AFPS Article Banner

27241. Russians Still Digging Bunkers

By Linda D. Kozaryn

American Forces Press Service

	WASHINGTON -- Russian workers are still burrowing underground, 

building civil defense bunkers despite the Cold War's end, DoD 

officials said here recently.

	Russian officials have been building various underground 

facilities for some time, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. Started 

by the Soviet Union, the construction program is being continued by 

Russia today, he said. "They have always placed a heavy emphasis on 

civil defense and underground protection."

	U.S. officials do not regard the Russian effort as a threat, 

Bacon said. "Money that's being spent on digging tunnels is not being 

spent on developing new missiles or new offensive capabilities," he 

said. "That's a very important distinction. These are defensive 

measures. We are worried primarily about offensive measures."

	The bunkers are intended to protect Russian leaders, Bacon said. 

"Every country makes decisions about how to defend itself and how to 

defend its leaders." Bacon said. "We have hardened structures to 

protect our leaders in the event of nuclear war, and we also have 

other ways to protect our leaders from nuclear attack by moving them, 

by putting them in the air, etc."

	While the bunkers are reminiscent of an age past, Bacon said, 

reduction of Russia's nuclear arsenal is a sign of the post-Cold War 

era's new relations and developing cooperation. "They are moving 

forward with their weapons destruction as required under START I, and 

we fully anticipate they will under START II after the Duma [Russian 

parliament] ratifies it," he said. "Just in recent weeks they've 

destroyed 19 submarine-launched ballistic missiles."

	Under the terms of the first strategic arms reduction talks, the 

United States and Russians agreed to reduce the number of nuclear 

weapons in their arsenals to 6,000. START II, once ratified, will 

further reduce the inventory to between 3,000 and 3,500. START III 

would bring arsenals down to between 2,000 and 2,500.

	"This will be a reduction of about 80 percent in a 10- to 15-year 

period," Bacon said. "This is an extraordinary development."

	While both sides maintain extensive nuclear forces, Bacon said, 

they're trying to limit and contain them as much as possible. In an 

effort to build stability and confidence, both nations have agreed to 

stop targeting each other with strategic nuclear weapons, Bacon said. 

"We no longer have the hair trigger that we lived with for decades 

under the Cold War."