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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 31, October 1998

Russian Minister Calls For Nuclear Modernization, Deep Reductions

Speaking in early October - on television on 4 October, and in a 6 October statement - Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov voiced his concerns both about the condition and high numbers of Russian nuclear weapons. According to Maslyukov, although the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction (START) II Treaty by the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, is an urgent priority, it would not of itself meaningfully advance progress towards either of Russia's nuclear-weapons priorities - major modernization of, and deep cuts in, strategic forces. In his television interview, the Minister stated: "We must guarantee that, in case of [an] unforeseen incident, we have a strong nuclear shield that would ensure our security and be capable of inflicting irreparable damage to the enemy..." In his 6 October statement, he elaborated as follows:

"The Government and Parliament should jointly agree a programme for re-arming the strategic nuclear forces... The State, in its present condition, does not have the means to maintain [the] present quantitative level of several thousand warheads [Editor's note: around 3,500 warheads following the implementation of START II]. The maximum we can hope for is a level of several hundred warheads by around 2007-2010... Along with rearming our strategic forces, it's necessary to use diplomatic means to achieve a limitation and reduction of the US nuclear capability... [But] we mustn't delude ourselves by the talk about strategic partnership with one or another country... The modern world is complex and a military force still plays not the least part in it."

With regard to strategic modernization, Maslyukov detailed a number of priorities:

  • From 2000, the construction of 35-45 Topol-M ballistic missiles per year;
  • Construction of seven Yuri Dolgoruky class nuclear-powered and -armed submarines, to enter service by 2010;
  • Improvement of command, control and communications systems, and early-warning capabilities.
Maslyukov claimed (6 October) that many of the ballistic missiles currently in service with Russian strategic nuclear forces were rapidly approaching the end of their servicelife: "In two or three years, we will have to start taking them out of combat en masse... In seven or eight years we will be left without a single missile, submarine or bomber built during the Soviet times..."

Reports: Russian pol wants nukes updated, Associated Press, 5 October; Arms-Russia-Maslyukov, Reuters, 6 October; Russian calls for nuke modernizing, Associated Press, 6 October.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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