Magazine article Arms Control Today

CIA Report Renews Concerns over Russian Nuclear Control

Magazine article Arms Control Today

CIA Report Renews Concerns over Russian Nuclear Control

Article excerpt

PUBLISHED EXCERPTS from a highly classified CIA report leaked to the Washington Times have fueled the debate on the command and control of the Russian nuclear arsenal. The report, entitled "Prospects for Unsanctioned Use of Russian Nuclear Weapons," concludes that "under normal circumstances the prospect of an unauthorized nuclear-missile launch or a blackmail attempt using nuclear arms is low, despite continuing turmoil, political uncertainty and disarray in the armed forces."

Crisis May Increase Tensions

The CIA report recognized that "A severe political crisis, however, could exacerbate existing dissension and factionalization in the military, possibly heightening tensions between Russian political and military leaders and even splitting the general staff or nuclear commands." Along this connection, the report notes that the "Russian nuclear command and control system is being subjected to stresses it was not designed to withstand as a result of wrenching social change, economic hardship, and malaise within the armed forces."

In addition, the CIA report points out that with enough time "all technical [security] measures can be circumvented-probably within weeks or days depending on the weapons involved." The report pointed to Russian tactical nuclear weapons as especially vulnerable to such a breach of control.

Following the Times' story, several Russian officials disputed the CIA's assessment. In an October 22 interview on ABC's "Nightline," former Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed rejected the report's claim that control over the Russian nuclear arsenal is declining and that severe political instability could increase the propensity for an unauthorized launch. …

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