Chernomyrdin Praises Missile Troops at News ConferenceInterfax 21 Feb 97 MOSCOW, Feb 21 (Interfax) -- The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces is capable of effectively carrying out its assignments, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the press after visiting the force headquarters in Odintsovo, west of Moscow, Friday. He congratulated Rocket Forces servicemen as well as the entire personnel of the Armed Forces on the upcoming day dedicated to Defenders of the Fatherland, and urged the Rocket Forces to "uphold combat readiness at the same high level." According to Chernomyrdin, an inspection ending at the forces' headquarters proved it is functioning "normally." The Rocket Forces military council was held during his visit. Chernomyrdin was also shown the central command post, which demonstrated several training and combat missions. Earlier President Boris Yeltsin instructed Chernomyrdin to personally check the efficient operation of strategic missile combat control systems. The prime minister told the press though that Rocket Forces face "major problems requiring solution. But what is more important -- they are solvable." Among them he named the need to develop new equipment capable of maintaining the high combat readiness of the forces and their effective maintenance. He also stressed the necessity of designing new military hardware for the future. Chernomyrdin recognized that "the greatest responsibility and greatest burden" lies on the force. "The country's nuclear shield is in reliable hands." He said the government was especially concerned with maintaining Rocket Forces equipment in acceptable combat condition. This will require solving key financial issues. "This is a case where procrastination is impermissible," he added. According to Chernomyrdin, the Rocket Forces are the most powerful arm of Russia's armed services, capable of independently fulfilling 60-90% of its tasks in combat conditions. The force controls two thirds of the country's strategic missiles and three quarters of the nuclear arsenal. Still it has the smallest personnel of any service, constituting less than 10% of the overall personnel of the armed forces. Only 6-8% of the entire defense budget is spent on its maintenance. It also requires the least spending for all vital stages of armament: design, maintenance and utilization. The Rocket Forces headquarters press center told Interfax Russia plans to form the core of a group of modular strategic missiles on the basis of the current Topol missile complex and its modernized silo-based and mobile version Topol-M. 1.5 trillion rubles are to be spent from the 1997 budget on the development of the Topol-M modular strategic missile complex. THIS REPORT MAY CONTAIN COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. COPYING AND DISSEMINATION IS PROHIBITED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE COPYRIGHT OWNERS.