Meeting in Brussels, NATO defense ministers yesterday called on Russia to complete the reductions of tactical nuclear weapons it had promised in 1991 and 1992. The ministers were meeting as the Nuclear Planning Group, which does not include France. They also urged Russia to make "additional significant reductions" in its tactical nuclear weapons stockpile once the earlier rounds of cuts had been completed. (NATO Communique, December 17) In October 1991, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had pledged that Russia would destroy one-half of its nuclear warheads for surface-to-air missiles and tactical aircraft bombs by 1996, one-half of its naval tactical nuclear weapons by 1995, and all nuclear artillery shells by 2000. Yeltsin made similar pledges in January 1992. In September of this year, U.S. defense secretary William Perry complained that Russia was dragging its feet in destroying these weapons. (Associated Press, September 22. See Monitor, September 23)
While some Russian military leaders and politicians have suggested that Russia might aim its strategic missiles at Eastern and Central European countries that join NATO, these weapons are hardly suitable for such a role. Tactical nuclear weapons are another matter, and this could explain Moscow’s apparent reticence to make deep cuts in this category of weaponry before its relations with NATO are clarified.
The NATO ministers also urged Russia to ratify the START II treaty. Here they got an unexpected ally. The previous day Army General Igor Sergeev, commander-in-chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF), threw his considerable weight behind the treaty. "We believe that Russia needs START II," he said, "because this document builds a balance of strategic nuclear forces." (Interfax, December 16) Many Russians have balked at some of the treaty’s provisions, particularly the one that would eventually ban all land-based multiple-warhead strategic missiles. They feel that Russia has an advantage in this category and it would be prohibitively expensive to replace them with single-warhead missiles.
Kremlin Denies Yeltsin’s Daughter Will Get Official Post.