Russia Restocks Nuclear Missile Inventory With The Topol-M
By Dennis Bueckert
Canadian Press
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia has added 10 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal, the first deployment of a long-term project to modernize its nuclear weaponry.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev inaugurated the first batch of the Topol-M missile in the Russia's Saratov region over the weekend, declaring it ready for combat.
"It's a weapon for the 21st century," he said. "It has a lot of capabilities that make it a weapon for the future."
The single-warhead missile is designed to replace heavier, silo-based multiple-warhead missiles. The Topol-M is lightweight and mobile, with a reported range of 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers). More than 40 are set to be built by the end of 2000.
Analysts say the timing of the deployment, while Russia suffers from the worst economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union, highlights Moscow's interest in maintaining its nuclear strength even though it lacks the money to beef up its conventional forces.
According to Russian officials, the Topol-M is 'a weapon for the 21st century.' "There is a belief that only strategic nuclear forces keep Russia in the club of great nations," said military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.
Russia's parliament is drafting a bill that would guarantee funding to strategic missile forces until 2010, regardless of the country's economic situation.
However, funding for the missile has not assured salaries for those who build it. The workers who manufactured the first Topol-Ms are still owed more than $1 million in back wages.