Russia creating new nuclear
White House says Bush knew about it
BY MIKE ECKEL; The Associated Press: Nov. 18, 2004
MOSCOW - Russia is developing a new nuclear missile system
unlike any weapon held by other countries, President Vladimir Putin
said yesterday, a move that could serve as a signal to the United
States as Washington pushes forward with a missile defense system.
Putin gave no details about the system or why Russia was
pursuing it, and it was unclear whether the Kremlin's cash-strapped
armed forces could even afford an expensive new weapon.
But in remarks that could also be aimed at a domestic audience,
he told a meeting of the top leadership of the armed forces that the
system could be deployed soon, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
"We are not only conducting research and successful tests on
state of-the-art nuclear missile systems, but I am convinced that these
systems will appear in the near future," Putin said. "Moreover, they
will be systems, weapons that not a single other nuclear power has, or
will have, in the near future.
"We'll continue our efforts to build our armed forces and its
nuclear component," he said.
ITAR-Tass indicated the new system could be a mobile version of
the Topol-M ballistic missile, which have been deployed in silos since
1998. But Alexander Pikayev, a senior military analyst with Moscow's
Institute for Global Economy and International Relations, said Putin
seemed to be referring to the Bulava intercontinental ballistic
missile, a solidfuel missile that had its first test in September.
"Putin apparently wanted to boast the success of his military
reform effort ... to both the military public," Pikayev told The
Associated Press. "His statement also intended to show that Russia is
regaining its status as a great power, which can't be ignored."
Russian officials had stated earlier that the Bulava could be
developed in both sea and land based versions and equipped with
warheads capable of penetrating missile defense, Pikayev said.
He said if the Bulava proves capable, it would represent a major
success because it would show that Russia has succeeded in modernizing
its missile forces despite the shortage of funds.
"It will ring the bell for the Americans, forcing Washington to
reassess its estimates," Pikayev said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it wasn't news to the
Bush administration, and that President Bush and Putin had discussed
the issue previously. He emphasized there were agreements in place to
reduce the two countries' nuclear arsenals and noted Moscow is a
partner in the war on terrorism.
McClellan suggested that close ties between Bush and Putin makes
alarm unnecessary, but doesn't eliminate Washington's concern.
"We have a very different relationship than we did in the Cold
War," he said. "The fact that we do have a good relationship enables us
to speak very directly to our Russian friends."
Christopher Langton, head of defense analysis at London's
International Institute for Strategic Studies, said it appeared to be
the first time that Russian officials had spoken publicly about a new
deterrent, though he has no idea what the system might be.
"He said it was, firstly, unique and, secondly, capable of
defeating any space-based defense system, which is clearly putting the
spotlight on the anti-missile of the United States," Langton said.
Military reform is a high priority for Putin, Langton noted,
adding that Russia's conventional forces have proved difficult to
improve. Missile forces, however, serve as a deterrent simply by their
existence, he said.
"He is sending a very clear message that Russia is not going to
be rolled over by the United States or NATO," he said.
A doctrine Putin signed in 2001 makes it easier for Russia's
leaders to use nuclear weapons to oppose any attack.