-54 ballistic missile, launched from a submarine in the Barents Sea, suddenly veered off course 98 seconds after launch and self-destructed.
There were widespread reports a day earlier that submarine crews had tried and failed to launch two RSM-54s while Putin was aboard a nearby submarine, in a widely televised preelection demonstration of his role as commander of the armed forces.
Russian naval officials said the earlier launches were not failures, but were intended all along as simulations.
Several successful launches buttressed Putin's announcement of the new system. The military ended the exercise with the launch of a Topol RS-12M missile from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, an RS-18 missile from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and a military satellite.
Russian officials refused to define the new system tested during the launches, except to say it was a supersonic missile capable of "deep maneuvering, both in altitude and course."
Analysts said Russia has looked at equipping its state-of-the-art Topol missile with multiple warheads, an option that would greatly reduce the weapon's vulnerability to the U.S. missile defense system, which is designed to attack one warhead at a time.
Not long after President Bush pulled out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue the new defense program — now under preliminary construction in Alaska — Russian military leaders announced they no longer felt bound by previous agreements that prohibited missiles with multiple warheads.
But several Russian military analysts said Moscow probably had tested a long-range missile with guidance capability — the equivalent of a space cruise missile.
"The president is talking about an intercontinental missile which is capable of aerodynamic maneuvering in space or in the atmosphere, meaning … a hybrid between a ballistic missile and a cruise missile," said Alexei G. Arbatov, former deputy chief of the parliament's defense committee and now a security specialist at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow.
Alexander Golts, defense analyst for the journal Yezhenedelny, said Putin probably has in mind a missile that could change its trajectory once separated from its rocket.
Current ballistic missiles are fired through the upper atmosphere and follow a fixed and predictable trajectory back down. The U.S. defense system is designed to deploy a field of interceptors in Alaska and California that would fly into space to meet and destroy such a missile.
"But if they had maneuvering reentry vehicles and were able to veer around the sky as they came down, that would be especially daunting for a missile defense system," Coyle said.
Putin's announcement may have been intended to toughen Russia's image for a domestic audience, because as Coyle said, "Even without the development Putin has just announced, the Russians already know they can overwhelm our missile defense system as soon as it's built."
U.S. officials have long acknowledged that the system would not defend against Russian or Chinese technology.
"The threat is really the countries like North Korea that are developing long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction that could be carried by the missiles. This is the primary threat that this missile system is designed to deal with," said a Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Putin declined to characterize the testing as a return to the arms race. "I can say that the perfection of the kinds of weapons we have and the development of the new weapons systems are not aimed against the United States," he said.
But Putin noted that U.S. officials "have themselves been actively developing their weapons."
"We were told that these actions were not directed against the Russian Federation, and … it's true that the level and character of our relations confirms what our American partners told us," Putin said.
At the same time, he said, "we reserve the right to modernize our armed forces in the interest of ensuring the security of our own country."
MOSCOW -- Russia has successfully tested a hypersonic anti-Star Wars weapon capable of penetrating any prospective missile shield, a senior general said Thursday.
The prototype weapon proved it could maneuver so quickly as to make "any missile defense useless," Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, told a news conference.
He said that the prototype of a new hypersonic vehicle had proved its ability to maneuver while in orbit, thereby making it able to to dodge an enemy's missile shield.
"The flying vehicle changed both the altitude and direction of its flight," Baluyevsky said. "During the experiment conducted yesterday, we proved that it's possible to develop weapons that would make any missile defense useless."
Baluyevsky's comment followed a statement by President Vladimir Putin, who said Wednesday after attending rocket launches from the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia that experiments conducted during the military maneuvers had proven that Russia could build new strategic weapons that would be unrivaled in the world.
Putin said that the development of new weapons was not directed against the United States, and Baluyevsky reaffirmed the statement, saying that the experiment shouldn't be seen as Russia's response to U.S. missile defense plans.
"The experiment conducted by us must not be interpreted as a warning to the Americans not to build their missile defense because we designed this thing," Baluyevsky told The Associated Press.
He said that Russia has no intention of immediately deploying new weapons based on the experimental vehicle. "We have demonstrated our capability, but we have no intention of building this craft tomorrow," he said.
Baluyevsky said that Russia had informed the United States about its intention to conduct the experiment and added that U.S. officials issued not objections.
He said that the new vehicle had "ceased to exist" after the experiment -- presumably burning up in the atmosphere.
Baluyevsky refused to comment on what kind of engine the vehicle had, how long its flight lasted and how exactly it maneuvered. He said that it had been designed by several Russian companies, but refused to name them.
As part of the massive military maneuvers described as the largest in more than two decades, the military launched a Molniya-M booster rocket with a Kosmos military satellite from the northern Plesetsk launch pad and two ballistic missiles -- a Topol from Plesetsk and an RS-18 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Baluyevsky refused to say which of the rockets had carried the vehicle into the orbit.
11. Russia Working To Create Stealth Ballistic Missile
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - The preliminary test of a ballistic missile, unseen for missile defences, was conducted as part of a recent strategic command and staff exercise, Yury Baluyevsky, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff, told reporters on Thursday.
"The missile made a manoeuvre, changing the height and course. The missile can pass regional anti-missile defences and control zones unnoticed and can be updated to overcome future ABM systems," said the military.
12. Russia's Strategic Missile Forces On High Alert
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - The war game demonstrated that Russia's Strategic Missile Forces' combat efficiency was high, said Yury Baluyevsky, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff.
"Missile launches prove that the Forces are showing no sign of decline. Moreover, the experiments, which were conducted as part of the exercise, will prompt preliminary conclusions as to updating Russia's strategic nuclear weapons," said the military.
Mr Baluyevsky said a special commission would inquire into the cause of the self-destruction of a missile, which was launched from the Karelia nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea on Wednesday. The commission is expected to prepare a report on the incident.
The missile wandered off course and its self-destruction system was activated, said the military.
Decline: Missile failures during what was to be a display of nuclear potency reveal how far the former superpower has fallen.
MOSCOW - It was meant to be an impressive display of military might. Instead, Russia wound up looking like the former superpower that couldn't shoot straight.
A missile launched from the Karelia, a nuclear-powered submarine in the Barents Sea, veered off course yesterday and automatically self-destructed, Russian wire services reported.
It marked the third time during the exercises for Russia's nuclear forces, billed as the largest since the Soviet era, that a missile launch went awry.
On Tuesday, another nuclear-powered sub, the Novomoskovsk, was scheduled to fire two RSM-54 missiles. But the first reportedly failed to clear the launch tube properly and broke up just above the surface. The second launch was canceled as a precaution, according to the newspaper Kommersant.
By some Russian news accounts, yesterday's test was the navy's attempt to save face in the wake of Tuesday's failure.
It was all the more distressing, perhaps, because Russian President Vladimir V. Putin had a front-row seat. On Tuesday, he strolled on the deck of the nuclear submarine Arkhangelsk in the Barents Sea in a submariner's sheepskin-lined leather jacket.
Yesterday, wearing a green Strategic Missile Forces uniform, he watched his nuclear forces at the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia.
The problems of Russia's military are by no means limited to its strategic forces. In four years of bloodshed, Russian ground forces numbering in the tens of thousands have failed to subdue a few thousand Chechen rebels. The Russian soldiers have made an impression only for being poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly motivated.
But this week's exercises were supposed to show that, despite its troubles, Russia was still a country to be reckoned with because it could still deliver a long-range nuclear strike.
"It's certainly an embarrassment, particularly because of the fact that this was billed to be such a big event," said Thomas G. Mahnken, acting director of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. "These things do go wrong even for the U.S. military. But I think it's a concrete example of how far the Russian military has fallen."
In an interview with the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Eduard Baltin, a retired Russian admiral, seemed to share that view.
"The trouble is that there are few experts left and the crews are badly trained," he said. "We failed to show a potential aggressor that Russia's nuclear forces are in full combat readiness."
The navy had told reporters in advance of the two planned missile launches. But after the test fizzled, the navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov, claimed that the service had planned an electronic simulation rather than an actual test firing.
Several newspapers compared the Russian navy's refusal to acknowledge the failure of Tuesday's test to the lies that high-ranking officers told in the days after the sinking of the submarine Kursk in August 2000.
Navy officials insisted that the Kursk sank as the result of a mysterious collision, not a technical failure aboard the state-of-the-art sub. But the tragedy, which cost the lives of all 118 sailors on board, was eventually blamed on a faulty torpedo.
Mahnken said this week's missile failures support the view that, with or without a formal arms-control agreement with the United States, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal will inevitably shrink.
"The systems are getting old and not great shape, and will be withdrawn," he said. "This is more evidence of that."
Overall, he said, the misfires - which caused no injuries - are welcome news.
"The quote-unquote problem is that the Russians are not devoting the resources to keep their strategic nuclear forces at high readiness," he said. "But, frankly, I don't consider it a problem. It's a symbol of something good."
Putin made no mention yesterday of the launch failures, and neither did Russia's television networks - all to some degree state-controlled.
Instead, Putin told television reporters that Russia would develop a new generation of nuclear weapons "capable of hitting targets continents away at hypersonic speed, high precision and the ability of wide maneuver." He also hinted that Russia might develop a missile defense system, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
Putin is seeking re-election to a second term March 14. While Putin seems all but certain of victory, nationalist parties calling for a revival of Russia's military strength made a surprisingly strong showing in December's parliamentary elections.
A decade after the demise of the Soviet Union, many Russians say they want their country to regain some of its former power and prestige. Many are uneasy with the expansion of the NATO alliance into Eastern Europe and the establishment of U.S. military outposts in former Soviet states, including Georgia.
Not all of this week's exercises failed, of course. Yesterday in Plesetsk, Putin watched the successful launch into orbit of a military satellite, as well as the firing of an RS-18 ballistic missile from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan.
15. Russian Navy To Phase In New Missile Carriers And Missiles
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MOSCOW, February 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Navy will be fitted out with new missiles and missile carriers, said Yury Baluyevsky, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff.
The General Staff attaches high significance to this effort, emphasised the military. Naval ships will also be equipped with new power units, which is part of the effort to update Russia's Navy, according to Mr Baluyevsky.
A submarine participating in the country's largest strategic war game in more than 20 years failed to launch a ballistic missile as planned Tuesday in what could possibly be a major embarrassment to the military and President Vladimir Putin.
Putin was on board a nuclear submarine observing Northern Fleet maneuvers in the Barents Sea when the crew of another submarine tried and failed to launch at least one RSM-54 ballistic missile, news agencies reported Tuesday afternoon, citing sources in the fleet's command.
The same agencies later ran reports denying the failure, and top military brass weighed in on Tuesday night to say the war game had proceeded exactly as planned.
State-run Channel One and Rossia television made no mention of the failed launch in lengthy accounts of the naval maneuvers Tuesday evening.
Putin was participating in the war game in a clear attempt to strengthen his undisputed lead in the March 14 presidential election by reaching out to the military and nationalist vote.
Putin arrived at the Northern Fleet headquarters in Severomorsk on Monday to take a firsthand look at the naval part of the military exercises -- a massive show of force that involves all branches of the military and has been under way since late January.
State television channels aired lengthy reports about the commander-in-chief's arrival and subsequent boarding of the Arkhangelsk submarine Monday evening for an overnight trip. The channels showed Putin, wearing a naval uniform and white gloves, touring the submarine and eating with the crew.
Putin was on board the Arkhangelsk on Tuesday morning when the Novomoskovsk nuclear submarine was to have fired two sea-launched ballistic missiles, state-controlled news agencies reported Tuesday afternoon. The Novomoskovsk was to have fired one RSM-54 at 10:15 a.m. and another one at 10:22, but neither took off because the launch command was blocked by a satellite, Itar-Tass quoted a source in the Northern Fleet as saying. RIA-Novosti also reported that two ballistic missiles failed to take off.
Gazeta.ru, however, said that only one missile was to have been launched from the submerged Novomoskovsk and that it disintegrated right after emerging from the water.
And a government source told The Associated Press that the launch of the one missile failed after it was blocked by the submarine's automatic safety system. The source did not elaborate.
After reporting two failures, RIA-Novosti dropped any mention of them and started relaying reports in which the Northern Fleet's press service said the exercises were going "normally." The press service told Interfax that "no unforeseen situations appeared in the course of the exercises."
The commander of the war game, General Anatoly Kvashnin of the military's General Staff, also insisted that the exercises were proceeding as planned.
"As for the naval component ... the assigned mission has been fulfilled overall," Kvashnin told Putin in a teleconference between Moscow and Severomorsk, Interfax reported.
Kvashnin also shed some light on the scenario of the war game, saying it called for the armed forces to repeal an aggression aimed at undermining Russia's military potential, disrupting command and control and gaining air superiority.
Calls to the Northern Fleet press service and the Navy press service went unanswered Tuesday. The Defense Ministry refused to comment, referring all questions to the presidential press service.
A presidential spokesman would only say that "the war game is proceeding normally" and that "the president is on board a nuclear submarine."
State-connected NTV television reported that the Novomoskovsk was supposed to have launched one ballistic missile but failed to do so.
But Navy chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov insisted on the same broadcast that no actual launches had been planned -- only simulations -- and, as such, no failure could have occurred.
Kuroyedov's statement contradicts the Defense Ministry's Red Star daily, which reported Tuesday that an RSM-54 ballistic missile was to have been launched from the Novomoskovsk and fly across Russia to the Kamchatka Peninsula on Tuesday morning. It also said a practice target was to have been launched from a submarine to test the air defense system of the Northern Fleet's flagship, the Peter the Great cruiser.
Retired Captain Igor Kurdin, who served as the Novomoskovsk's commander from 1993 to 1995, said the launch incident might have been caused by a technical failure or a crew mistake.
"It's very annoying that it happened in front of the commander-in-chief," Kurdin told the AP.
In addition to the naval component, the ongoing war game features exercises for the Air Force and ground forces. Long-range bombers fired cruise missiles over northern Russia that were then destroyed by missiles fired from MiG-31 interceptors on Tuesday, Interfax reported. Also Tu-160 strategic bombers were to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, according to the government's Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
Space forces are to launch a satellite from the northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Putin's presence on Wednesday, NTV reported.
17. Navy Denies Two Failed Missile Launches, Admits Third
Ksenia Solyanskaya, Yelena Shishkunova
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Mystery still surrounds the failed launch of two ballistic missiles from the Novomoskovsk submarine yesterday, though the navy confrimed that another missile had self-destructed in mid-air on Wednesday.
After a prolonged silence yesterday the Northern Fleet command said that Tuesday's launches had not been scheduled and the military exercises had gone to plan. Other sources in the navy, however, still insist that the launch was disrupted.
On Wednesday another report of a ballistic missile self-destructing 98 seconds after being launched from the Karelia nuclear submarine was made by the press service of the Russian navy. The launch was also conducted within the framework of major naval exercises currently being held in the Barents Sea. Initially the launch was proceeding normally, but after 98 seconds of flight the missile self-destructed as its instruments started to show that it was loosing trajectory, the press service reported.
Yesterday the Novomoskovsk submarine, taking part in large-scale military exercises in the Russian North, failed to launch an RSM-54 intercontinental ballistic missile that was supposed to hit a target in Kamchatka. The incident occurred as Supreme Commmander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin was observing the war games from the Arkhangelsk nuclear submarine.
Russian news agencies reported the failure, but refuted those same reports hours later, with top military officials denying the glitch took place and claiming the exercises had proceeded as planned. By the end of the day it became clear that the Novomoskovsk submarine was not damaged and its crew were safe and had already returned to their base in Severomorsk.
''The causes and circumstances of the incident are being investigated. The Novomoskovsk has already returned to base,'' a source in the staff of the Northern Fleet told Interfax. According to the source, the incident had not entailed any serious consequences; none of the crew members was injured and the vessel was not damaged.
The military have still not officially confirmed those reports. The press services of the navy, the Northern Fleet, and the Defence Ministry remained unavailable for comment throughout the day. On Tuesday evening the navy's chief commander, Vladimir Kuroyedov, told NTV that no actual launches had been planned in the first place, only simulations, and hence, there had been no failures and the exercises went to plan.
However, earlier statements by top military officials refute the simulation theory. In the run-up to the large-scale military exercises currently being held in Russia Deputy Chief of General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky, addressing a news conference in Moscow, explained what exactly the military units and formations involved in the war games would be doing. Baluyevsky, in particular, confirmed that practice launches of ballistic missiles from sea and land would be performed.
Igor Dygalo, aide to the navy's chief commander, told ITAR-TASS news agency on Tuesday that two launches of ballistic missiles were to be performed during the exercises. One rocket was to hit the Kura bombing range in Kamchatka, another was to be used as a target for an anti-aircraft and missile complex on board the Pyotr Veliky cruiser.
Furthermore, by offering their own versions of the launch failure to news agencies throughout the day on Tuesday, numerous sources in the Northern Fleet command also cast doubt on the credibility of Kuroyedov's explanation. Those versions suggest that one of the RSM-54 missiles to be fired from the Novomoskovsk, which was supposed to hit a target at the Kura range, disintegrated right after it left the missile shaft.
Later Associated Press, citing its sources, reported that the launch failed after it was blocked by the submarine's automatic safety system. Sources in the Northern Fleet command then told Russian news agencies that two launches had been planned but the launches never took place because the launch command was blocked by a satellite.
According to other reports, the captain of the Novomoskovsk, Sergei Rachuk, cancelled the launch at his own initiative after detecting a failure in the sub's control system.
Interestingly, in his report on the progress of the maneuvers, presented to Vladimir Putin by Anatoly Kvashnin, the chief of general staff made no mention of the Novomoskovsk incident at all. Kvashnin reported on the successful anti-aircraft operation from Pyotr Veliky, adding vaguely that ''in general, the troops have coped with the set tasks''.
What Putin thinks of the reports from Kvashnin and Kuroyedov and the incident itself remains to be seen. Several hours later Putin returned to Severomorsk from the area where the exercises were held. On Wednesday Putin flew to Plesetsk where Russia's Space Forces launched a satellite in his presence.
18. President Putin To Monitor Strategic Troops Exercise
(for personal use only)
PLESETSK COSMODROME (Arkhangelsk region), February 18 (Itar-Tass) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday will continue to observe the command-staff exercise of Russia’s strategic forces.
In particular, the head of state is expected to familiarise himself with the launch complex of the Molniya rocket carrier and be present at its launch, as well as to see the broadcast of the launch of the RS-18 missile from the Baikonur cosmodrome.
The president is likely to have a conversation with the cosmodrome personnel and visit the monument to space explorers who died during the tests of rocket-space equipment. In the afternoon the president plans to hold a small press conference.
Putin stated Russia’s intention to hold exercises of the country’s nuclear deterrence forces in early February. He stressed such trainings “have not been held for a long time,” in particular, due to the lack of funds. “We shall carry them out and will hold them in the future,” he said.
The president said issues of nuclear security “were, currently are and will continue to be the focus of attention of the country’s political leadership.” He said, “We shall uphold the nuclear power,” adding that nuclear forces “are among the key issues of our security.”
Putin reminded that in the Soviet era “the very fact of the USSR existence and its nuclear forces had been a powerful stabilising factor in the world.”
“Now the situation has changed,” but security in the world should be maintained currently as well, including by the availability of nuclear forces in Russia, “by the developed power of Russian nuclear forces,” believes the president.
“We should not act so that others are afraid of us, but we should act in such a manner that the world takes the military power (of Russia) as a security element,” Putin said.
19. RS-18 Is Unrivaled In Countering Any Missile Defense Systems
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, February 18 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian strategic space forces launched an RS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile from Baikonur at 12.00 Moscow time on Wednesday upon receiving a signal from the Central Command point of the Russian strategic missile forces, a source at the southern cosmodrome told Itar-Tass.
The training launch of the RS-18 missile (also known as UR-100N UTTH in Russia and SS-19 “Stiletto” in the west) was carried out in accordance with the plan of the ongoing strategic command staff training of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Deputy Defense Minister Colonel-General Alexei Moskovsky watched the actions of the launch team.
The Baikonur source noted that one of the aims of the launch was to confirm the performance characteristics of the missiles for the purpose of extending their service life.
The missile was to deliver its warhead to the testing range on the Kamchatka peninsula. The liquid-fuel RS-18 silo-based missile and its modifications have been on permanent readiness with the strategic missile forces for 30 years. The service life of these missiles has been extended to 2015.
The missile is equipped with a multiple independently targetable warhead comprising six charges. Its weight at launch is more than 105 metric tons and its range is about 10,000 kilometers.
RS-18 missiles have been launched 69 times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had the RS-18 missile in mind when he said at a conference at the Defense Ministry last October that Russia had “a considerable stock of heavy land-based strategic missiles” with their potentialities unmatched in the world from the viewpoint of coping with any missile defense systems.
“I mean a very serious potential of the ultimate weapon, tens of UR-100N UTTH (CC-19) missiles,” said the president. At his request, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Anatoly Kvashnin specified that the president had in mind hundreds of nuclear warheads.
Putin then said that most of those missiles “have not spent a single day on ground alert and have been kept ‘dry’.” But, the president said, it does not mean that the missiles are outdated, “their service life is very considerable, and their combat potentialities are quite impressive, including from the viewpoint of overcoming any ballistic defense systems, in which respect they are unrivaled.”
The president noted, “The nuclear deterrent forces remain the core foundation and will long remain the foundation” of our security. “They are in a good combat condition; there are plans for their development and these plans are being fulfilled,” the president said.
“Russia is strictly abiding and will continue to abide by its international obligations in the field of strategic offensive reductions,” the president said at that time. Along with that he noted that the Moscow Treaty allowed the signatories to maintain a considerable potential. He stressed that Russia intended “to make full use of the potentialities, which the document envisages.”
Putin said new missiles would be put on ground duty as a replacement for the missiles whose service life will run out. In this respect, Putin said, “We have enough time to renew the fleet of missiles in accordance with plan, without leaps and bounds but by doing our work consistently and systematically on the creation of new, 21st century armaments.”
First Deputy Chief of General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky, for his part, explained to reporters that the heavy strategic missiles of the UR-100N UTTH type would remain in service with the Russian Strategic Missile Forces at least until the middle of the 2030s.
According to him, these “powerful heavy rockets can carry up to 10 nuclear charges each and are equipped with a perfect system of countering missile-defense systems and will be ready to fulfill until the middle of the 2030s the assignments entrusted to the Strategic Missile Forces.”
Russian President Promises New Generation of Weapons; Analysts Say They Could Be Zigzagging Missiles
MOSCOW Feb. 18 — After two failed missile launches during highly publicized military maneuvers, President Vladimir Putin announced plans Wednesday to deploy a new generation of strategic weapons and said Moscow may build new missile defenses.
Some analysts said the new weapons may be warheads that zigzag on their way to a target, an idea that dates to the Soviet era. Putin did not say exactly what they were.
Putin spoke after watching Wednesday's launch of a military satellite from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia, which was part of a massive exercise of the nation's strategic forces described as the largest in more than 20 years.
"The experiments conducted during these maneuvers ... have proven that state-of-the art technical complexes will enter service with the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in the near future," Putin said in remarks broadcast by Russian television stations.
The new weapons will be "capable of hitting targets continents away at hypersonic speed, with high precision and the ability of broad maneuver both in terms of altitude and direction of their flight," he said.
Putin spoke after two embarrassing missile launch failures Tuesday and Wednesday. A missile launch from the Novomoskovsk nuclear submarine set for Tuesday didn't take place, though the navy later claimed that it had never planned the test despite numerous statements to the contrary.
On Wednesday, the navy sent another Northern Fleet nuclear submarine to the Barents Sea to repeat the launch only to fail again. The missile launched from the Karelia submarine started drifting from its flight path 98 seconds after launch and self-destructed automatically, Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press.
Retired Adm. Vladimir Chernavin, the former Soviet navy chief, said that until the cause of the failed launch is found, "it's hard to talk about full combat readiness of the navy's strategic nuclear forces," the Interfax-Military News Agency reported.
State television kept mum about the failures. Putin didn't directly mention them, though he did acknowledge some shortcomings in the exercises.
"We have not had such exercises for almost 20 years," Putin said. "Naturally, in the course of such exercises there are minuses and pluses ... and those minuses will be detected and clearly we'll be drawing conclusions. It is only for the better."
The military exercises were widely seen as part of campaign efforts to play up Putin's image as a leader determined to restore Russia's military power and global clout ahead of the March 14 presidential election. He is expected to win easily.
In his comments, Putin focused on the new weapons, which he said would be unrivaled in the world. He said they would ensure Russia's safety for years to come.
Putin said that Russia was continuing research in missile defense systems and may build a new missile shield. Russia now has a missile defense system protecting Moscow that was designed in the 1970s and modernized in the 1990s.
Some military analysts said his statement could indicate the revival of Soviet designs for nuclear warheads that zigzag on their final approach to a target, confusing missile defenses.
Such behavior would make a missile hard to intercept and destroy.
"On the other hand, its accuracy leaves much to be desired, making it unfit for dealing precision strikes," said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Russian military analyst.
He said that the research on zigzagging warheads began in the 1980s in response to Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program.
Putin said the new weapon systems wouldn't be directed against the United States, which has backed out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and is developing a missile defense system of its own.
"Modern Russia has no imperial ambitions or hegemonist strivings," he said.
Alexander Pikayev, a Moscow-based expert in Russian nuclear forces, said that the military had experimented with a maneuvering warhead during a missile launch several years ago, but voiced doubt about Russia's ability to deploy such weapons any time soon.
Putin could also have been referring to a ballistic missile system being developed for submarines, said Ivan Safranchuk, the head of the Moscow office of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington-based think-tank. Little is known about the system, called Bulava.
In Plesetsk on Wednesday, Putin watched the successful launch of a Molniya-M booster rocket, which carried a Kosmos military satellite into orbit.
Later in the day, the military successfully test-fired a Topol ballistic missile from Plesetsk and an RS-18 ballistic missile from the Baikonur cosmodrome which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. The two are reliable weapons systems dating from the Soviet era.
21. Russia To Remain A Major Nuclear Power - Putin
(for personal use only)
Source: RTR Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1400 gmt 18 Feb 04
[Presenter] The Russian army will soon get new missile complexes which will allow it to guarantee the country's strategic security for many years to come. This important statement was made today by the president at a news conference at the Plesetsk cosmodrome.
[Vladimir Putin] In conditions where there is a quantitative and qualitative growth in the military potential of other states, Russia needs a breakthrough in order to have weapons and military equipment of a new generation.
In this connection, I am pleased to inform you that, as a result of the experiments conducted during this exercise, the experiments that ended successfully, we are finally convinced and can confirm that the newest technical systems will soon come into service with the Russian Strategic Missile Troops. These systems can destroy targets on other continents, moving with a hypersonic speed and great accuracy, and with high manoeuvrability in both the vertical and horizontal planes.
I should say that every word of what you have just heard is significant. No country in the world currently has these types of weapons systems.
This means that Russia was and will remain one of the major nuclear-missile powers in the world. This may be pleasant for some and not pleasant for others, but everyone will have to reckon with this.
We will learn how to defend our national interests by legal, diplomatic and economic means, and with the help of information technology, but we will do everything in our power to guarantee Russia's military invulnerability and to ensure that the military organization in our country can be guaranteed - I want to stress this - can be guaranteed to be able to neutralize each and every threat.
[Presenter] These unquestionably significant words preceded a real sensation. The president did not rule out that at some time to come Russia will create its own missile defence system.
[Vladimir Putin] Our specialists in this area think it is still premature to take a practical decision and to invest large funds. Work on missile defence began back in the Soviet era. It still continues today and has been going on for a number of decades. We consider that today is not the time to make major investments in this. We don't have money to spare.
We have been collaborating not at all badly with our US partners. They have shown an interest in cooperating with our specialists, and it's clear why - I repeat - because we have schemes that are not at all bad and which other countries may not even have.
We will see how work progresses in other countries. We will not stop our own work. I cannot rule out that at some stage we will be able to go over to the practical implementation of the construction of such defence systems. However, we will strive to make sure that, from the military point of view, as I have already said, they are the most efficient, as well as being the least costly.
22. Russia's War Games Demonstrating 'Nuclear Fist'?
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - Russia's military has begun large-scale war games - its largest military maneuvers in two decades - involving the test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the massive deployment of long-range strategic bombers. The exercises are intended to deter unnamed aggressors and they appear to reflect Russia's increasingly assertive foreign policy, what some call a "nuclear fist" - yet questions remain about Russia's firstike capabilities.
The exercise is reminiscent of Soviet-era war games held back in 1982, dubbed the "seven-hour nuclear war". Russia recently indicated the possibility of a firstike war, if necessary, to defend Russian interests. Yet military experts question whether Moscow could indeed strike first if it felt threatened, and if so, what would be the target. No potential aggressor was identified this time, but in previous maneuvers Russian generals said the obvious target was the United States.
Some observers and critics said the war games signaled the opening of Russia's election campaign, a charge vigorously denied. Some said the games already flopped when a missile failed to fire, another charge vigorously denied.
On the day of the apparent flop, President Vladimir Putin boarded the Northern Fleet Arkhangelsk submarine where he armed 20 ballistic missiles to observe first-hand the strategic drill on Tuesday. However, Putin's ride on a nuclear submarine turned a bit uncomfortable as another Akula-class submarine, the K-407 Novomoskovsk, did not launch its RSM-54 missile. It was supposed to be test-fired Tuesday morning and its dummy warhead was to hit its target at the Kura missile-receiving facility on the far eastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
Novomoskovsk's failure to launch the missile is likely a great disappointment to the military, as the submarine previously had a good record of missile launches - in 1998 it became one of the first submarines to launch a satellite into space.
Meanwhile, Russia's Northern Fleet command dismissed speculation there had been any incidents and denied that any ICBM launches had been planned for the day. Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroyedov claimed it was supposed to be a mock launch, involving just an electronic order to fire an ICBM, without the missile leaving its launch tube. Kuroyedov did not elaborate on the value of a mock launch or clarify why the Russian President was invited to witness it.
But some Russian media outlets did not subscribe to the official point of view. The influential Izvestia daily reported on Wednesday that the drill ended in failure. On Wednesday, daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta ridiculed the official version of the war games, suggesting that Russia basically "asked a potential aggressor to wait for another day" until the actual missile launch.
Retired admiral Eduard Baltin, former commander of the Northern Fleet's division of nuclear submarines, commented that Russia failed to demonstrate to a potential aggressor that its nuclear forces remain in full and constant combat readiness.
Yet despite the problems, the drill was clearly designed to send a message. The February war games scenario included the testing of the missile defense system protecting Moscow, ICBM test launches and launches of military satellites in a simulation of the replacement of those satellites lost in military action. Among other maneuvers, units of the Siberian Military District and the Volga-Urals Military District are being deployed westward, while airborne units are being dispatched by air and rail to unspecified destinations.
The maneuvers also involved Tupolev-195 and Tupolev-160 Blackjack long-range strategic bombers test-firing cruise missiles over Russia's Arctic regions. The supersonic Tu-160 is designed to strike distant targets with up to 12 missiles. In mid-January the Tu-160s flew again for the first time since the entire fleet was grounded after a crash last fall.
The strategic drill was designed "to forestall a forceful aggression against Russia", Colonel-General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy head of general staff, has announced. The maneuvers "are not the opening of the election campaign or a demonstration of a nuclear fist", Baluyevsky said. Russia can not abandon test-firing ICBM, Baluyevsky said, although he conceded that each launch costs Russia 300-600 million rubles (US$10-20 million).
It is speculated the February war games are intended to further boost Putin's popularity as the March 14 presidential election approaches. The maneuvers may also serve to back up Russia's increasingly assertive foreign policy.
The drill was supposed to end in a victory that would repel potential "aggressors". Yet such talk of "aggressors" highlighted the Soviet-style of the war games. The drill demonstrated that a nuclear conflict with the United States is still seen as a possibility in Moscow, hence plans call for it.
But unlike Soviet-era war games, this time none of the 250 generals involved in the drill would reveal who the virtual enemy was. However, some of Russia's top military officials recently voiced concerns over US missile defense plans. The fact that units of the Siberian Military District were being deployed westward during the drill also indicates that Moscow still sees a threat in the West, and not in East Asia.
The war games are the latest in Moscow's series of recent moves designed to exhibit its strategic deterrent. Last December, the fourth regiment of Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles was put on combat duty in Tatischevo, central Russia. Topol-M has been described as a cornerstone of Russia missile-nuclear shield. The single-warhead RS-12M Topol-M, which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has nicknamed SS-X-27, can be fired from silos or from mobile launchers. Eventually, Topol-M mobile missiles are due to replace 270 silo-based missile complexes, according to one Russian expert, who conceded that the Russian army was recently receiving just six Topol-M missiles a year.
Russia has also moved to make dozens of previously stored multi-warhead SS-19 ICBMs combt-ready. Last October, President Putin stated that Russia has SS-19 ICBMs that had been stored without fuel and had never previously been deployed - and as such were not part of past disarmament negotiations. Russians believe that the UR-100N UTTH, also known as the SS-19 Stilleto, could function for up to 25 more years and gradually replace decommissioned missiles.
- When the START-I treaty was signed in 1991, the Soviet Union had a total of 300 SS-19 missiles. According to the START-II treaty, signed in 1993, Russia was to dismantle all ground-based ICBMs with multiple warheads. Under the treaty provisions, a total of 105 of the SS-19 missiles can be retained provided they are downloaded to carry only one warhead instead of six.
In May 2002, Putin and US President George W Bush signed the so-called Moscow Treaty that requires the two countries to cut the number of warheads on combat duty to between 1,700 and 2,200 on each side. It allows both countries to store, rather than dismantle the warheads. It is the scrapping of the START-II strategic arms reduction treaty, however, that has allowed Russia to keep SS-19s on combat duty.
Russia's RT-23UTTH or SS-24 rail missile systems were subject to elimination under the START-II. However, following the demise of START-II, after the US backed out, Russia has reportedly indicated plans to retain one division of the SS-24 rail mobile missiles. The SS-24 is cold-launched with 10 warheads each with a yield of 550 kilotons.
Russia now has three missile armies and 16 divisions that have a total of 735 ICBMs armed with 3,159 nuclear warheads, according to Russian media reports.
On October 9, 2003, Putin said that Russia "retains the right to launch a preemptive strike, if this practice continues to be used around the world." Defense Minister Ivanov said Moscow can use preventive military force in cases where a threat is growing and is "visible, clear, and unavoidable". Ivanov added a key detail, saying that military force can be used if there is an attempt to limit Russia's access to regions that are essential to its survival.
Russia also indicated it would act to defend regions beyond its own borders, encompassing large parts of the former Soviet Union, now the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Defense Minister Ivanov has said that, in case of "instability in the CIS" or a "direct threat" to Russian citizens, Russia can "hypothetically" use force if other means of coercion, like diplomatic and economic sanctions, fail.
In a practical demonstration of this approach, Moscow held naval maneuvers in the inland Caspian Sea August 8-15, 2002. Although Russia presented the war games as an important measure to safeguard regional stability, some littoral states remained wary. The coastal Caspian states were shown that Moscow retains the growing ability to order its fleet without notice into theirs waters.
However, East Asia has not disappeared from the radar screens of Russia's emerging doctrines of preemption. In July 2003, Russian media have been speculating about possible military involvement in North Korea should another war erupt. "Russia's best response to a possible nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula would be a preemptive missile strike against North Korean nuclear facilities, carried out by the Russian Pacific Fleet," said an editorial in Izvestia. It quoted Pacific Fleet sources as saying the nuclear facilities could be destroyed using cruise missiles launched from a Russian cruiser.
Meanwhile, Russian officials have pledged that the country's doctrine differs from the American doctrine. Under no circumstances would Russia be the first to strike with nuclear weapons, according to Defense Minister Ivanov. Nonetheless, the West became concerned about the "Ivanov doctrine", in which the minister warns that Russia will be forced to change its nuclear strategy if NATO continued its "offensive" doctrine. Therefore, circumstantial evidence indicates that Russia is attempting to draft its own preemption concept.
The notion of preemption - the use of military and / or covert force to disarm an enemy before it can launch a strike of its own - has resurfaced since President Bush declared it a viable approach to the war on terrorism. Only the US has recently made use of firstike military action, or "preemption", against emerging threats abroad - an explicit part of its foreign policy - in Iraq.
Russia now seems to follow the US' lead and reserve the same preemption rights. What remains to be seen is whether proliferation or the escalation of preemption could eventually ensue.
23. Russia: War Games Misfire, But Public Officials, State Media So Far Largely Silent
Radio Free Europe
(for personal use only)
Military war games designed to highlight Russia's ballistic missile capability have turned into a major embarrassment. Yesterday, two submarine-fired intercontinental missiles failed to launch, as Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on. Today, another missile self-destructed as it veered off course shortly after being fired. Accounts of the mishaps are filtering into the Russian press and are once again raising questions about the state of the Russian military. The authorities, following past practice, are so far keeping silent.
Prague, 18 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- For the past three days, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the observing war games in the Far North that were meant to highlight the prowess of the country's military.
Yesterday, Putin -- in his capacity as commander in chief of the Russian armed forces -- stood on the bridge of the Arkhangelsk submarine, scanning the choppy waters of the Barents Sea, ready to witness the launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles from another nearby submarine.
It was a picture-perfect scene, except for one thing. The cameras rolled, Putin waited, and waited. But nothing happened.
After 25 minutes without a launch, the Russian leader disappeared below deck. Russian news agencies began to speak of a technical malfunction. Soon, more unconfirmed details began to emerge on independent Russian-language news sites.
One version -- again unconfirmed -- said the missile launches were blocked for an unknown reason by a satellite signal. Another version said one of the missiles had misfired, forcing the cancellation of both launches.
After a long silence, Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov told a briefing the missile tests had actually gone according to plan. They were meant to be "virtual" launches, he explained.
If that convinced anyone, today's report that another intercontinental ballistic missile self-destructed as it veered off course shortly after launch from the Barents Sea came as undeniable confirmation of trouble.
This time, Putin was not present to witness the mishap. But the impact is expected to be severe.
The military exercise was meant to demonstrate the readiness of Russia's ballistic missile forces to the world. The effect appears to have been the opposite.
Russians vividly remember the sinking of the Kursk submarine in August 2000, which was also on a training exercise in the Barents Sea. This week's maneuvers were designed in part to exorcise bitter memories of that tragedy.
Again, the result served to highlight the poor state of the Russian navy rather than to demonstrate its renaissance, as Pavel Baev, an expert on the Russian navy and a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, explains to RFE/RL.
"The exercise, at least the naval part of it, was definitely designed to be a kind of closure on the whole Kursk affair, to make the point that this page is closed, that [Russia] is now in a new period, which would confirm Putin's statement from last autumn, that the military reform is over and that [Russia] is now in the stage of a normal buildup of military forces," Baev said.
Putin has not spoken publicly about the mishaps so far. But experts such as Baev say they are not surprised at the outcome. While some new investment has gone into the armed forces in recent years, the navy remains woefully underfunded and is essentially the same as in the year 2000.
To a large extent, many experts say the degradation of what was once a well-oiled operation is not the fault of the navy command. The navy is being asked to accomplish too many tasks, with too few resources -- from establishing new coastal patrols around Russia's vast perimeter, to increasing its regional presence in the Caspian Sea, to maintaining a battle-ready, strategic component.
Sophisticated ships and the nuclear-weapons systems they carry require sustained, major investment. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the navy has been starved of funds. Even when Russia's overall defense budget was boosted, beginning in 2001, the navy failed to receive an increase in its budget allocation. The result is evident today, as Baev notes. "The exercise, at least the naval part of it, was definitely designed to be a kind of closure on the whole Kursk affair."
"You can starve your army for a long time, and it still can fight. But as far as naval systems are concerned, try to do the same and they just fall apart. They are not very resilient to 'starvation.' And then, if you invest a little extra money here and there, you can probably clean the ships, you can probably buy some diesel fuel, so you can take them out to sea, but the risks that something could go wrong are just really beyond any rational calculation," Baev said.
Regardless of who is to blame for the state of the Russian navy today, the reaction of its top brass to misfortune -- public denial -- is all too familiar. But here, says Baev, the military has less to worry about than it did in 2000.
"I don't think there is anything else they can really do. Face-saving is incredibly important for the military. And if any lessons, in fact, were drawn from the whole Kursk affair, it is about controlling information better, it is about what sort of spin to put on events. And, in fact, they are hardly under any pressure to do anything, because the whole flow of information in the country is now so much more controlled," Baev said.
Russia's state-controlled television channels today focused on the successful launch of a military satellite from the Plesetsk cosmodrome and repeated shots of Putin in navy uniform lunching with cadets.
Russia’s air defense is in a deplorable state, Anatoly Kornukov, the former commander of the Russian air force, said at a round table meeting on Wednesday.
“Russian air defense is in deplorable condition, but it is not hopeless,” he said. According to Kornukov, the country’s air defense weapons “remained the same as several decades ago” due to the lack of funds and the absence of modernization. As an example, he referred to the S-50 air defense system. The combat effectiveness of the system is halved, according to the former air force commander.
On the need to develop a space defense program in Russia, Kornukov said “Russia needs an inexpensive but reliable space defense system, capable of protecting it from air and space strikes”. “Space defense should become a vital part of a system to deter possible aggression against Russia,” he stressed. According to Kornukov, Russia already has a system capable of hitting orbital vehicles. “In combat service since 1972, this system still operates effectively,” he noted.
Kornukov said a new S-400 system, Triumf, had been tested successfully. “I think regular launches of long-range missiles will be conducted before March 8,” he added. The Triumf anti-aircraft missile system is ready for serial production, according to the ex-commander of air force.
The Triumf system has a range of 400km. It can be used both against high-flying strategic and ballistic missiles and against cruise missiles like the Tomahawk, which fly low and are effective against targets in woodland and rugged terrains.
The new system is capable of detecting and destroying early-warning aircraft and tactical and strategic aircraft. It can also intercept warheads flying at a speed of 4,800 km per hour.
25. Russian Armed Forces End Active Stage Of Strategic Training
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, February 18 (Itar-Tass) -- The active stage of the strategic command and staff training code-named Bezopasnost (Security) 2004 ended in the Russian Armed Forces on Wednesday.
Three sea- and ground-based ballistic missiles and a Molniya-M carrier with a military satellite were launched.
The Molniya-M carrier lifted off first from Plesetsk at 10.05 a.m. (0705 GMT). It took a Kosmos-series military satellite to the target orbit as was planned. At noon, an RS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from a silo at Baikonur, Kazakhstan. At 12:30 (0930 GMT) the nuclear submarine Karelia fired a Sineva missile from the Barents Sea. The missile diverted from the course and was self-destroyed on the 98th second. At 1.38 p.m. (1038 GMT) a Topol ICBM was fired from a mobile launching site at Plesetsk to Kamchatka.
General purpose forces practiced airlifting for large distances. The operation involved permanent readiness units from the Siberian and Volga-Ural military districts. Motorised infantry reinforced with artillery. In conditions that are as close to real combat as possible motorised infantry units from the two military districts, reinforced by artillery, tanks and air-defence systems, were redeployed to the training ranges in the Moscow military district.
Faced with unknown terrain, and a new climatic and geographic environment, the units successfully fulfilled their tasks and organised preparations for a tactical defence exercise.
On Tuesday, February 17, the motorised infantry from the Volga-Ural Military District held a tactical exercise with live shooting. The units redeployed from the Siberian Military District will hold similar manoeuvres on February 24-25.
The commander of the Land Forces and Deputy Defence Minister, Army General Nikolai Kormiltsev said the current strategic command and staff training were proceeding in accordance with the plan. Officers and generals from the Command of the Land Forces and the Main Directorate of Combat Training are supervising the manoeuvres.
“Participation in the training is an excellent opportunity to improve the combat training of servicemen and units as a whole,” Kormiltsev said.
President Vladimir Putin, who is the supreme commander-in-chief, watched the active stage of the training at Plesetsk on Wednesday. He praised the rocket crews for their excellent performance and said he was pleased with what he had seen.
“The combat capability of the army, including of its nuclear forces, is an important part of security and balance of force in the world, and therefore of strategic stability,” the president said.
The Northern Fleet's nuclear war exercises that are currently underway in the Barents Sea almost ended in great embarrassment for the Russian Navy when a ballistic nuclear missile failed to fire from a Delta IV class submarine called the Novomoskovsk.
The extensive exercises launched this week involved 10 surface battle ships and support ships, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the nuclear powered cruiser Peter the Great, as well six nuclear ballistic missile and general purpose submarines, strategic bomber aircraft and helicopters. In shorteverything that can still operate in the Northern Fleet was put to sea.
The exercises were titled "Security-2004." The official purpose of the exercises was naval training for combating terrorism. The expected result of this event, apparently, was proof that strategic bombers and ballistic missile submarines were on the ready and an effective tool against the evil-doers of the world.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, was onboard the Typhoon class ballistic missile submarine Archangelsk (TK-17) Monday evening to observe the exercises unfold. The Archangelsk was commissioned in 1987 and is one of the three Typhoon class submarines that allegedly still remain in service in the Northern Fleet. Another three submarines of this class will be dismantled by American Cooperative Threat Reduction funds in Severodvinsk, in the Archangelsk region.
On Tuesday, the ballistic missile Delta IV class submarine Novomoskovsk (K-407) was to launch two SS-N-23 Skiff missiles, which would land in Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East, some 8,000 kilometres to the east. The dual launches were scheduled for 10:15 and 10:22 Moscow time.
Putin was in the command post onboard Archangelsk waiting for the report about the successful launch to come. Instead the hotly anticipated show was a disappointing flop.
Reports on what happened to the missiles and where it is are still unclear. Some assume that the first missile left the missile silo aboard the Novomoskovsk and fell nearby. The emergency services of the Northern Fleet are now on a desperate fishing trip for it in the murky waters of the Barents Sea.
The official statement from the Northern Fleet says that the launch of both of the missiles was for some reason blocked by a satellite, which is operated by the Russian space defence forces.
The Russian Navy's Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Kuroyedov explained the incident by saying there was to be a "conditional" launch during the exercise, though he did not elaborate, according to Russian press reports.
The crew of the Novomoskovsk never attempted to fire the second missile.
The Archangelsk, with Putin onboard, arrived safely at the port of Severomorsk.
Whatever the cause of the misfire, it proved that any "terrorists," or "evil-doers"to the great embarrassment of Northern Fleet commanderswould not have gotten what they deserved were the exercise an actual war, and President Putin departed convinced that the Russian nuclear shield has some large patches of rust on it.
The Russian President will now fly the Plesetsk Kosmodrom in Arkhangesk region, where he will watch the launch of a land-based ballistic missile from a Topol class launcherthis time, it can be presumed, with slightly lower expectations.
Russian nuclear shield falling
There are very few ballistic missile submarines on active duty in the Northern Fleet. According to NATO's annual review, the number of Delta IVs on patrol does not exceed two or three subs. These submarines were being built in the 80s and are currently the backbone of the Russian strategic submarine force.
Typhoons, on the other hand, have been a very rare sight in recent years. Of the six that were built, three are now being decommissioned. The Archangelsk Typhoon class submarineand its air of the fading glory of the Soviet pastwas specially prepared to be an underwater hotel for the Russian President during the exercises. The Archangelsk, according to observers, did not seem to take any active part in the drills.
The dilapidation of the infrastructure and weapon systems of the Russian nuclear arsenal are foundation for concern. Each time the Northern Fleet goes to sea for an exercise, fingers around Russia and surrounding nations remain crossed in the hope that no accident will befall the fleet.
If should something go wrong, the rescue services of the Northern Fleet are still in the same sluggish and incompetent shambles they were in when the Kursk sank in August 2000, and they would likely be of little help in any future mishaps. It is clear that Russia is reaching a point where it should seek refuge from its own nuclear shield, which, as today's events illustrate, may fall at any time, landing not only on Russia, but on neighbouring states as well.
27. Russia Ahead of USA in Developing Nuclear Arms - Expert
(for personal use only)
Interfax-AVN February 11, 2004
A Russian nuclear scientist has said the USA has been lagging behind Russia in developing nuclear weapons, including "penetrating" nuclear munitions that could destroy underground targets, according to a Russian website, which quoted the scientist's interview with a Russian government daily. The following is the text of the unattributed report entitled "An expert says the development of 'penetrating' nuclear weapons could take at least 10-15 years" and published by the Russian news agency Interfax-AVN website on 11 February; subheadings have been inserted editorially:
Moscow, 11 February: The problem of the development of "penetrating" nuclear munitions may take at least 10-15 years to resolve, Academician Viktor Mikhaylov, the research director of the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre under the National Experimental Physics Research Institute and director of the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy Strategic Stability Institute, has said.
"Penetrating" nuclear munitions described
"As far as 'penetrating' nuclear munitions are concerned, these are a very challenging problem. It could take at least 10-15 years to resolve. The Americans acknowledge that they can penetrate only 5-6 metres (of hard and rocky ground). If we are talking about tens of metres, this is very hard to do, although the laws of nature do not prevent this," Mikhaylov said in an interview with [the government owned daily] Rossiyskaya Gazeta published on Wednesday [11 February].
Russian specialists have learned from Western press publications of American nuclear scientists' endeavour to develop "penetrating" nuclear weapons that could destroy a specific buried target, Mikhaylov said. "The yield ranges from hundreds of tonnes to tens of kilotons. This is just tens of kilos of weight with colossal outer protection. That is, the nuclear charge itself is surrounded by a thick jacket, which burns up upon entry into the earth. When the burned-up layer comes into contact with the charge, an explosion occurs, but this will be tens of metres deep into the earth. A powerful, but local, seismic wave is created here. And, which is no less important, the radiation impact on the environment in this case is minimal, you could, in a foreseeable time frame, commit troops to that territory, organize a 'new order'... [ellipsis as published]," Mikhaylov said.
When it comes to the development of "penetrating" weapons, Russia's nuclear physicists are keeping their "finger on the pulse", he added.
"Speaking of the nuclear powers, it should be borne in mind that only Russia and the United States among them are comparable in terms of their nuclear capabilities and potential. The others are far from this level," Mikhaylov said.
USA lagging behind Russia in developing nuclear arms since late 1950s
Weapons involving new principles of the use of nuclear energy have been developed in our country as well, he added. "And we understand full well that there is no limit here, as in any sphere of science and technology. Recent times have shown that it (the United States - Interfax-AVN) trails us on these issues, ultra-small penetrators included... [ellipsis as published]," Mikhaylov said.
He explained that, roughly before 1955, the Americans were ahead of Russia in the development of nuclear weapons. After 1955, we not only caught up with them but considerably overtook them... [ellipsis as published]. And not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. "And it is for that reason that they latch on to every word of ours... [ellipsis as published]," the academician said.
1. Brazil Confirms Interest In Cooperation With Russia In Power Engineering
(for personal use only)
BRASILIA, February 20 (RIA Novosti correspondent Vladimir Stepanov) - Brazil has confirmed its interest in cooperation with Russia in power engineering, Ivan Matlashov, Russian first deputy energy minister, head of the group on cooperation in power engineering, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
He took part in the meeting of the Russian-Brazilian intergovernmental commission on trade-economic and scientific-technological cooperation, which ended in the capital of Brazil.
"Brazil has not just expressed interest but also admitted that there are prospects for the development of cooperation in the oil and gas field, electric power engineering and nuclear power engineering," said Matlashov.
"One of the main results of the talks is Brazilian firms' preparedness to help Russian firms to make it into the register of the suppliers of local companies for participation in subsequent tenders," stressed the deputy minister.
Working groups on trade-economic and scientific-technological cooperation, cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space, in the field of military technologies, agriculture and power engineering worked for three days in the capital of Brazil.
From the Russian side, the commission is headed by Boris Alyoshin, vice chairman of the Russian government, and from the Brazilian side - by Samuel Pinheiro Guimmaraens, Brazilian deputy foreign minister.
It may not take terrorists to cause another disaster, MARK MacKINNON writes
MOSCOW -- Sitting on a park bench near Kurchatov Square in north Moscow, a visitor's eye is immediately drawn to two signs.
The first, reading "Glory to Soviet Science" in tarnished block letters, is a harmless relic of another era. The second, a digital meter, is just as dated but much more troubling. It keeps constant check on the radiation level in the neighbourhood, letting the thousands of people who live in nearby apartment blocks know how safe or unsafe the local nuclear reactors are today.
On a sunny afternoon, the radiation emanating from the Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Physics bumps around between 8 and 10 microroentgens an hour, a level most scientists believe to be safe. But as the glowing red numbers flick upward to 9.8, then back down again to 9.4, a woman waiting at a nearby bus stop narrows her eyes. (At 10 microroentgens an hour, a person would receive 87,600 in a year, with 100,000 considered the health-safety ceiling.)
"They say it's not dangerous to our health, but, of course, we're scared," says 74-year-old Dina Kurnosova, referring to a grim-looking complex across the street that residents have dubbed a "micro-Chernobyl."
After a 10-day span that saw Chechen rebels set off a bomb on a Moscow subway and then the roof of a new city swimming pool simply collapse, she's terrified that the Kurchatov Institute is a nuclear explosion waiting to happen in her neighbourhood.
"An accident will surely happen if they don't shut it down," Ms. Kurnosova said, shaking her head in disgust. "We live beside a volcano."
Her fear springs from the fact that the Soviet-era secrecy that surrounded the nuclear industry is now gone. She and others living in the area know that the Kurchatov Institute's six functioning research reactors are well past their 30-year life spans, and that the risk of a malfunction grows with every year. The reactors are small -- the largest is eight megawatts -- but some are now almost 50 years old.
The age of the reactors isn't the only worry. There are concerns that the institute, which had 9,900 workers at the end of the Soviet era, no longer has enough staff or funding to guarantee safety. The institute shed 4,600 workers over the past decade; salaries are a fraction of what they once were; and new concerns, including terrorism, have emerged.
Moscow is considered by experts to be the most "nuclear" of the world's major cities, with 11 nuclear reactors, 33 nuclear research stations and 24 nuclear-waste storage sites. For decades, many Muscovites were unaware of the risks. But ever since the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, some residents walk around with their own pocket radiation counters.
"Moscow is the only capital city in the world where there are nuclear reactors. No other capital has even one, and we have 11," said Alexei Yablokov, an adviser on environmental issues to former president Boris Yeltsin. If something went wrong at any of the reactors, "it wouldn't be a Chernobyl, but it would still be very, very serious," he said.
Environmentalists say the aging reactors at the Kurchatov Institute pose the biggest risk to the city. Opened in 1943 as dictator Joseph Stalin ordered scientists to begin pursuing an atomic weapon, it was here that physicist Igor Kurchatov began the research that eventually produced the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.
At the time, however, the institute and its research reactors were located in a wooded area outside Moscow. No one foresaw a time when the capital would have a population of more than 10 million, and would grow around the reactors to the point where they're now neatly situated between two subway stations, and across the street from a children's playground and a movie theatre.
Even those who believe the institute's reactors are safe recognize the location is horrible. Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, a former director of the institute, said last week that though he believes that the risk of explosion is minimal, he worries about the large quantity of nuclear waste that has been buried in the area.
Some of it was buried just seven metres deep, well shy of the modern safety standard of 30 metres.
Removal of that waste has been under way for years, but Mr. Rumyantsev acknowledged that what remains beneath the soil poses unknown health risks to the community.
There's also radioactive material left behind in the main 40-megawatt reactor that was shut down 10 years ago, which still requires round-the-clock monitoring.
When the Kurchatov Institute was built, the area "was just a field, an artillery-testing zone, but now it's almost downtown. It's a very densely populated area, so of course it's wrong to have it there," Mr. Rumyantsev said.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has mused about moving the institute, but its directors have dismissed the idea, saying it would be too costly and too potentially risky. Environmentalist Vladimir Slivyak says politicians afraid of angering the country's powerful nuclear industry are avoiding discussion of the safer, cheaper option -- closing the complex completely.
"After the many terror attacks in Moscow over the past two years, we know a bomb can explode near Red Square and no one can prevent it. They could get into the Kurchatov Institute, too," Mr. Slivyak said.
"But the reactors are now so old that we may not even need the terrorists. The Kurchatov Institute is just no longer safe."
1. Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Losyukov's Interview with Interfax News Agency on the Second Round of Talks on the DPRK Nuclear Problem, February 19, 2004
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Daily News Bulletin
(for personal use only)
The head of the Russian delegation at the six-way talks on the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Alexander Losyukov, gave an exclusive interview to Interfax correspondent Vladimir Kulikov on the eve of the second round of talks in Beijing.
QUESTION: What are the Russian side's expectations of the upcoming second round in Beijing on February 25 of talks on the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula?
ANSWER: On February 22 our delegation is leaving for Beijing to participate in the second round of talks on the North Korean problem. We are leaving earlier in order to meet with all the participants of the talks even before their start. On February 23 we are due to hold consultations with the Chinese side, to be followed by consultations with all the remaining participants of the talks on February 24.
Overall, the picture is more or less clear to us, but at the same time there are many unclear moments as well. It is generally quite hard to predict how the discussion will go at this session.
The time since the first round of these talks last August (also in Beijing - IF) was used for a fairly active exchange of views between all the participants, with the result that, to a certain extent, the positions of all the participants have become clear, including and in the first place those of the United States and the representatives of North Korea.
Certain hopes for some progress in the talks exist, to our mind. This is due to the fact that over the past time a greater and better understanding of the specific positions of the sides has arisen. But at the same time a lot will depend on the course of the second round too.
Our expectations from the upcoming talks are ones of cautious optimism in terms of arrival at some kind of agreements. We do not expect any great progress and breakthrough but at the same time think that it would be important, first, to consolidate the process, agree on the continuation of the talks and possibly agree on the setting-up of organs which would work in between sessions. Specifically, the talk is about the possibility of establishing a working group or several working groups to discuss concrete aspects of just this problem.
Second, we feel it would be useful to arrive at an outcome document in which to set forth the main questions the parties are going to take up as objectives - it is, above all, to reach an understanding of the need to solve the nuclear problem, to liquidate the programs that may be related to the development of nuclear weapons and, of course, to get statements that would guarantee or would lead to guarantees of security and normal development for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
QUESTION: In the last few months, as far as we know, the participants of the negotiating process tried to work out a draft final document of the upcoming Beijing meeting. Was that draft elaborated?
ANSWER: Not yet. It was discussed at some stage, but then new ideas and suggestions appeared and, in general, no final draft is being discussed, as of now. Evidently, the talk about this will proceed during the negotiations in Beijing themselves.
QUESTION: The Russian side advanced the idea of giving the DPRK multilateral security guarantees in exchange for the abandonment by Pyongyang of the nuclear program. Will this idea be discussed at the February meeting in Beijing?
ANSWER: The idea of multilateral guarantees is a question that may be discussed and it is in respect of just this that I think there now exists a somewhat greater understanding, and a slightly greater perception of this theme now exists, compared to what was the case half a year ago.
QUESTION: On the part of Pyongyang as well?
ANSWER: Yes, on the part of Pyongyang too, or so it appears to us.
2. Press Statement and Answers to Questions, Plesetsk, February 18, 2004
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Daily News Bulletin
(for personal use only)
President Vladimir Putin: Good day, dear comrades, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to say that I think the headquarters, units and troops taking part in the training exercises that have taken place performed well. We have not held exercises on this scale for almost 20 years.
The exercises tested highly important aspects of management, mobilisation preparedness and coordination between the different forces and different arms and technology. What we have seen is that we have combat-ready armed forces, and this includes the nuclear forces, which are a key factor in our national security and in maintaining the balance of power and ensuring strategic stability in the world.
Today, we face a whole number of serious threats. As you all know, these include terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, local conflicts and so on. The only way to effectively counteract these threats is for the international community to join its efforts and work together with firm commitment to the fundamental principles and norms of international law. But even these basic principles of international law have today been considerably weakened, somewhat devalued and are facing a serious test.
Today’s Russia does not have imperial ambitions and does not aspire to hegemony. The Russian Armed Forces are modernising and becoming stronger not in order to act in aggression, but so as to provide reliable protection for Russia’s people and help create the conditions necessary for our country’s peaceful and stable development.
We and our partners in the club of nuclear powers share responsibility for ensuring global stability, and we have particular responsibility for security in the Eurasian region. This means that we need a military arsenal that measures up to the demands of the times, a military potential that, as I said, always was and remains a component part of the international security system.
I have already spoken about our nuclear deterrent force, about how we can be sure about it for some decades ahead, and about how we are able to resolve any tasks, including penetrating missile defence systems, should such systems be created. This has all been discussed on numerous occasions. But at the same time, we have also said repeatedly that as other countries increase the number and quality of their arms and military potential, then Russia will also need to ensure it has new generation arms and technology.
In this respect, I am pleased to inform you that successfully concluded experiments during these exercises enable us to confirm that the Russian Armed Forces, the Strategic Missile Forces, will receive new hypersound-speed, high-precision new weapons systems that can hit targets at intercontinental distance and can adjust their altitude and course as they travel. This is a very significant statement because no country in the world as yet has such arms in their military arsenal.
This gives us grounds to affirm that with the powerful means we have at our disposal for conducting armed warfare, and I refer here to the new arms I just described and to other new technology that we have, Russia can reliably ensure its strategic stability in the long-term perspective.
Russia will reach this objective through its own means, not relying on new arms and security systems developed in other countries. I particularly want to emphasise that we will ensure our security through using the militarily most effective means and the optimum economic solutions. What this means is that Russia will continue to be one of the world’s great nuclear powers. Some may like this, others may be not, but either way, this is a fact that will have to be reckoned with.
In conclusion, our country, like any other country, has its national interests. Of course we intend to stand up for and protect these interests. But we will do so above all through legal, diplomatic and economic means. We will learn to stand up for our national interests with the help of information technology, as many other countries do so today. But we will do all we can to ensure Russia’s military invulnerability and be absolutely certain that our country’s Armed Forces can neutralise any threat.
Thank you for your attention.
QUESTION: Good day, from what you said, we can draw the conclusion that Russia has tested a new type of weapon. How do you think the United States will react to this news?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You will have to put this question to our foreign partners, including our American partners. The United States are actively developing their military potential. You know that they withdrew from the ABM Treaty not so long ago. At that time they assured us that this decision was not in any way directed against the Russian Federation, and we took note of that. Indeed, the nature and level of our relations confirm what our American partners said. I can say today that our work to modernise our arms and the new weapons systems we have developed are not in any way directed at the United States.
We really have become partners. We want to emphasise that we will do everything we can to make yesterday’s opponents our partners and to make today’s partners our friends and allies. But we retain for ourselves the right to modernise our armed forces in the interest of ensuring our national security. We are working constructively with our American partners and are raising the level of trust between us. Both sides are showing a lot of interest in expanding our cooperation. I think that as our cooperation develops, the level of trust between us will increase further.
QUESTION: This is not the first time you are in Plesetsk and not the first time you have visited the Northern Fleet. How do you think the situation has changed in the Armed Forces over the last four years? Can we now say that the crisis is over?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that the armed forces have begun to put the crisis behind them. I do indeed visit different units regularly. As for the naval fleets and such important areas as the Strategic Missile Forces and the Space Forces, they are under my constant attention. I visited the Northern Fleet some three years ago, and I have visited all the naval fleets. During those visits the aim was to establish what state the armed forces were in and what state particularly important facilities were in, including Plesetsk, the very place where we are today. Back then it was a space launch centre in name, but in reality it was suitable only for military launches.
Today we can say that a colossal amount of work has been done over these last three-three-and-a-half years. There is still a lot of work to do but what we have today is a real space launch centre. We have also just held exercises the likes of which we have not seen for almost 20 years. Of course, there were pluses and minuses during the course of these exercises. Everything is being covered absolutely objectively and this will continue to be the case. The minuses will also be public and we will draw the necessary conclusions from them. We only stand to benefit from this. Overall, I am happy with the exercises.
There are definite pluses. For example, the infrastructure that the armed forces overall and different branches in particular need in order to develop has been restored. Then there are breakthroughs such as that, which we are witnessing today. Yesterday we observed how naval air defence systems work, and they are one component of what could form a missile defence system. But the big event is definitely what took place today – the experiment to test the new weapons system. This is a clear sign that Russia has not just come through its crisis but is now breaking new ground. This really is a breakthrough.
QUESTION: If everything is going so well, perhaps Russia will develop its own missile defence system?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Concerning a missile defence system, today’s experiment is a great success for our military and technical specialists, and I have already congratulated the chief designer, the engineers and scientists who put several years’ work into today’s experiment. Anyway, our specialists in this area think that it would be still too early to take practical decisions and invest large sums in this area. Work in the area of missile defence began back in the Soviet years and has continued to this day. We have been working in this area for several decades now. We think that the time has not come to invest big money in such a project yet. We do not have this money to spare. We have good cooperation with our American partners and they are interested in working with our specialists. This is understandable. We do, after all, have some good developments in this area, developments that other countries, perhaps, do not have. We will work together, but we first need to agree on the principles for this cooperation. This is another demonstration of the level of relations between the United States and Russia today. Incidentally, I informed the U.S. President by phone of today’s exercises before they got underway. We spoke a few days ago, true, we just covered the general lines. Our military specialists will use their own channels to inform their American colleagues within the extent made possible by the level of our cooperation on these issues at this time.
So, we shall see how work moves ahead in other countries and we will continue the work we have begun. I don’t rule out that at some point in the future we could begin practical work to build a missile defence system, but as I said, we would strive to make such a system as cost-effective as possible and as effective as possible from a military point of view.
President Vladimir Putin visited the Plesetsk space launch centre and watched the launch of a Molnia rocket that placed a Cosmos-series military satellite in orbit.
Mr Putin noted that the centre’s work is of very high quality and showed excellent preparation and good administrative organisation.
The President also visited the new Soyuz-2 launch facility and the assembly and testing facility for space apparatus carrier rockets, where he learned about the latest achievements in space technology.
Mr Putin then watched the broadcast of the launch of an RS-18 rocket from the Baikonur state space launch testing ground.
4. Wide-Scale Training Is Underway In The Barents Sea As Part Of Strategic Command Personnel Training, February 17, 2004
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Daily News Bulletin
(for personal use only)
Wide-scale training is underway in the Barents Sea as part of strategic command personnel training. President Vladimir Putin went on board the strategic submarine rocket cruiser Arkhangelsk to observe training.
After arriving on board, the President examined the submarine, talked with officers, and familiarised himself with the conditions of their service.
Vladimir Putin also held a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, chief-commander of the navy Vladimir Kuroedov and the head of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff, Alexander Rukshin.
5. Biden Reacts to President Bush’s Proposals on Non-Proliferation (excerpted)
Office of Senator Joseph Biden
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, DC – Following President Bush’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, U.S. Senator Joe Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement:
"The President’s call for greater G-8 involvement in nonproliferation programs – both in the former Soviet Union and beyond – is also welcome. But we should put our money where our mouth is. Since 2002, when our G-8 partners promised to match current U.S. expenditures, our own commitments have been essentially unchanged – and the President’s budget for next year is no improvement. Can we really expect the rest of the world to do more, when we don’t? Can we expect to defeat nuclear proliferation when our current programs will leave highly enriched uranium in some poorly-guarded research reactors for the next decade?
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