Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 13, February - March 1997
Latest Chilling Warning on Russia Nuclear Safety and SecurityOn 6 February, Russia's Defence Minister, Igor Rodionov, expressed profound concern about the safety and security of Russia's nuclear arsenal, which he described as having descended into a "horrifying state." Quoted by the Interfax news agency, Rodionov warned:
"Some components of our systems have already been made to operate for twice or three times their useful life. Today, no one can...guarantee the reliability of our control systems... ... If the shortage of funds persists, the system [of nuclear command and control] could fall apart... Russia may soon approach a threshold beyond which its missiles and nuclear systems become uncontrollable..."
Speaking of the overall state of the armed forces, particularly the Army, Rodionov lamented:
"Reform in the armed forces has turned into a struggle for their survival, a struggle against disintegration... The whole horror is in the fact that, as Russian Defence Minister, I am becoming a spectator of the destructive processes in the Army and can do nothing about it."
On 21 February, after visiting the headquarters of the Army's nuclear missiles forces at Odintsov near Moscow, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, attempted to reassure domestic and international audiences naturally deeply disconcerted by Rodionov's comments:
"Russian strategic missile forces are capable of effectively carrying out all tasks entrusted to them... The nation's nuclear shield is in reliable hands."
Reports: Russia nuclear arms systems decay, Minister says, Reuter News Reports, 6 February; Yeltsin brings together warring defence chiefs, Reuter News Reports, 7 February; Russia needs more nuclear money, AP Online International News Wire, 7 February; Russian nuclear forces in good shape - Chernomyrdin, Reuter News Reports, 21 February.
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