The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has apparently concluded that they already are. It is also concerned that there are serious problems with the command and control of Russian nuclear weapons and that an unauthorized launch of a strategic nuclear missile is not impossible. This alarming finding is contained in a top-secret study — published last month and entitled "Prospects for Unsanctioned Use of Russian Nuclear Weapons" — obtained by the Washington Times. According to the newspaper, the study found that Strategic Rocket Force (SRF) units, as well as strategic submarine commanders, have the technical ability to launch their missiles without authorization from higher military or political authorities. The study reportedly warned of conspiracies within nuclear-armed units to commit nuclear blackmail as the Russian military is pummeled by housing shortages, loss of benefits, and withheld pay. Indicating Russian concerns about unauthorized missile firings, the report says that the SRF has even established a new procedure for units to report improper missile launches. (Washington Times, October 22)
While President Clinton and other administration officials have made much of the fact that Russian missiles are no longer aimed at American targets, a former U.S. missile launch officer recently revealed that these changes were merely symbolic. Writing in the Washington Post earlier this month, Bruce Blair said that the computer banks in the Russian missiles still retain their former American targets and they could be retargeted from their present "zero flight plan" in 10 seconds. U.S. missiles, he said, could be retargeted for Russian destinations just as quickly. (Washington Post, October 15)
While not denying the accuracy of the leaked report, Clinton Administration officials are downplaying the revelations. Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said the U.S. believed that the Russians have "taken prudent steps to keep the [nuclear] forces safe and secure." However, the report will provide more ammunition to those supporting a national anti-ballistic missile system, the very thing the Russians say will restart a nuclear arms race. (Voice of America, October 22)
Lebed Expected to Run for Governor of Tula Oblast.