Nuclear weapons figured heavily in yesterday’s Pentagon news conference by U.S. defense secretary William Cohen and visiting Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov. In response to a question about the recent report that equipment malfunctions had accidentally put Russian nuclear missiles on alert, both men voiced confidence in the ability of the Russian authorities to maintain tight control over their strategic nuclear weapons. Rodionov said that he "had never heard anything" about the accidental alerts and that he monitors the safety of Russia’s nuclear arsenal "24 hours a day." Secretary Cohen said that after discussing the matter with the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command and others he believed that Russian strategic nuclear forces were "under secure control."
Rodionov admitted that when he was the commandant of the Russian General Staff Academy he had had some misgivings about the START II treaty. But he said that subsequently he had "removed all doubts about this issue" and described himself now as "a great supporter of the START II treaty" who is doing "everything possible to convince our legislators to ratify this document."
Rodionov and Cohen also announced that the Lockheed/Martin company has been given a $52.4 million contract to build a facility in Russia to eliminate rocket motor cases and missile canisters from 410 intercontinental ballistic missiles that are being decommissioned under START I. Cohen stressed that the facility — funded by the U.S. government — would be built and operated by Russian workers. (DoD News Briefing, May 13)
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