- Russia performs subcritical nuclear test, drafts START-II
By Igor Kudrik, The Bellona Foundation, December 10,
- Russia performed a subcritical nuclear bomb test, drafted a law on
the START-II treaty and received high-ranking American officials to negotiate
it, launched a Topol-M missile, increased the military budget, argued with
NATO in Brussels - all on Wednesday, December 9. On the same day, the U.S.
performed a subcritical nuclear test at the Nevada test site.
- The U.S. performed a subcritical nuclear test at the Nevada test site
on December 9. The test was echoed later the same day on Novaya Zemlya
in the Arctic, where Russia conducted a similar test, calling theirs a
'hydrodynamic experiment'. The U.S. will perform its next subcritical test
later this winter. Russian officials have announced plans for more 'hydrodynamic
experiments' in 1999.
- "We have been performing hydrodynamic experiments since 1995,"
said Yuri Bespalko, press secretary of the Russian nuclear minister, to
BellonaWeb. "The fact that the U.S. performed its experiment on the
same day is just a coincidence," added Bespalko.
- The hydrodynamic experiments (or subcritical experiments) contain the
ingredients of a nuclear bomb, but fizzle out without any thermonuclear
blast and are not (supposed to be) accompanied by radioactive emissions.The
tests are used for both improving old warheads and for developing new nuclear
devices. These experiments do not violate the Test Ban Treaty, signed both
by Russia and the U.S.
- START-II law drafted
- The Duma's Committee for International Affairs drafted a law on ratification
of the START-II agreement with earlier contributed amendments onWednesday
this week. Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, yesterday promised
to the U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright in Brussels, that the
agreement would be ratified in December. But the issue is still not even
in the Duma's official agenda for December. Also yesterday, a delegation
of high-ranking American officials, headed by the U.S. Deputy Secretary
of State Strobe Talbott, arrived in Moscow for START talks.
- On the other hand, the desperate communists and nationalists occupying
the Lower House of the Russian parliament do not comprehend the advantages
of the START agreements. Those benefits, however, have been recognised
both by the government and the military.
- START-II benefits
- START-II may be more beneficial for Russia than for the U.S., both
military and economically.
- "The state in its present condition does not have the means to
maintain the present quantitative level of several thousand warheads,"
said Yuri Maslyukov, the communist deputy prime minister at one of the
press-conferences this autumn, when arguing for the ratification of the
START-II treaty by the Russian State Duma. "The maximum we can hope
for is a level of several hundred nuclear warheads by around 2007 to 2010,"
- According to Maslyukov, the government and the Duma should agree on
a program that from 2000 would add at least 35-45 modern Topol-M missiles
each year to Russia's armoury and bring into service several new fourth
generation Borey-class strategic nuclear-powered submarines. The former
is already close to implementation. The Russian military announced onWednesday
that it had successfully test-launched one of its Topol-M ballistic missiles,
reported Reuters. Shortly afterwards, the cash-strapped Russian military
were promised increased military spending in 1999. Supposedly, it will
now be 3.1 percent of the gross domestic product, compared with the 2.5
percent envisaged in an earlier draft.
- Judging by Maslyukov's statements, his idea is to get rid of the old
nuclear stocks while investing money in the development of more sophisticated
weaponry like Topol-M missiles. The funds to dismantle the ageing stocks
will come from the U.S., given START-II ratification by the Russian State
- "If START-II is ratified by the Duma (...) the increased number
of weapons (...) would create an additional challenge. So we need to increase
our efforts and not hobble them and cut them back," said Senator Carl
Levin, after touring Ukraine and Russia in November together with Senator
Richard Lugar, co-founder of the Co-operative Threat Reduction Programme.
The programme has provided over $2 billion to the former Soviet states
since 1991, to cope with the dismantlement of their ageing nuclear arsenals.
The senators stressed that the premise for an increased funding is ratification
of the START-II arms reduction treaty.
- START treaties - a way to sophisticated nuclear weaponry
- "The hydrodynamic experiment performed on Novaya Zemlya bore no
purpose of upgrading our nuclear devices," stressed Yuri Bespalov,
press secretary of the Russian nuclear minister. "Such experiments
are used to verify the condition of the old weaponry stocks," he added.
- That statement is quite dubious. Russia and the U.S. are working togethe
rat improving their nuclear stocks, being, at the same time, in full compliance
with the requirements of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. If everything
goes smoothly, The two countries will reduce their stocks by 2000-2500
nuclear warheads by the year 2007. Provided the implementation of START-III,
the stocks will be reduced to a few hundreds for each country. Those few
hundreds will not have a quantitative, but a qualitative value. Who needs
those enormous stocks of outdated nuclear weaponry, which in addition may
fall into the wrong hands in Russia?
- This development threatens the ratification by all countries of the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Those on their way to create nuclear weaponry
and watching the two big nuclear powers completing their nuclear programs
while shielded by arms reduction treaties and signatures undert he Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty, may consider intensifying their programs.
- Click here for the
Bellona Foundation's Web site, BellonaWeb.
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