Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 184

Not unexpectedly, Russian officials yesterday renewed their sharp criticism of U.S. missile defense plans following the successful test this past weekend of a prototype U.S. antiballistic missile weapon. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin charged that the October 2 test itself puts the United States in violation of the 1972 ABM Treaty. He also reiterated Russian insistence on the continued observance and even “upgrading” of the ABM accord “as the most important element of ensuring strategic stability in the world and continuing the nuclear disarmament process” (AP, Russian agencies, October 5).

Especially sharp criticism of U.S. missile defense plans also came from the Russian defense establishment in the person of Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Strategic Missile Forces. Yakovlev warned that a withdrawal from the ABM Treaty by the United States would “bring down the entire system of strategic stability in the world.” He also said that “all [strategic arms] agreements which have been signed or being prepared will come under threat–namely, START I, START II and consultations on START III.” In the same vein, he warned that “we will fully withdraw from all inspection measures and will not let anyone close to our arms. Russia will not know what is going on in the United States. Americans will not know what is going on in Russia.”

In addition, Yakovlev threatened that Moscow would take a number of military countermeasures in the event that Washington opts out of the ABM accord. Without specifying, he said that “two dozen such measures are under consideration, which Russia can put into practice without significantly increasing expenditures.” Those apparently include possible modifications to Russia’s new-generation Topol-M ballistic missile, which Russian experts have suggested can be easily adapted to increase its survivability against missile defense systems (AP, Russian agencies, October 5). Yakovlev is a protege of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev (who preceded Yakovlev as rocket forces commander), and has generally kept a low profile in the Russian debate over U.S. missile defense plans. His sharp comments this week suggest a new urgency in Russian efforts to halt the U.S. march toward deployment of a limited national ballistic missile defense system.