U. S. Officials Claim Russia Preparing for Nuclear Test

Article excerpt

IN LATE APRIL and early May, U.S. officials briefed select members of Congress on new intelligence that they believe indicates that Russia is preparing to conduct nuclear tests at its Novaya Zemlya test site, according to congressional sources.

Asked about the U.S. allegations at a May 13 briefing, a senior U.S. official said, "We expect the Russian government to carry out its pledge to refrain from nuclear testing." The official said the situation illustrated why the administration feels the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is unverifiable, arguing that if a country seeks "to test in a deceptive manner..we might not be able to pick that up." Ratified by Russia and signed by the United States, the treaty bans all nuclear weapons test explosions.

Questioned about the charges during a May 12 interview with Russia's ORT television, Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov said he was surprised by the allegations, which he termed "ungrounded statements." "There are still people in the United States who think in the categories of the Cold War," Ivanov said.

A Foreign Ministry statement issued five days later said that Russia is "maintaining the readiness" of its test site but that reports claiming it is preparing to conduct tests are "totally at odds with reality" The statement impugned U.S. motives, saying that the allegations were circulated "to divert the attention of the international community from the U.S. refusal to ratify the CTBT and the actual plans of the Pentagon to create a new generation of nuclear weapons that may require nuclear tests. …