A senior Pentagon official yesterday discounted an article carried by the Washington Times which claimed that Russian strategic missiles had on several occasions recently shifted to "combat mode" because of equipment malfunctions. The article purportedly was based on a classified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report. The senior Defense Department official was giving a "background" brief to journalists and therefore could not be quoted by name. He said that he had never seen "any credible report" from American intelligence agencies which suggested that there was an increased risk of an accidental or unauthorized launch of a Russian missile.
The official also said he was not particularly worried about the provision in Moscow’s new security doctrine which stated that Russia might be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. He pointed out that the U.S. had never believed the comparable Soviet doctrine when it declared a "no first use" policy and said this skepticism had been validated by intelligence gained after the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. Russia’s new declaratory policy, he said, is essentially the same as the long-standing American and NATO policies of "flexible response." (Washington Times, AP, DoD Background Briefing, May 12)
The brouhaha over Russia’s strategic missiles comes on the eve of a three-day visit to the U.S. by Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov. It is Rodionov’s first trip to the U.S., and the Russian defense chief is scheduled to meet today with Defense Secretary William Cohen — their first meeting — and with White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Tomorrow Rodionov will hold talks with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The talks in Washington will reportedly center on Russian-U.S. military cooperation, but NATO enlargement and security issues in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region will also be discussed. Prior to his departure Rodionov repeated Moscow’s contention that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — and not NATO — should be the cornerstone of any European security system. (Reuter, AP, UPI, Itar-Tass, May 12)
Four Countries Concerned by Proposed Revisions to CFE Treaty.