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What was new on START Web site?

February, 1999

February 24, 1999
Russian defense officials will fly to Washington next month to discuss creation of a joint early warning missile center, proposed by U.S. officials to avert the risk of an accidental war due to the "millennium bug."

A delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott discussed Russia's economy and the Kosovo crisis with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, as well as addressing Russia's fears that the White House may seek to renegotiate a 1972 treaty. Meanwhile, the Senate will likely debate and vote on the Cochran-Inouye "National Missile Defense Act of 1999" as early as the next week.

February 23, 1999
One can not count on progress in nuclear arms reductions, if the State Duma does not act on START II in the nearest future. There is a great risk to loose all previous achievements in arms control, (START II May Already Die This Year, Segodnia, February 23, 1999)

The United States has urged Russia to set up a joint missile-warning center before the end of the year to reduce the risk that the year 2000 computer problem might trigger a false nuclear alert. See also our special section on current status of the Russian Early Warning System.

"...U.S. unilateral withdrawal from ABM Treaty may be responded by Russian rejection to observe START I Treaty... A proposal to deploy long range nuclear cruise missiles, which can defeat the U.S. Air Defense system is also worth of considering..." (Washington's ABM Challenge. Russia Has Enough Opportunities to Respond Effectively, by Sergei Rogov, Nezavisimoye Obozreniye NG, N 6, February 19-25, 1999, p. 4).

"..."Don" type radar is a unique facility of a unique ballistic missile defense system - the system which has a unique capability to defend our capital from any offensive action of an adversary ..." (Russian "Galosh" Is Capable to Shoot Down A Needle in Space, by Aleksander Khokhlov, Novyye Izvestiya, February 23, 1999, p. 1,4).

An unusually detailed State Department report concludes that the Russian military's combat readiness is in "rapid decay" and says an internal assessment by the Russian Defense Ministry finds "the average Russian soldier is only marginally combat capable." (Russian Military Decay Detailed State Dept. Report Lists Poor Economy's Effects on Readiness, by Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, Sunday, February 21, 1999; Page A24)

The General Accounting Office criticized a four-year-old program aimed at developing non-military jobs for Russian weapons scientists at home so they do not leave to work for Iran, Iraq or other nations unfriendly to the United States (GAO Criticizes Effort to Keep Russian Weapons Scientists at Home, by Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, Tuesday, February 23, 1999; Page A07).

Discussions on unification of Russian strategic nuclear forces reveal the crisis in reforming the Armed Forces (WPS Defense and Security, February 22, 1999)

There is no alternative to nuclear deterrence in Russian security policy in forthcoming decades, Andrei Kokoshin, former secretary of the Russian Security Council and present acting vice-president of the Russian Academy, said

In the latest issue of Yadernaya Bezopasnost magazine (January-February, 1999):

The previous issue (November-December 1999) is available in the Web:

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on current status and future of U.S. strategic forces: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces, End of 1998 (January-February, 1999, vol. 55, N 1)

February 18, 1999
Yesterday Rossiiskiye Vesti newspaper published a translation of David Hoffman's article in The Washington Post into Russian and a short comment. Both articles in Rossiiskiye Vesti misrepresent some facts or meaning of the original publication.

"...Unfortunately, there is an inaccuracy in David Hoffman's article...Russian Early Warning system has a capability continuously control the areas, where the U.S. can potentially launch ballistic missiles..." - Pavel Podvig asserts - "...though some facts do provide the basis to conclude, that Russian EW system is obliged to function not in a complete constellation, the conclusion, that it is on the verge of collapse, is not justified..." (Comment by Pavel Podvig, - in Russian, February 18, 1999)

Publications on the current status of Russian EW system are now collected in a new section.

February 17, 1999
David Hoffman's article on current status of Russian early warning system in The Washington Post attracted considerable attention. In particular, comments of Pavel Podvig, Research Associate with our Center, to David Hoffman were quoted by Fort Worth Star-Telegram (February 14, 1999), Florida Times-Union, (February 11, 1999), Times Union (February 10, 1999), Cincinnati Enquirer (February 10, 1999) and other newspapers. Nezavisimaya Gazeta published comments from Russian officials: "...Sources in the Russian Ministry of Defense do not deny the fact that lack of financing decreases potential to launch military satellites...However, they completely reject the blames of (EW system - E.M.) "blindness". They also think, that such claims were financially supported by proponents of prompt deployment of U.S. national missile defenses..." (The U.S. Creates National Missile Defenses, by Vadim Solovyov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 13, 1999, p. 2).

"...Russia is not the Soviet Union. It is just a big Albania -- an experiment in democracy gone wrong, spewing out criminality, weapons and unemployment in all directions. We can't afford to ignore this Russia and we can't effectively contain it. In such a messy situation we need to strip our policy down to the basics, and that means focusing on two things: eliminating Russia's "deadheads" and warheads...On the strategic front, President Clinton should go to Moscow tomorrow and vow that he will not leave until he has worked out an arrangement for implementing the Start 2 and proposed Start 3 nuclear treaties. Forget about a big ABM and missile-defense deal right now. It's too complicated. Russia is ready to reduce from 7,500 nuclear warheads to 1,500, as part of the Start process. Let's do that now, and tell the Russians we'll pay for it all. That's 6,000 warheads that might not end up in Iraq or on the market... " (Deadheads and Warheads, by Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, February 16, 1999).

At a symposium Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Joshua Handler of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School said the photographs show that Russia may have enough secure storage space to enable thousands more nuclear warheads to be removed from missiles under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The satellite photographs being used by Handler and others were taken under the CIA's Corona program, the world's first successful spy satellite system. Declassified in 1995, the images -- more than 800,000 of them -- sat untouched in the National Archive, stored on reels 30 inches long by 2.5 inches wide (Declassified Spy Photos Studied, by John Diamond Associated Press, Wednesday, February 17, 1999; 3:49 a.m. EST)

Yuri Solomonov, the Director and General Designer of Moscow Institute of Thermoengineering, comments on future development of land and sea based strategic missiles: There Is No Alternative to Strategic Missiles (by Mikhail Pervov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 5, February 12-18, 1999, p. 1,6).

"By the year 2010, the number of Russia's nuclear warheads will fall 10-fold to 600 to 800," predicted Alexander Pikayev, a top expert in arms control with Moscow's branch of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace (Russian Nuke Arsenal Falling Apart, by Barry Renfrew, Associated Press, Thursday, February 11, 1999; 4:28 p.m. EST). Pavel Podvig and Nikolay Sokov are more optimistic.

The Washington Post published several articles discussing a need to modify the ABM Treaty:

See also collection of documents at the web sites of Carnegie Endowment for Peace and Federation of American Scientists.

A draft version of a $1 million study by Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) says that converting four Trident SSBNs to conventional roles is a very favorable option. The projected refit cost - between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion - will deliver an enhanced warfighting capability, including the ability to remain under way up to 80% of the year (Four USN SSBNs may convert to conventional role, Jane's Defence Weekly, February 17, 1999).

February 11, 1999
Yesterday's publication on current status of the Russian Early Warning System in The Washington Post caused official responses. State Department spokesman James Rubin told a news conference that it would be difficult to assess the current situation over Russia's missile defense system because of its classified nature. "...Nevertheless, it's fair to say that we are concerned about the potential deterioration of Russia's ballistic missile attack warning capabilities without referencing any specific systems,..." Rubin said. Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, the Head of the 4-th Central Research Institute of the Defense Ministry gave some comments on the Post's publication in an interview to the Russian NTV (a TV company). However, he refused to talk about the current status of the Russian EW system. "...I am unable to speak or confirm how many hours we can or can not watch, because this matter is a state secret. Regardless of what I'll say, if these figures are good or not - I'll have to give my next interview being in jail somewhere in Siberia..." (NTV News, 22:00, February 10, 1999)

Legislation to deploy a national missile defense system won approval of the Senate Armed Services Committee, clearing the panel with Democratic support for the first time. The National Missile Defense Act calls for deploying a missile defense against long-range attack as soon as the technology is available. (Panel OKs bill on missile defense; Democrat backs it, by Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, February 10, 1999).

The Russian lower house is thinking over the suspension of a Russian-U.S. Uranium deal. The deputies have already drafted the document -- the State Duma's address to Russian President Boris Yeltsin -- recommending that "the agreement between the Russian and U.S. governments about the use of high-grade uranium withdrawn from nuclear weapons be suspended until the end of new (round) of talks and the ratification of a new agreement." (Duma to think over suspension of Russian-US uranium deal, ITAR-TASS, February 10, 1999). See also our previous comment: How Much Does Weapon Grade Uranium Cost? (in Russian).

President Boris Yeltsin told his defence minister on Wednesday to come up with a plan by May to merge Russia's vast nuclear forces and to finish restructuring the entire military by the end of this year. The aim overall is to end up with four main branches -- air, land, sea and nuclear forces. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Russian State Duma's Defense Committee disclosed that the Russian defense budget would amount to 107.7 billion rubles. Roman Popkovich told a press conference in Moscow that the new defense budget amounts to 2.6 percent of Russian gross domestic product. While the government of President Boris Yeltsin had pledged to allocate 3.5 percent of the budget to defense, Popkovich said "the government cannot allocate more than that." Popkovich also indicated that the Duma's ratification of the START II Treaty had been blocked by a lack of a concept for the development of strategic nuclear forces and the lack of "economic substantiation" for the implementation of the Treaty. Both those issues have been resolved, he said, with the law on the financing of the strategic nuclear forces up to the year 2010 that creates "a clear fund distribution scheme."

See also the latest issue of NVO-NG on prospects for defense spending in Russia:

February 10, 1999
Two articles in today's The Washington Post discuss the status of Russian early warning system. "...The system now has only three active satellites ...Every 24 hours, the high elliptical satellite system is blind during two periods; one is nearly six hours long, the other about an hour long..." - Pavel Podvig, Research Associate with our Center, said in an interview to the author of the publications:

See also more information on Russian command and control system and its status as of September 1997.

"... To make more rapid progress in nuclear arms control would be to add a protocol to START II reducing the permitted level of deployed warheads to 1,000 each for both countries, and then proceed to negotiate START III covering data exchange, warhead dismantlement, tactical warheads and sea-launched cruise missiles,.." (Relaunching START II, by Jonathan Dean, The Moscow Times, February 9, 1999).

Jane's Group has published several articles worth of attention:

The Clinton administration has added $50 million to the fiscal 2000 Pentagon budget to keep in operation for at least another year 50 MX intercontinental ballistic missiles that were scheduled to be deactivated had Russia ratified the START II arms control treaty (Funding Sought as Deactivation of Some U.S. Missiles Is Delayed, by Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, Sunday, February 7, 1999; Page A28).

Press comments recent U.S. initiatives on ballistic missile defense:

February 9, 1999
We have already mentioned, that The Washington Post has published a comment by Pavel Podvig, research associate of our Center: (40,000 Warheads, The Washington Post, Saturday, February 6, 1999; Page A20). Unfortunately, the newspaper misquoted the author's estimates of the number of warheads, which Russia is capable to deploy. The correct number should be 4,000 warheads (see Pavel Podvig's letter to the editor of February 8, 1999).

February 7, 1999
"...The Duma must first adopt the law on financing Russia's strategic nuclear forces until 2010 before it can turn to the issue of ratification of the START II treaty...If the Duma were to ratify the treaty, there would be no money in the 1999 budget for implementation and probably none would be available for the next two or three years..." - State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich said (Yesterday's Sword Or Tomorrow's Shield, by Vitali Denisov, Krasnaya Zvezda, February 2, 1999, p. 1)

Col-Gen Igor Valynkin, who is head of the main directorate on nuclear safety comments on results of the CTR program implementation, possible Russian responses to U.S. ABM deployments and other nuclear disarmament problems:

National Security Adviser Samuel (Sandy) Berger, speaking for the White House and Defense and State Departments, sent a letter to Michigan Senator Carl Levin dated February 3, 1999 formally opposing the Cochran bill endorsing National Missile Defense deployment and promising a veto. The Cochran-Inouye bill S.257, states: "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate)."

Press and experts continue commenting events around ABM Treaty:

See also Briefing Book on Ballistic Missile Defense at the Council for a Livable World web site.

February 2, 1999
Presentation of Vladimir Rybachenkov (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) at the recent CD Workshop on Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in Geneva (January 25-26, 1999) is now available on-line.

Recent U.S. administration initiatives on ballistic missile defenses attracted much attention of press media last week. Politicians and experts expressed their opinions. The issue was also a major subject of discussions of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with Russian officials in Moscow.

"...Yavlinski proposes a non-strategic missile defense in cooperation with NATO, capable of shooting down fewer than 100 missiles, thereby providing an umbrella against terrorist attack without destabilizing the Russian-American standoff... Worth discussing... (A Russian Feeler, by William Safire, The New York Times, February 1, 1999).

"...Radioelectronic suppression assures defeat of any air or space ABM shield", representatives of the State Central Scientific Research Institute of Radiotechnics (GTsNIRTI) affirm (ABM Defense Is Vulnerable, by Vitold Lobodenko, Nikolai Ponomaryov, Yuri Spiridonov and Yuli Tsyba, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 3, January 29 - February 4, 1999, p. 6).

Arms Control Association held a press conference National Missile Defense, the ABM Treaty and the Future of START II.

Problems of Military Space Forces are discussed in the paper entitled If "Star Wars" Begin Tomorrow, How May the Homeland Respond? - in Russian, (by Aleksander Khokhlov, Novyye Izvestiya, January 23, 1999)

On Russian perceptions of U.S. strategic disarmament policy - see in an interview of Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's Main Department for Military Cooperation (US Tampering with START-1 May Stall START-2, Krasnaya Zvezda, January 23, 1999, p. 1, 2)

Pentagon advisory group is proposing that four Trident submarines be converted into conventional missile platforms or covert troop ships if they are removed from active duty as nuclear missile submarines under a Navy plan awaiting approval from Defense Secretary William S. Cohen (Panel Urges Converting 4 Tridents To Conventional, Covert Weapon, by Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, Friday, January 29, 1999; Page A07).

What Was New?

In 1999: January |
In 1998: January | February | March| April | May | June | July-September | October | November | December
In 1997: November | December

© Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT, 1999.