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What was new on START Web site?

March, 1999

March 29, 1999
The chances that the State Duma ratifies the START II Treaty are becoming more slim, as NATO bombers continue attacks on Yugoslavia. The lawmakers on Saturday demanded an immediate halt to NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia and called on Yeltsin to temporarily withdraw the START II treaty from consideration. Prime-minister Yevgeni Primakov and minister of foreign affairs Igor Ivanov continue to support the treaty, but realize, that it can not be accepted in current circumstances. Defense minister Igor Sergeyev spoke in favour of the treaty as well (Russian Panel Denounces NATO Attack, By Judith Ingram, Associated Press, March 27, 1999). See also:

Pyotr Romashkin, (the Staff of the "Yabloko" faction in the State Duma) discusses Options For Russian and U.S. Strategic Forces Development, If START II Is Rejected, (in Russian) in his today's comment presented exclusively to the START Web site.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Friday it will stop cooperating with the United States on the Y2K computer problem in another show of protest over the fighting in Yugoslavia (Russia Won't Cooperate on Y2K Bug, by Chris Allbritton, Associated Press, Friday, March 26, 1999; 7:06 p.m. EST).

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov have signed on Wednesday night an agreement that salvages a $12 billion deal aimed at helping Russia convert uranium from its nuclear weapons into fuel for U.S. nuclear reactors:

Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican and a sponsor of the recently approved NMD bill sharply criticised the administration's attempts to "misinterpret" the bill: "...The administration is trying to make it appear that deployment of an NMD system is based upon agreement with the Russians," Mr. Cochran said. "The bill does say that we should continue to pursue arms reductions, but it doesn't say anything about whether they have to be successful..." (U.S. missile defense deployment won't be required, cable argues State Department envisions loophole, by Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, March 26, 1999). By the way, the ninth test of THAAD interceptor in a series of 13 flight tests was scheduled for today, as U.S. official sources reported. See also:

According to daily Izvestiya, president Yeltsin should approve a decree on creation of Deterrence Strategic Forces (Moscow Builds Its "Last Line Of Defense", by Yuri Golotyuk, Izvestiya, March 27, 1999, p. 1). See also discussion on unification of the strategic forces and recent exclusive comment by Igor Sutyagin (in Russian).

Working out corresponding agreements is needed to prevent collisions of submerged submarines. First step should be done bilaterally by the U.S. and Russia (U.S. thriller on "Project Jennifer", by Valeri Alexin, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 11, March 26 - April 1, 1999, p. 6). Submarine collisions were discussed many times at the START web site previously. See also the answers to most frequently asked questions.

Public press continues to discuss our Center's book Russian Strategic Nuclear Weapons in spite of the fact that the latter was published almost half a year ago. Obschaya Gazeta calls the book "intelligence information bomb", which is sought "... by real spies, working in our country officially under cover of foreign embassies" (All Homeland Secrets Are Under A Single Book Cover - in Russian, by Viktor Litovkin, Obschaya Gazeta, March 18-24, 1999). Russian military official newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda states, that the book "...presents a full picture of our nuclear shield..." (There Is No Censorship, But Secrets Remain, by Nikolay Poroskov, Krasnaya Zvezda, March 26, 1999, p. 2).

March 24, 1999
Prime-Minister Yevgeni Primakov's visit to the U.S. was canceled. Forthcoming NATO precision strikes will likely damage nuclear disarmament process as well, as was pointed out in yesterday's comment by Pyotr Romashkin.

Today's issue of Nezavisimaya Gazeta presents an article "What's Going To Happen To ABM Treaty? Russia Must Not Participate In Breaking The Cornerstone Of Stability" by Vladimir Belous and Viktor Dontsov, (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 24, 1999, p. 8). The authors criticise "...a new idea of bargaining some provisions of the ABM Treaty for certain concessions in START II for Russia...". Belous and Dontsov assert, that "...the most radical suggestions are made by those, who carry no responsibility for consequences of their recommendations..." and "...attempts of bargaining contain a destructive energy which may explode the whole disarmament process...". Experts of our Center Anatoly Diakov and Paul Podvig, who proposed new measures on missile defense limitations and START reductions last week, (in particular, our experts suggest negotiating modifications of the ABM Treaty in order to reach START III agreement), have presented their comments on today's paper in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In particular, our experts raise a question:

The Joint Statement clearly says, that two Presidents agreed it is necessary to start work without delay to develop the concept of the Global Protection System. For this purpose they agreed to establish a high-level group to explore on a priority basis the practical steps, which, in particular, include the development of a legal basis for cooperation, including new treaties and agreements and possible changes to existing treaties and agreements necessary to implement a Global Protection System. (Our Comment: On Irresponsibility, - in Russian, by Anatoly Diakov and Paul Podvig, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT, March 24, 1999).

March 23, 1999
President Boris Yeltsin has given his approval to a bill by Russian lawmakers that could help pave the way for the ratification of the START II treaty. The details - in today's exclusive comment (- in Russian) by Pyotr Romashkin (the Staff of the "Yabloko" Faction in the State Duma). Alexander Pikayev's forecast of further development of the situation becomes closer to what might really happen. See also:

News sources continue to comment a possibility of reaching new U.S-Russian agreements on nuclear materials issues during Primakov's visit. In particular, Russian Minister for Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov and U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson are expected to sign an agreement on the return to Russia of the unused natural component according to the so-called HEU-LEU contract. This will give Russia a chance to get money for the previously delivered highly enriched uranium, obtained from scrapped nuclear weapons, that was to be reprocessed in the United States, and to continue the implementation of the 1993 agreement. The U.S. Congress has allocated 325 million dollars for these purposes for the fiscal year of 1999.

March 21, 1999
House and Senate negotiators now must produce compromise legislation to commit the United States to a national defense against a limited ballistic missile attack. The House on Thursday approved its version 317-105, a day after the Senate passed similar legislation 97-3.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sharply reacted (in Russian) to the U.S. steps, which created "...a serious threat to the whole process of nuclear disarmament...". Prime-minister Yevgeni Primakov called the law approval an "unpleasant surprise". Russian press makes a point that "...if U.S. legislators and administration act similarly in future, Moscow predicts total collapse of START I and START II treaties..." The Congress decision is considered as a mistake by U.S. arms control experts: Meanwhile, the State Duma was never closer to START II ratification as last week, but a scandal with Attorney General Yuri Skuratov has postponed the consideration once again. Experts of Moscow Carnegie Center and PIR Center comment the situation:

It is important to consider new approaches in current circumstances with BMD deployments and nuclear reductions. Such kind of approach is proposed by experts of our Center: "...In order to avoid a collapse of the nuclear disarmament process and to preserve at least some of the limits of the ABM Treaty, Russia should agree to consider some modifications of the ABM Treaty...If Russia gives its approval to the ABM Treaty changes, it would certainly expect that the United States will make some concessions on the question of the strategic arms reductions. In practical terms it means that Russia would expect the United States to agree on immediate beginning of negotiations of a new arms reduction treaty that would aim to reduce the number of strategic weapons to 1500 warheads on each side. In addition to the lower levels, this treaty must include provisions that would reduce the "upload potential", eliminate nuclear sea-launch cruise missiles, and provide Russia with more flexibility in its force planning..." At the same time, "...this means that Russia and the United States must agree that the START II Treaty has no future and cancel the process of its ratification..." (START II and the ABM Treaty, by Anatoly Diakov and Paul Podvig, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT, March 19, 1999).

Perspective of U.S-European cooperation in development of ballistic missile defenses is becoming more and more obscure. Some Russian politicians, who believe in a possibility of creation a joint BMD system with the West, should learn this lesson (The U.S. Is Not In A Rush to Help Europe, by Sergei Modestov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 10, March 19-25, 1999, p. 6).

Yevgeni Adamov, The Head of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, confirmed, that Russian-Iranian cooperation will continue, (Nuclear Ties - in Russian, by Andrei Vaganov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 18, 1999, p. 1). According to today's information, Russia and the United States expect to finalize two nuclear security agreements this week during Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov's visit to Washington. One agreement to be signed provides for Russia to receive more than $300 million from the United States in payment for uranium removed from Russian nuclear weapons and for Russia to gain immediate access to the worldwide commercial uranium market for future sales of similar material. The United States will agree to hold its purchased uranium off the market for 10 years, shoring up the price in a further economic boon to Russia. In the second deal Washington is prepared to accept a proposal by Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov to restrict the cooperation of two Russian scientific institutes with Iran's nuclear program, in exchange for a lifting of U.S. sanctions on the two institutes (2 Nuclear Accords Expected, by Thomas W. Lippman, The Washington Post, Sunday, March 21, 1999; Page A25).

March 18, 1999
The Senate approved yesterday S. 257, the "Cochran-Inouye Missile Defense Act of 1999" by a final vote of 97-3. The lopsided vote came after the Senate on Tuesday had adopted two compromise amendments as a face-saving gesture for Democrats. The amendments prompted the White House to abandon a threatened veto by Clinton. One amendment assures that Democrats will have a say on any system's cost, by requiring its funding to go through the regular congressional appropriations process. The other amendment states that any system be consistent with policies to reduce Russia's nuclear stockpile. President Clinton made clear in his statement, that this is enough not to put START II ratification process in Russia in jeopardy.

The State Duma on Wednesday passed the first reading of the draft law on the financing of Strategic Nuclear Forces up to the year 2010, (It Is Simpler To Arm Russia Rather Than To Disarm, by Oleg Odnokolenko, Segodnia, March 18, 1999)

The Our Home is Russia faction of the State Duma proposed to submit the bill on Ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-II) to the lower house of parliament for consideration without any delay. Speaking at a news conference about this on Wednesday, Chairman of the faction Vladimir Ryzhkov noted that deputies of Our Home is Russia "...from today on are beginning to work on accelerating ratification of the START-II Treaty..." (State Duma should ratify START-2 Treaty without delay, ITAR-TASS, March 17, 1999).

March 17, 1999
Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov has said, that the United States will not deploy strategic defense, if Russia ratifies the START 2 treaty, in a discussion in the "Here and Now" series broadcast on Russian Public TV, which also featured First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, Chief of the Defence Ministry's General Staff Anatoli Kvashnin, and a leading Russian missile designer Yuri Solomonov. All the participants spoke for urgent ratification of the treaty (ORT, "Here and Now", 18:40 MT, March 16, 1999). See also the transcript of the broadcast in English.

On the decision of the State Duma Council, the draft law on the ratification of the START-2 treaty has been submitted for the consideration of President Boris Yeltsin. The Speaker of the Duma, Gennady Seleznyov, said they could start debating ratification before the Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, goes to Washington later this month. Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament was to consider at today's session the bill on funding the country's strategic nuclear forces until the year 2010 (see also the recent comment by Pyotr Romashkin on this bill - in Russian).

Meanwhile, The White House and Senate Democrats Tuesday abandoned their longstanding opposition to a politically popular bill that calls for a national defense against limited long-range missile attacks. The Administration dropped its threatened veto by President Clinton after the Senate passed a compromise amendment that Democrats say insures that any anti-missile system will not interfere with arms-control negotiations with Russia.

"It means being dragged into an arms race again," - Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the Head of the MoD Department for Military Cooperation said, commenting the Senate decision (Russian General Says U.S. Shield Plan A Ploy, by Reuters, Russia Today, March 17, 1999).

On Russian-Chinese consultations in relation with U.S. decision to deploy national BMD system see in Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China Is Blamed in Theft of Technology. Two Poles - Again? (by Pavel Spirin, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 17, 1999, p. 6).

A group of U.S. Congressmen tried to persuade the Russian Duma deputies yesterday that Washington's plans to build a Star Wars-style missile defense umbrella is not threatening Russia.

Russia has offered to curtail nuclear cooperation with Iran if Washington ends sanctions against two leading Russian nuclear research centers, Russia's Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeni Adamov says, (Russia to Offer U.S. Deal to End Iran Nuclear Aid, By Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times, March 17, 1999).

March 15, 1999
Expediency of integrating land, sea and air legs of Russian strategic forces under a unified command is discussed by Igor Sutyagin (U.S. and Canada Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences) in his exclusive comment for the START Web site: Discussing The Plans Of Creation A Unified Supreme Command Of Strategic Deterrence Forces: Not Everything Is Well Argumented.

Next Friday is an anniversary of an event which became a cause for publication of a comment Collision of Two U.S. Nuclear Powered Submarines on March 19, 1998. This comment is still the most popular article of the START Web site. This year it had nearly 1500 readers. Stopping Cold War practice of trailing of Russian submarines became one of the hottest topics of high school student debates in the U.S. Eugene Miasnikov, the author of the comment, continues to answer to numerous questions of the debaters (submarine collisions FAQs page is updated on March 11, 1999).

The Cochran-Inouye bill S.257, which 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)..." is set for debate in the U.S. Senate today afternoon. Though, the outcome became predetermined after Democrats dropped efforts last Thursday to block Senate debate on a national missile defense policy, clearing the way for consideration of a bill.

"...China and Russia have held talks about a proposed U.S. anti-missile umbrella and are united in their opposition to the system,..."- a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said last Thursday:

By the way, the suspicion that China stole the design of America's most advanced miniaturized warhead -- the W-88 -- from the Los Alamos National Laboratory became recently the hottest topic of discussions in the U.S. newspapers. China is seen as a growing threat to the U.S. security (Will Beijing's Nuclear Arsenal Stay Small or Will It Mushroom?, By David E. Sanger and Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, March 15, 1999).

According to experts of the 5-th Central Scientific Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense, the U.S. have already deployed the information component of their future national BMD System (Antimissile Reality, by Alexander Belousov, Yuri Kozirazki and Zigmund Fedukovich, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 9, March 12-18, 1999, p. 6).

March 11, 1999
A paper Disposition of Weapons-Grade Plutonium in Russia: Evaluation of Different Options by Prof. Anatoli Diakov, the Director of our Center, is now on the Web. The paper was presented at the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Dismantlement and Destruction of Chemical, Nuclear and Conventional Weapons (Bonn, Germany, 19-21 May, 1996).

The Proliferation Roundtable at the Carnegie Endowment on February 26, 1999 was entitled The Degradation of Russia's Early Warning System. Prof. Theodore Postol from MIT and Geoffrey Forden from the Congressional Budget Office discussed the problem.

A group of defense experts who favor Navy ships to protect the United States against missile attack assert in a new study that the sea-based approach would be faster and cheaper than the land-based system envisioned by the Clinton administration. The 77-page report sponsored by The Heritage Foundation concluded that a sea-based system to defend U.S. cities and shores from enemy missiles would cost less than $8 billion and take only about four years to deploy.

March 9, 1999
The State Duma lower house of Russian parliament turned down the proposal of the LDPR faction to discuss on March 5 the ratification of the START II Treaty. Head of the faction Vladimir Zhirinovsky surprisingly insisted on this proposal at the plenary meeting of the house on March 3. The liberal democrats were known to be the most bitter opponents of the Treaty in the past. Chairman of the Duma Defence Committee Roman Popkovich pointed to the need to ratify the treaty but said that the Duma may tackle the ratification bill after the financial aspect of the matter is decided (Duma not to discuss START-2 ratification on March 5, ITAR-TASS, March 3, 1999).

Gennadi Seleznyov, the Speaker of the Duma, raised a doubt, that Russia will be able to implement START II provisions in the nearest future because of its tight budget (Difficulties May Occur As Russia Implements START II, Segodnia, March 4, 1999).

Russian government criticised the draft of the law "On Financing Strategic Nuclear Forces of Russian Federation Till 2010" (by Vladimir Yermolin, Russian Strategic Forces Beg For Strategic Financing, Izvestiya, March 3, 1999) See also the recent Pyotr Romashkin's exclusive comment to the START Web site on the draft (in Russian).

"...Placing Missile Early Warning system (MEWS) under the authority of Strategic Rocket Forces...will not create a new capabilities for the latter...However, the separation of the MEWS from Air Defense Forces will destroy the Russian air and space defense (The Decision Is Made - Problems Remain, by Ivan Yerokhin, Anatoli Korabelnikov, Yuri Krinitskii and Vladimir Chekhovski, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 8, March 5-11, 1999, p. 4).

Y2K problem and its impact on Russian Strategic Forces command and control - this issue remains in the focus of the press:

A soon-to-be-released Pentagon study says expanding the Navy's Aegis ship-based missile defense system to protect all 50 states would cost $16 billion to $19 billion. Some early supporters of the Navy system said it could be fielded for as little as $2 billion to $4 billion by expanding the existing Aegis infrastructure (Costs Skyrocket for Navy's Missile Defense, by Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, Friday, March 5, 1999; Page A04).

Bill Richardson, U.S. Secretary of Energy, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on March 2, pointed out that nuclear facilities and materials monitoring system, which was established in Russia earlier has grown weaker and there is a lack of funds to support it (Remarks by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson on DOE's Efforts to Promote Russian Nuclear Safety at National Press Club, Washington, DC, March 2, 1999). See also:

March 2, 1999
In early March 1999, the State Duma is going to consider the first draft of the law "On Financing Strategic Nuclear Forces of Russian Federation Till 2010". According to Roman Popkovich, the Chair of the Defense Committee of the Duma, START II ratification is impossible until such a law comes into force. Main provisions of the draft are discussed in a comment by Pyotr Romashkin (the staff of the "Yabloko" faction in the State Duma) The Draft Law on Financing Russia's Strategic Forces (in Russian), submitted for publication exclusively on the START Web site.

PIR Center's Letter of February Unified Supreme Command Of Strategic Deterrence Forces Is a Source of Contradictions in the Ministry of Defense (February 25, 1999) analyzes MoD's internal factors driving creation of the Unified Command of Strategic Forces For Deterrence and related problems. See also our special section on the issue.

The General Accounting Office report Nuclear Nonproliferation: Concerns With DOE's Efforts to Reduce the Risks Posed by Russia's Unemployed Weapons Scientists (released February 19, 1999) is now available in PDF format. This report criticizes a four-year-old program aimed at developing non-military jobs for Russian weapons scientists at home.

March 1, 1999
Our Center's book Russian Strategic Nuclear Weapons continues to be in the focus of discussions: "...Some experts express an opinion, that the book is amazingly detailed... This data book should take a notable place on working desks of Russian and foreign experts in ministries of defense and of foreign affairs..." (a review - in Russian, published in Yadernoye Rasprostraneniye, Issue 25, 1998, pp. 46-47).

"...Ensuring Russian national interests makes fair the following way of putting the question: either the U.S. will carry obligations in accordance with ABM and START-1 Treaties, or START-2 Treaty must be withdrawn from discussion..." (Pro's and Con's of START-2 -- Once More, by Gennadi Khromov, Yadernoye Rasprostraneniye, Issue 25, 1998, pp. 24-28).

"...President Clinton must move immediately to give START II the overriding priority it deserves in the U.S. national security process and avoid foreign policy actions that could result in the Duma's indefinite deferment of START II ratification..." (Don't Stop START II, by Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., Arms Control Today, November/December 1998, Volume 28, Number 8).

The Committee on Nuclear Policy, which represents a variety of arms-control organizations and research groups, has published a new report Jump-START: Retaking the Initiative to Reduce Post-Cold War Nuclear Dangers (A Committee on Nuclear Policy Report, February 25, 1999). The experts urge the Clinton administration to reduce nuclear forces to levels far lower than currently envisioned under a START III treaty; take the majority of U.S. forces, alongside Russia, off hair-trigger alert; and, secure, monitor, and greatly reduce fissile materials and warhead stockpiles. See also:

The Pentagon will let Russian officials monitor U.S. missile launch warning data from mid-December to mid-January to bolster their confidence that America is not attacking, even if the Year 2000 computer bug creates glitches or gaps that prompt their own radars to indicate otherwise.

More on the issue: Safe or sorry: The "Y2K problem" and nuclear weapons, (by Michael Kraig, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999, Vol. 55, No. 2).

In the December's issue of Arms Control Today (November/December 1998, Volume 28, Number 8):

Status of Russian strategic nuclear forces is also discussed by NRDC experts: Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, End of 1998. NRDC Nuclear Notebook, (The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999, Vol. 55, No. 2).

The Ministry of Defense is actively pursuing creation of the Unified Command of Strategic Forces for Deterrence. The General Staff was opposing to the idea, however the original concept has changed (Choosing the Option, by Andrei Korbut, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye NG, N 7, February 26 - March 4, 1999, p. 1).

The recent publication "Yuri Solomonov: "Topol-M" Is Capable to Defeat Ballistic Missile Defense of Any State" (by Igor Korotchenko, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 24, p. 8) caused a broad response. In particular, The Washington Post noted: "...The comments by Yuri Solomonov, general constructor at the Moscow Institute of Heat Technology...also could be intended as a warning to the United States, which has suggested modifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow use of a limited missile defense. Russia has steadfastly opposed changing the treaty, although there have been some hints that it might be willing to accept changes as part of a larger arms-control agreement..." (Russian Rocket Called Invincible Designer Says It Can Penetrate Any 'Potential ABM System', by David Hoffman, The Washington Post, Thursday, February 25, 1999; Page A20). Yuri Solomonov's interview to Nezavisimaya Gazeta contains some other interesting statements as well. In particular, the chief designer said, that high precision conventional ballistic missiles are becoming promising in hard target (including ICBM silos) attacking roles.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned the U.S. Senate that rushing forward with a ballistic missile defense system could strain U.S.-Russian relations. Some of the proponents of national BMD question the administration's seriousness about missile defense though:

Another publication on Moscow ABM system: "The "Nuclear Guard" in Sofrino" (by Sergei Sokut, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 23, 1999, p. 2).

What Was New?

In 1999: January | February |
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.