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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 20, November 1997

Remarks by Russian Officials

Remarks by Defence Minister

Press Conference by Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, hosted by Interfax news agency, Moscow, 14 November 1997

Military Reform and Strategic Nuclear Forces

"Question: 'What specific steps has the Defense Ministry taken lately in terms of military reform and what steps is it going to take in early 1998? ...

Sergeyev: 'The focus was the modernization of the strategic rocket forces. The bulk of the containment potential needed to ward off any aggression against Russia is borne by the strategic rocket forces. The first thing we did was consolidating the early missile warning system, the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] system, the outer space monitoring system. ...since 1 November all these systems have been managed from one commanding post. This has increased their efficiency by 15-17 percent.

More integration processes are to follow. We will create a single military representative office of all military plants which make rockets and rocket equipment, testing ranges, I mean first of all Plesetsk. Its command has been consolidated and work is currently under way to strengthen logistics. Then there are measurement posts - I mean measuring technologies used in rocket forces are much more precise than military space forces had. I am flying on 19 November to watch the launching of a naval strategic missile. The naval testing range will also be integrated, it will be integrated into a single measurement system for the testing of strategic complexes.'"

Topol-M Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

"Question: 'Igor Dmitriyevich, when will the Topol-M complex be put into service in Russia? What will we gain from this?'

Sergeyev: 'As you know, the lag in modernizing the Topol-M complex is already 2.5 years. That is why it is impossible to procrastinate any further. We are withdrawing systems under the START-I treaty much faster than it was planned. And this is admitted by our joint Russian-American commission.

What is the need to modernize the complex? The idea is not to create a new strategic weapon. The idea is to give the former Soviet republic, Ukraine, a possibility to fulfill its obligation not to produce missile technologies. Topol was created jointly with Ukraine and many other former republics of the Soviet Union. That's why the decision was adopted to make it only here in Russia by the joint effort of design bureaus and industrial enterprises, just as the US and France and China do.

We have set ourselves such a task in keeping with the President's instructions. I think they can be used on a trial basis by the 1st rocket regiment near Tatischevo. This means that a certain number of rockets will be put on pilot combat duty to test their technical characteristics. I think that in December we will be able to report to the president that his order has been fulfilled. Most of it.'"

'Suitcase nukes'

"Question: 'Would you care to comment on recent rumors that the USSR and, hence, Russia have the so-called mini atomic bombs, the so-called briefcase atomic bombs?'

Sergeyev: 'As to the threadbare theme of pocket mines or bombs in briefcases, I will tell you once again that there is no pocket or briefcase nuclear weaponry that could be used without the sanction of the President, that there are no such weapons in Russian arsenals. The process of utilizing small size nuclear munitions in accordance with the statement made by President Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is continuing. And I hope that this process will be completed by the year 2000.'"

Landmines

"Question: 'Canadian television. Our prime minister was here a couple of weeks ago and he asked your President, Boris Yeltsin, whether he would sign the treaty banning land mines. And the President [said] that although he wouldn't sign it next month, he would sign it eventually. I wonder...what provision you've made for eliminating land mines. How long will it take and are you still producing them now?'

Sergeyev: 'Russia said long ago that it had stopped making land mines. The President confirmed this once again in his meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister. I know that Russia intends to extend the moratorium on the production and delivery of land mines for another five years. As for the signing of the convention, it's more of a political matter. But as a military man, I have to say that it may be possible, but not now because Russia has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia has more than 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. If START-II is ratified, Russia will have to scrap a lot of strategic weapons. And if we add land mines to all this, we will have nothing to replace them with along the main sections of protecting nuclear facilities and we may thus inflict even greater damage than the anti-personnel mines. This is my point of view.'"

Source: Federal News Service Moscow Transcripts, 14 November. Reproduced with kind permission.

Remarks by Atomic Energy Minister

'Interview with nuclear energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov,' Interview with Novye Izvestia daily newspaper, 18 November 1997

Extracts

"Question: 'What caused the row in the US over the sale of super computers for federal Russian nuclear centers?'

Mikhailov: 'Our centers acquired them in a perfectly legitimate manner. The computers, which incidentally are 16 in number, are capable of performing 2 billion operations per second, as Americans now claim. The purchase of more powerful computers requires a clearance from the US Department of Commerce. We asked for a license to purchase computers with a capacity of 100 billion operations per second, but a license was withheld. So, Arzamas and Chelyabinsk, our nuclear centers, acquired medium-class computers in a legitimate and open way. When the computers were installed, a row began. Apparently, it was politically motivated.'

Question: 'Could you fill in the background a little bit?'

Mikhailov: 'I think it's because both we and Americans are conducting hydrodynamics experiments. These are military developments. Of course, the US is keen to know what kind of experiments we are conducting considering that we are well ahead of the Americans on that. In order to gain access to the information they have offered to establish transparency at nuclear test ranges. We replied that there is a treaty which bans nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space and under water and it does not mention the transparency of test ranges. If two nuclear powers open their test ranges to each other, that would amount to a "collusion."

And yet the US is still trying to "open us up." To this end they suddenly remembered about computers and alleged that we are exploding nuclear devices at Novaya Zemlya. It's very important for them to know what we are up to. But the reverse is not true. Russia is ahead of the US. American nuclear secrets in this area are old hat for Russia.'

Question: 'But [the] Americans have reportedly invented a new generation bomb.'

Mikhailov: 'It's the so-called penetrating nuclear weapon which goes underground before exploding. Let me put it this way: our development is at a very advanced stage. So far we have been able to keep afloat in spite of all the financial and economic difficulties.'

Question: 'How does the government finance Minatom?'

Mikhailov: 'It meets 70 percent of the budget target. I find it hard to explain to our scientists and workers why the nation is unable to fund the nuclear weapons complex - Russia's shield.'

Question: 'Do nuclear weapons scientists escape to the West?'

Mikhailov: 'No, they don't, either now or in the past. Physicists who were formerly involved with fundamental and applied problems in the civilian areas are cooperating with foreign centers. The weapons people cooperate only on applied military conversion programs.'

Question: 'Americans have calculated that all the Russian nuclear weapons delivery means will become obsolete and will be scrapped by the year 2010. Won't the same happen to nuclear warheads, bombs and torpedoes? What is the service life of an atomic bomb?'

Mikhailov: 'The lifespan of a nuclear device is 10-20 years depending on its class and purpose. When a weapon nears the end of its service life it is dismantled. We manage to stick to the schedule in spite of erratic financing. And similarly, we meet all the Defense Ministry orders for new nuclear warheads. The process of renewal of nuclear arsenals is uninterrupted.'

Question: 'And what about the utilization of the nuclear equipment of discarded submarines?'

Mikhailov: 'That is a sensitive issue. Submarines, and also the rehabilitation of the so-called 'Urals aftermath' - Kyshtym and Techya. We have a program, but unfortunately, the government provides 10-20 percent of the required funds, so, we allocate our own money. For example, the Mayak plant uses part of its profits to finance the filling of Lake Karachai and by 1998 that territory will become environmentally clean.

As for submarines ... government funding is necessary. But I must say that fears are sometimes deliberately exaggerated. Even if a scrapped submarine sinks, that does not spell disaster because the reactor is securely protected. But the problem of utilization undoubtedly needs to be addressed at the federal level.'"

Source: Federal News Service Moscow Transcripts, 18 November.

Reproduced with kind permission.

Remarks by Alexander Lebed

'Press Conference with former Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed,' Interview with the Interfax News Agency, 20 November 1997

Extracts

"Question: 'This story with nuclear briefcases which were said to have been lost and some of which are still missing or have not been accounted for: officials have repeatedly said that everything is fine. On the other side, you say otherwise. Do you have any real facts to prove your point?'

Lebed: 'We have to state the fact that such ammunition does exist. They are called RA-115 (land-based version) and RA-115-01 (underwater version). They weigh 30 kilos. They are very compact. Initially they were created in order to destroy large warehouses and control points. But none of them has been authorized for use by the government yet. And now we can be pretty sure that they won't. So they have turned from ammunition of national importance into a potentially perfect weapon for terrorists, for nuclear terrorism and nuclear blackmail.

Right now I am interested not too much in nuclear ammunition as such, although they exist and I know where, as in the people who made them. I also know the city where it happened. This city today is in dire straits. People are fleeing it. If I know how to make something and I have been sacked, there is always a possibility that someone somewhere will create conditions for me and pay me for making what I know how to make. I think this is the most serious problem today. Yes, experienced specialists have left. But you can't hide your head in the sand for long.'

Question: 'I'd like to clear up one thing. You said you are concerned about the fate of specialists. But are there facts indicating that nuclear briefcases have been stolen or fallen into the hands of terrorists who can use them?'

Lebed: 'Nuclear ammunition have [sic] never been the property of the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry have always leased them from industry. It used them and when their service life was over, they were returned to industry.

Each nuclear charge, in particular of this type, had two cards. One was permanently attached to the charge and they could be parted only by an explosion. The other was kept in the secret department of the unit that maintained these munitions. Eighty such cards were found on the territory of Ukraine. But I do not have the powers to find out what particular cards are these, the first copy or the second from the secret department. I do not have an answer to this question.

But I am convinced that all such munitions and devices should be discovered and destroyed. The people who created them, these technologies should be provided with ideal conditions so that they would not be tempted to produce anything of the sort once again.

Imagine if such a charge is exploded somewhere in the world. Then we will have a panic because there will be rumors about a blast in Moscow, tomorrow a blast in New York and so on, and there will be a worldwide panic. It is time that we stop assuming the ostrich posture. This is my point.'"

Source: Federal News Service Moscow Transcripts, 20 November.

Reproduced with kind permission.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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