- WASHINGTON (Agence France Presse) - Russia's early-warning missile defense
system is operating at a third of its full capacity, increasing the risk
of launch error, The Washington Post said Wednesday.
- There were two close calls in 1983 and
1995 in which false attack signals were sent to Russian missile silos before
they were recognized as mistakes, Russian and Western security analysts
told the daily.
- Only three of nine satellites needed
to monitor U.S. missile silos and submarines are active, meaning that for
several hours each day, Russian military commanders are left blind to a
possible attack, the daily said.
- The satellite network is deteriorating
because financial problems have prevented Moscow from replenishing the
array of satellites needed to keep its early-warning system in good working
condition, said Paul Podvig, with the Center for Arms Control, Energy
and Environmental Studies here.
- Although the Cold War is over, Russia
and the United States remain on constant nuclear alert, threatening massive
retaliation once enemy missiles are detected in flight.
- However, the threat of retaliation requires
accurate early-warning, and some Western specialists believe the growing
gaps in Russia's early-warning satellites have increased the risk of serious
miscalculation, because Russian commanders have less time to decide if
a launch report is real.
- In 1983, the daily said, the Soviet system
sent false signals of a U.S. missile attack which lasted a few minutes
before an officer on duty deep inside a Soviet defense bunker recognized
the mistake. And in 1995, a Norwegian scientific rocket set off a false
alarm in the Russian early-warning system that was reported all the way
to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the daily added. ( (c) 1999 Agence