Russian Bear Shows
Its Nuclear Claws /news.php3?id=110524
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian bear showed its claws on Tuesday before a summit with Western leaders, saying it had tested nuclear-capable missiles as a possible response to the United States pulling out of a disarmament treaty.
The commander of Russia's navy was quoted as saying that test-firings of three submarine-based Stingray missiles on October 1-2 were a partial response to possible U.S. plans to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.
RIA news agency quoted Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov as saying the launches should be seen as "one of the elements of Russia's asymmetrical response to the possible withdrawal of the United States.".
By "asymmetrical response," Russian officials appeared to be referring to a build up of Russia's offensive nuclear strike capability in response to the U.S. move.
The statement, the latest in a series of increasingly alarmist Russian remarks over ABM, came just before a European security summit in Istanbul, where presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton are expected to have their iciest encounter ever.
Yeltsin's spokesman has said ABM will be on the agenda when he meets Clinton.
The Cold-War-era ABM treaty banned systems designed to shoot down enemy missiles, under the logic that such defenses would have spurred the United States and Russia to build ever larger arsenals of nuclear warheads to break through enemy shields.
Now, with the Cold War over, the United States wants to deploy a system to defend itself against a possible launch from North Korea, Iran or another of what it calls "rogue states".
U.S. administration officials have asked Russia to amend the pact to allow Washington to deploy the new system. Moscow says doing so could trigger a new nuclear arms race.
Last month Yeltsin warned Clinton of "extremely dangerous consequences" if the United States goes ahead with its plans.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin said on Monday Russia was convinced Washington intended to break the treaty. Russia planned to respond by beefing up its own nuclear arsenal.
Tuesday's statement was the first time that Russian officials have directly linked the test of an offensive nuclear strike weapon to the arms control row.
A Russian general made a similar statement last month about the test of a Russian anti-missile rocket, a defensive weapon.
Russia's cash strapped military rarely test-fires expensive missiles. Officials earlier said the Stingray tests were aimed at determining whether the missile's shelf life could be extended.
Defense analysts say Russia is working on a new submarine launched ballistic missile to match its latest generation of land-based Topol M missiles.
(C)1999 Copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters Limited.