Top Russian Official Calls
For Massive Nuclear Rearmament
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia must build dozens of missiles every year to modernize its aging nuclear arsenal, a senior cabinet minister said Tuesday.
First deputy prime minister Yuri Maslyukov said Russia's strategic weapons, most of which were built during Soviet times, are rapidly aging and will soon lose their combat capability.
"In two or three years, we will have to start taking them out of combat duty en masse," Maslyukov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
"In seven or eight years we will be left without a single missile, submarine or bomber built during the Soviet times."
Maslyukov, a Communist, had a successful career in the Soviet military-industrial complex, rising to become the last chairman of the Soviet central-planning agency, Gosplan. He's now in charge of economic strategy for the new cabinet.
"We mustn't delude ourselves by the talk about strategic partnership with one or another country," Maslyukov said, indicating Russia should not be lulled into a false sense of security because the Cold War is over.
"The modern world is complex and a military force still plays not the least part in it."
Maslyukov pushed for ratification of the START II arms-reduction agreement with the United States that has been repeatedly delayed by other Communists and hard-liners in the Russian legislature. Russia's military brass supports the treaty because the weapons it would eliminate would become outdated anyway.
Maslyukov linked the ratification with progress on further arms cuts and speedier production of new weapons.
"Along with rearming our strategic forces, it's necessary to use diplomatic means to achieve a limitation and reduction of the U.S. nuclear capability," he said.
He added Russia must insist the United States observe the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 as the "only way to guarantee the mutual nuclear deterrence."
Maslyukov said Russia must build 35-45 new Topol-M ballistic missiles every year starting in 2000 and build several nuclear submarines of the Yuri Dolgoruky class, armed with ballistic missiles. It must also modernize its control, early-warning and space-intelligence systems, he said.
His comments came as Russia's economy is in disarray with rising inflation, a declining ruble and workers often not paid for months.