Russia’s Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office announced yesterday that it had begun to investigate the way arms and explosives are guarded by the military. More than 150 inspectors were involved in the effort. The inspections were sparked by the recent explosion of a Navy mine depot in Vladivostok. Accounts of that incident have indicated that much more than lax security was involved. In fact, it appears that the military depot had been turned into a veritable arms bazaar where any of the Pacific Fleet’s mines and torpedoes, or their parts, could be purchased. Sailors ostensibly posted to guard the depot had instead been building a sauna at the base for a local admiral. (Russian media, November 14, 17)
The many recent indications of extraordinarily lax security in the guarding of conventional weaponry in Russia, together with widespread reports of corruption in the armed forces, can only raise anew serious questions about the country’s ability to safeguard its nuclear weapons arsenal. Despite repeated official assurances that the weapons are secure, it is worth noting that the profit to be made from selling just one nuclear weapon would dwarf the returns available from the current efforts to strip and sell precious metals from mines and missiles.
Yeltsin and Kuchma Meet Informally Near Moscow.