Russian Missiles Armed and Ready

Article excerpt

On Oct. 3 the Russian armed forces conducted a major strategic command and control exercise that included the launch of four nuclear-capable missiles, at least one from each of the three legs of Russia's nuclear triad. Very few reports of the exercise appeared in the media, which is surprising in view of President Clintion's repeated comment that "There are no nuclear missiles pointed at the children of the United States tonight."

In fact, there are well more than a thousand operational Russian and Chinese nuclear missiles pointed somewhere, and, if not at the United States, they can be retargeted here in a matter of minutes.

The Russian press reported that the military exercise, codenamed Redoubt 96, reached its conclusion on Oct. 3 with a mock nuclear weapon attack from land, sea and air. Tass reported that Russia's strategic rocket forces launched an SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk testing ground and that "the target was hit." The target was not identified, but the SS-25 is designed to strike the United States.

The Moscow paper Krasnaya Zvezda reported "the presidential button worked" on Oct. 3 when a command from the "nuclear briefcase" triggered the launch of a ballistic missile from a Russian submarine in the Arctic Ocean. Reuters quoted a source on the staff of the Northern Fleet in Murmansk as saying that the missile's test warhead successfully struck a target thousands of miles away on the Kamchatka Peninsula west of Alaska.

In another story on the same day Tass reported that long-range bombers of the Russian Air Force launched two nuclear capable cruise missiles, which hit their specified targets. The report stressed the ability of the cruise missiles to carry their nuclear warheads 2,400 miles beyond the range of the bombers. Russian military commanders, who still view the United States as the enemy, are demonstrating that despite internal problems they are maintaining the ability to launch nuclear destruction at this country.

The strategic launches were monitored by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin from the missile launch control center of the Russian Armed Forces. Mr. Chernomyrdin's participation was in connection with his receipt of the "nuclear briefcase" from President Yeltsin while the president undergoes heart bypass surgery.

Defense Secretary William Perry reacted to these developments by repeating the administration line that it has confidence in the ability of the Russian military to maintain control of its nuclear weapons, despite repeated warnings from Russian officials that their military is in a major crisis. …