Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 186

In a coordinated exercise held last week to end the "Redut-96" test of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, the country’s Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF), long-range Air Force, and Navy all launched strategic nuclear missiles. The SRF fired a "Topol" SS-25 ICBM from the Plesetsk test site under the personnel supervision of its chief, Gen. Igor Sergeyev. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was at the Air Force control center when Air Force crews fired two cruise missiles — one from a Tu-160 "Blackjack" supersonic bomber and the other from an older Tu-95 MS "Bear" turboprop. (Russian television noted that the pilots of these planes had not been paid in 3 months but were happy to be taking part in such a prestigious event.) And in the Northern Fleet, a nuclear submarine launched a ballistic missile from the Barents Sea to a target area in the Russian Far East.

At a time when the Russian military is in such a sorry state, the nuclear forces are all the more important. They are seen as the guarantors of Russia’s security while the painful reform of the conventional forces takes place. Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that Aleksandr Lebed was scheduled to visit the central command post of the SRF later this month, and speculated that he might even press the button to launch a "Topol" missile on another test. The paper also touted Sergeyev to be the next chief of staff, replacing Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov-reportedly not on close terms with either Rodionov or Lebed. (Itar-Tass October 3 & 4, RTV October 4, Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 5 1996)