Inside the Ring

Article excerpt

TESTING SEASON

Russia last month carried out another small underground nuclear test. U.S. intelligence agencies detected what appeared to be a nuclear explosion at the remote arctic Novaya Zemlya testing site on Sept. 23.

It was the second "event" believed to be nuclear weapons-related in September. The last one took place on Sept. 8, although the Russian government, as it has in past nuclear tests, denied that one.

We are told by reliable government intelligence sources that the indicators leading up to the test included vehicle activity at Novaya Zemlya as well as a number of ship movements in and out of the island in the days leading up to it.

Pentagon spy agencies had trouble collecting data on the test because of a lack of satellite imagery of the area for nearly a day. Also, the test did not register on seismic monitoring stations - a fact that highlights the problems with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now awaiting debate in the Senate.

"It looked like it was a subcritical or low-yield test," one source told us. "This is a lot like the Sept. 8 event and follows the same pattern as last year's tests."

Defense sources said the test was probably carried out as part of Moscow's checks on warhead safety and reliability. There is not unanimity on the latest Novaya Zemlya boom. The CIA, usually more cautious in its analysis, gauged the event as a possible nuclear test. The harder-line Defense Intelligence Agency described it as a probable nuclear test.

COLD WARRIORS

The military is once again handing out awards like hot cakes. No, it's not for the Kosovo conflict or part of the "medal inflation" of Grenada and Desert Storm.

People by the thousands are requesting their own personal certificate of recognition for serving in the military or federal government during the Cold War.

The idea was pushed by Rep. Rick A. Lazio, New York Republican, who believes the nation never really celebrated one of its greatest international victories - the defeat of Soviet communism and freeing of Eastern Europe.

Now, Army Personnel Command is busy mailing out the simply written certificate to qualified citizens.

Col. Pam Mitchell, chief of the command's personnel service support division, tells us she has received over 276,000 requests as of August and is now managing a backlog of 178,775.

"The certificate has turned out to be, obviously by the numbers, very important to a lot of folks," Col. Mitchell said, noting that 3,000 to 10,000 applications arrive daily.

People can apply by mail or check out the program on the Web. The command is putting out the word via local media, press releases and veterans organizations, and is advising a six-month wait. Dates of service fall between Sept. 2, 1945, and Dec. 26, 1991. The Defense Department estimates there are 18 million to 22 military eligible citizens.

"I would say the numbers in the first month, 90,000 in April, was higher than we expected," Col. Mitchell said.

She said the command will accept any document containing dates of service, such as a discharge or earnings statement.

"Really we have left this as wide open as possible to give folks the flexibility to send us what they have," she said.

Her office has turned down about 6,500 applications to date. In most cases, people submitted inadequate or unreadable verification. In one case, a woman wanted a certificate for her grandfather. Trouble was, he served in World War I. There was a contractor who invented materials for the government, but never was a federal employee.

Signed by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, the certificate reads, "In recognition of your service during the period of the Cold War (2 September 1945-26 December 1991) in promoting peace and stability for this nation, the people of this nation are forever grateful. …