Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 165

Retired Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed has charged that the Russian military is unable to account for as many as 100 of the 250 "suitcase" nuclear bombs once in the Soviet inventory. Russian and U.S. authorities were quick to downplay Lebed’s claim. Gen. Yevgeny Maslin, chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s 12th Main Directorate, which oversees the security of nuclear weapons, insisted that "all nuclear warheads of the former Soviet Union are kept at secure places under secure conditions on Russian territory." U.S. State Department spokesman James Foley said the U.S. government did not give Lebed’s charges "a lot of credibility" and believed the Russian assurances that there is no cause for concern.

Many people in the days to come are probably going to demand more than such bland assurances, since the weapons Lebed was talking about are the most appropriate ones to play a roll in a nightmare nuclear terrorist scenario. In military terms, they are called Atomic Demolition Munitions (ADMs) and are often referred to as "nuclear landmines." Few details have been made public of the Russian versions, other than the fact that they have them. In October, 1991, then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pledged to destroy all the Soviet inventory of these weapons by 1998, but there has subsequently been little information on the weapons themselves or their elimination.

Most experts feel that the Russian ADMs are similar to their American counterparts. The smaller of the two U.S. versions weighed some 150 lb. and had a nuclear yield of less than 1 kiloton. While hardly something that could be concealed in an attache case, it was man-portable. The larger version — which had a yield of up to 15 kilotons — weighed some 400 pounds. In addition to their relatively small size, the most worrisome thing about the Russian ADMs is that they probably lack any sort of sophisticated device that would prevent their unauthorized use. (Russian and Western media, September 4-5)

New Head of Russian Antimonopoly Committee Appointed.