US and Russia To Talk Nukes Despite Only "Virtual" Cuts
Moscow (AFP) Jan 10, 2002
Arms reduction talks between Russia and the United States are to take place in Washington on January 15-16, the US ambassador in Moscow said on Thursday.
The main thrust of the talks, the first since the United States decided to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty forged with the Soviet Union, was laid out by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Brussels in mid-December.
Russian officials said the talks were likely to tackle the scale of reductions, timing, the kind of weapons under scrutiny and how best to regulate the whole process.
President Vladimir Putin has maintained that Russia will reduce its number of nuclear warheads to around 1,500 in spite of Washington's decision to abandon the ABM treaty.
In November last year US President George W Bush indicated the United States was prepared to cut its warhead numbers.
On Wednesday, Washington said it wanted to keep some of those warheads in reserve.
Russia is keen that parameters for the reduction of strategic arsenals be included in a new treaty between the two countries, something the United States has appeared to oppose.
However, some of the US nuclear weapons President George W. Bush promised his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would be dismantled, will in fact be held in reserve and not destroyed, the White House said Wednesday.
"Some will be removed from operations status and earmarked for destruction, others will be placed in retirement status for eventual destruction and still others will be maintained in a non-deployment status as a hedge against unforeseen technical international events," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
In November, Bush told Putin the United States would reduce its nuclear arsenal from about 6,000 warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next 10 years. The Russians, who plan parallel reductions, want the cuts set out in formal treaties with enforcement mechanisms.
But in outlining a new nuclear strategy Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of Defense JD Crouch said the administration had not yet determined how many of the nuclear warheads slated for decommissioning under Bush's plan would be destroyed, and how many would be stored and available for redeployment.
Crouch said an as yet undetermined number of the warheads will remain in the active stockpile after being removed from launchers.
This "responsive capability" would give the Pentagon the ability to beef up the deployed force "in a way where over weeks, months and even years that we could respond to changes," he said,
"At this point, no decisions have been made exactly on the character of that responsive force. And, as I said, there will be ongoing assessments on that and that number itself will probably change over time," he said.
The administration has said it will eliminate its 50 Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles and convert four Trident ballistic missile submarines into platforms for cruise missiles. It also intends to adhere to START I counting rules.
But Crouch indicated that decisions on how and even whether to bring down the arsenal below 6,000 warheads to the 2,200 to 1,700 range will be made and reviewed at regular intervals.
As an additional hedge, the administration will refurbish its nuclear weapons production infrastructure and take steps to accelerate US readiness to conduct nuclear tests.
"At this point there are no recommendations in the report about developing new nuclear weapons," Crouch said.
"Now, we are trying to look at a number of initiatives. One would be to modify an existing weapon to give it greater capability against hard targets and deeply buried targets. And we're also looking at non-nuclear ways that we might be able to deal with those problems," he said.
The new strategy came under fire from arms control advocates.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, told The Washington Post: "If the reduced nuclear weapons are kept intact and available for redeployment, it makes a mockery of the reductions."
Joseph Cirincione, another non-proliferation expert, said the new policy "will encourage Russians to stockpile as well, which is very dangerous."
"This is a failed review," said Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think-tank.
Disarmament advocates are also worried that the United States could resume nuclear tests, noting that in 2000 the Senate threw out the treaty banning such tests, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Although Fleischer insisted the Bush administration for the time being would stick to a non-testing policy, he did not rule out the possibility of future tests.
"The president has said that he will continue to adhere to the no testing policy. That could change in the future," he said.
"We never rule out the possible need to test to make certain that the stockpile, particularly as it is reduced, is reliable and safe."
Bush said Tuesday he wanted to maintain the moratorium on testing announced by his father, then-president George Bush, in 1992.
Moscow backs Washington on moratorium for nuclear tests
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India: War May Be On The Horizon
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 11, 2002
India's army chief Friday warned Pakistan against any nuclear strike, vowing maximum retaliation against any such move by Islamabad. "The perpetrator of that particular outrage shall be punished, shall be punished so severely that the continuation of any form of fray will be doubtful," General S. Padmanabhan told reporters. "We are ready for a second strike," he said. "Take it from me that we have enough." He noted that Pakistan had avoided following India which has pledged not to be the first to launch a nuclear strike.
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