Russia Today - Russia deploys second batch of new nuclear missiles

MOSCOW, Dec 10, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia said on Friday it had deployed a second batch of its advanced Topol-M missiles as part of a scheme to upgrade the cash-starved country's ageing nuclear arsenal with its deterrent of choice for the next century.

A Strategic Rocket Forces spokesman told Reuters the 10 intercontinental ballistic missiles went on to active duty at Tatishchevo in the southern Saratov region on the Volga River. Ten of the missiles were deployed in the same area a year ago.

"Of the five nuclear powers, none of the others will match these weapons in the next few years," Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, the forces' commander, told Russian news agencies.

Britain, China, France and the United States are the four other declared nuclear powers which, like Russia, have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

On Thursday during a visit to China, President Boris Yeltsin warned the United States not to put pressure on Russia over its Chechnya military campaign and to remember Moscow had a huge nuclear arsenal. Washington played down the implied threat.

Topol-M, known to NATO as the SS-27, is a three-stage, single warhead missile with a range of 10,000 km (6,200 miles). The 20 missiles deployed so far sit in silos and are meant as a replacement for SS-19 missiles, which date from the 1970s.

The aim is for Topol-M eventually to replace all six land-based missile types in silos and on mobile launchers. Russia also has missiles aboard submarines and aircraft.

CASH SHORT BUT DEPLOYMENT GOING AHEAD

Yakovlev told a news conference earlier this week 72 percent of Russia's arsenal of 2,000 missiles were beyond their original shelf-life. But he said that did not mean they were obsolete.

"The planned pace of re-equipping the Strategic Rocket Forces has been maintained despite the financial difficulties faced by the nuclear forces and the armed forces as a whole," said the latest edition of the weekly newspaper Vek.

With cash short, the aim is to provide a credible nuclear umbrella under which military reform can then proceed.

But the Kremlin has yet to approve a draft military doctrine that places increased emphasis on nuclear deterrence and possible first strikes. The newspaper Izvestia said the draft may be reworked to water down these references.

Yakovlev and other Russian military officials have said Topol-M is designed to carry a single warhead but could easily be adapted to carry multiple warheads as a way to counter the United States if it goes ahead with a national missile defense system that would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile pact.

Even now Topol-M is unbeatable, Yakovlev said on Friday.

"Topol-M is able to breach any anti-missile system that exists in the world and any which will be built in the near future," Interfax news agency quoted the general as saying.

He told Izvestia: "I think the Americans are bluffing when they attach such great significance to anti-missile defense."

Russia has ruled out altering ABM to allow the United States to deploy a missile shield against so-called rogue states.

Yakovlev also appeared to put pressure on the State Duma lower house of parliament to ratify the START-2 arms pact on Monday. He told Izvestia a failure to ratify could restart an arms race and lead to a freeze in weapons inspections.

The United States has ratified START-2, which would cut arsenals to no more than 3,500 warheads each by 2007.

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