A Superpower's Final Attribute:
New-Generation Missiles Will Go on Alert Status Before Year's End

Moscow Interfaks-AiF, 10-16 Mar 97 No 10, pp 1-2
Interview with General of the Army Igor Sergeyev, CINC Strategic Missile Troops, by Vitaliy Dzhibuti

In arguing over Army reform, politicians invariably agree on one thing: on preserving the Strategic Nuclear Forces, which Russia received as an inheritance from the USSR, as the main guarantor of the state's stability and security. One can speak only theoretically about the capabilities of nuclear weapons inasmuch as this branch never has taken part in combat operations and, God willing, never will. The security not only of the country, but of the world as well, depends on the status of the "nuclear shield." It was not without reason that the President charged Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin with inspecting the Strategic Missile Troops Central Command Post after Minister of Defense Igor Rodionov stated that command and control of the nuclear forces can get out of control. It was not a random choice; the Strategic Missile Troops grouping today is the most important subunit of the Strategic Nuclear Forces. It has around 60 percent of delivery vehicles and weapons, but under certain conditions it performs up to 90 percent of all Strategic Nuclear Forces missions. Chernomyrdin seemed to be satisfied with what he had occasion to see, but at that time all details of the visit remained behind tightly closed doors. Today the CINC, General of the Army Igor Sergeyev, tells Interfaks-AiF readers about the status and prospects of the Strategic Missile Troops.

[I-AiF] To what extent are the Strategic Missile Troops capable of ensuring the country's security today? Is it possible to regard the absence of rejection of first use of nuclear weapons in our military doctrine as Russia's readiness to deliver a strike unconditionally against an enemy?

[Sergeyev] Military doctrine clearly explains the instances in which Russia can employ its nuclear weapons. It also indicates there that the Strategic Nuclear Forces, including the Strategic Missile Troops, are a means of deterring an aggressor against initiating war against the Russian Federation, and we are performing this mission. In today's restless world there is the danger of any conventional war escalating into a nuclear conflict or large-scale nuclear war, especially when opposing sides' supreme national interests are at stake. Therefore, to rephrase the familiar saying, the "guns" must be "silent" so "missiles do not speak."

If all issues and contradictions, no matter what their nature (territorial, national, economic, religious), are resolved in a peaceful way, the risk of a nuclear conflict will be reduced to zero.

The capability of the Strategic Missile Troops to ensure the country's security is guaranteed by missilemen's constant combat readiness. Meanwhile, the latter is becoming more and more difficult to maintain. Difficulties are accumulating and demand resolution already today.

[I-AiF] The problem of nuclear safety worries Russians as well as the entire world community. Is the monitoring of safety during the operation, maintenance, transportation and storage of nuclear missile weapons reliable in the Missile Troops?

[Sergeyev] Nuclear safety has been ensured in the Strategic Missile Troops and is being ensured today by a large number of organizational and technical measures in all stages, beginning with development of the weapons and ending with their recycling. Their effectiveness has been confirmed by the more than 37 years of accident-free operation of the nuclear arsenal.

It can be noted that the peak in taking measures of increased danger with nuclear weapons has passed. It was connected with the fact that time periods for removing the Strategic Missile Troops grouping from Commonwealth states was shortened by almost 2.5 times, and more than 2,000 nuclear weapons, around 20,000 tonnes of missile fuel components and over 600 trainloads of equipment were removed to Russia in a short period of time.

At the same time, the difficulties being experienced by the entire Army also are inherent to the Strategic Missile Troops. They are linked above all with reduced production and increased time periods for repair of armament and equipment, with a decrease in the quantity of spare parts and with a shortage of POL.

But these problems are not determining. I declare responsibly that nuclear safety is ensured in the Strategic Missile Troops as of the given moment and in the near term.

[I-AiF] The START II Treaty envisages a radical reduction of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces. It is no secret that some of our experts assess it as disadvantageous for Russia. What is your opinion on this matter?

[Sergeyev] One reason for that attitude of some Russian specialists toward the START II Treaty is the presence of certain unfortunate provisions in it which could have been avoided. But an in-depth analysis of the new military- political situation shows that confrontation tension has declined significantly.

In particular, defense expenditures and the numerical strength of armed forces are being reduced not only in Russia, but also in the United States and other NATO countries. Judging from available information, UK and French nuclear arms development plans also are being revised with consideration of the new military-political situation.

With all the range of opinions regarding START II Treaty ratification, everything reduces to one thing & mdash;it has no alternative, and this is the important thing. There are disagreements on approaches to reduction, to deadlines and so on. We cannot fail to take into account that today's situation differs significantly from the conditions under which the Treaty was signed. Therefore demands to extend deadlines for implementing the agreement to 2006-2007 instead of 2003 are being advanced quite correctly. Unconditional compliance with the ABM Treaty must be a mandatory condition for ratification. No other critical comments or objections can be determining in resolving the question of whether or not to ratify the START II Treaty.

[I-AiF] The country's Armed Forces are not experiencing the best of times now. It is also difficult for missilemen. What problems are most acute in the Strategic Missile Troops as of today? [Sergeyev] Above all it is the insufficient quantitative and qualitative manpower acquisition. The Strategic Missile Troops are manned only 86 percent overall. We experience an acute shortage of junior officers.

I am especially troubled by draftees. Thus, 53 percent of those called into the Strategic Missile Troops in 1996 do not have a secondary education, 18.6 percent lack one or both parents, 22 percent were not working or studying anywhere before being called up, and 4.8 percent have had an arrest. More than 600 persons are underweight. The low strength level is felt in the increased load on officers, warrant officer, NCO's and privates, since the Strategic Missile Troops are on alert duty continuously.

There are serious problems with routine servicing, maintenance and repair of armament. The grouping of missile complexes is aging physically and requires increased expenditure of spare assemblies and systems. In this connection we are forced to expend more from previously established reserves than we are capable of replenishing. That process naturally is permissible, but only within limited time frames. The problem of combat training remains acute. The reduced POL deliveries significantly lowered our capabilities. We try to use different methods of personnel training by making wider use of simulators and field training facilities, but it is difficult to compensate fully for the absence of combat training.

The Strategic Missile Troops, like the Russian Armed Forces as a whole, are chronically short of money. Servicemen do not receive pay for 2-3 months. This unquestionably destabilizes the morale and psychological state of personnel, above all those on alert duty.

As the CINC, I am managing the situation to no small extent thanks to the high responsibility of officers and warrant officers, who realize the importance of ensuring the safety and combat readiness of our entrusted weapons, which possess enormous destructive force. We have no right to relax control over them.

[I-AiF] What are the prospects for development of Strategic Missile Troops armament?

[Sergeyev] The Topol and Topol-M missile complexes now are the most promising Strategic Missile Troops grouping. Subsequently only Topol-M of fixed and mobile basing will remain operational. That planning provides a number of substantial advantages.

First of all, complexes now on alert status whose service life comes to an end in a few years will be replaced.

Secondly, we finally will be able to reject multiple types and arrive at one type of missile, which will sharply reduce expenditures for their production and operation. Thirdly, an optimum ratio of fixed and mobile missile complexes will be ensured.

The Topol-M missile complex is the modernized Topol complex, which was created over ten years ago but which has managed to retain fully all the specifications and performance characteristics achieved when it was placed on alert status & mdash;most importantly, reliability. It is a very rare instance in more than just domestic missile building practice that all of the more than 50 training launches of Topol have been completely successful. The modernized Topol-M missile is the first purely Russian single-warhead ICBM. Possessing significantly improved characteristics, it completely fits the existing and future system of START treaties. The missile meets all requirements being placed on the primary weapon of nuclear deterrence under the new conditions, including enhanced capabilities for penetrating an ABM defense.

There are problems with its development rates because of insufficient and uneven financing. Nevertheless, we plan to place the first missiles on alert status already by year's end. It is planned to accommodate Topol-M both on self-propelled launchers as well as in silos. High survivability of the mobile complex is achieved by the capability of offroad movement, of a continuous change in location and of a missile launch from any point along the movement route. It is impossible to pinpoint its location with present means of technical reconnaissance as well as with those being developed.

[I-AiF] The United States does not plan to create new ICBM's. Why are we doing this with the reduction in strategic nuclear arms and the country's difficult situation?

[Sergeyev] Permit me to disagree with the popular opinion that the United States is doing nothing with respect to creating new ICBM's. It is constantly modernizing the Minuteman and MX missile systems which it has in the inventory. We too are doing the very same. Around half of the missiles in the Strategic Missile Troops today are being operated beyond warranty periods. This number will increase by the end of 1997. Therefore we are forced to modernize missile weapons to preserve the grouping's necessary combat potential.