U.S., Russian Missile Commanders Agree to New Transparency Measures

By Cerniello, Craig | Arms Control Today, October 1997 | Go to article overview
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U.S., Russian Missile Commanders Agree to New Transparency Measures


Cerniello, Craig, Arms Control Today


GENERAL EUGENE Habiger, commander-in-chief of U.S. Strategic Command, and Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, head of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, have agreed to an exchange of officers for the purpose of observing each other's nuclear command and control procedures. In a November 4 Defense Department briefing, Habiger outlined the nature of these exchanges and indicated that, on the basis of his observations and conversations with high-level Russian officials during his October 22-28 visit to Russia, he is confident that Moscow's nuclear arsenal is safe and secure.

During his trip, Habiger examined a nuclear weapons storage facility at Kostroma, a rail-mobile SS-24 ICBM base located approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Habiger said he was impressed with its safety and security procedures and was assured that Kostroma was "representative" of ICBM bases throughout Russia. As an example of these security measures, he said access to nuclear weapons in Russia requires the presence of three people, whereas the United States has a two-person policy.

Under the proposed exchanges, which could begin within the next few weeks, a team of four or five Russian specialists would visit a U.S. ICBM base to observe the safety and security procedures instituted at nuclear weapon storage facilities. A team of U.S. specialists would also have similar access in Russia. Habiger and Yakovlev also agreed to establish a so-called "shadow program," under which Russia would send the equivalent of a wing commander, a squadron commander, a flight commander and a missile crew member to the United States to shadow their respective counterparts for a one-week period.

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