- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

Russia has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use and increased its reliance on battlefield nuclear arms and hidden stocks of germs and poison gas to compensate for its declining army, the Pentagon said yesterday.
China, meanwhile, is building two road-mobile intercontinental missiles and a new submarine missile for an arsenal of more than 100 warheads. Beijing's military will soon field a new air-launched land-attack cruise missile being built with Russian assistance, the Pentagon stated in a report on arms proliferation.
North Korea is also working on long-range missiles, including a missile called the Taepo Dong 2 capable of reaching all of the United States with a warhead weighing several hundred pounds.
Details of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and missile threats are contained in a 187-page report made public yesterday called "Proliferation Threat and Response." It updates an 1997 report with the same title.
On Russia's nuclear forces, the report said that "Russia has thousands of tactical nuclear warheads that it is unlikely to dismantle soon and that are not subject to current arms control agreements."
"Recent Russian public statements about their willingness to use nuclear weapons indicate that Russia's threshold for the use of these weapons is lower, due to the decline of … its conventional forces," the report said.
The report made no mention of intelligence reports indicating Moscow recently moved tactical nuclear weapons into Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea some 250 miles from Russia proper.
According to the report, Russia returned all tactical nuclear weapons deployed outside its territory to Russia in 1992, after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. It is not clear whether Kaliningrad, which is technically Russian territory, was included in the tactical arms withdrawal.
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said last week that any transfer of tactical nuclear arms to Kaliningrad would violate Moscow's promise to keep the Baltics "nuclear-free."
Disclosure of the tactical nuclear weapons transfers, first reported in The Washington Times Jan. 3, prompted calls by the Polish government for arms inspections. Russia's government denied having any nuclear arms in the enclave, located between Poland and Lithuania, and insists it is abiding by a pledge to keep Eastern Europe free of nuclear arms.
Because of conventional-force problems, "tactical nuclear weapons will remain a viable component of its general purpose forces for at least the next decade," the report said.
"Russia likely believes that maintaining tactical nuclear forces is a less expensive way to compensate for its current problems in maintaining conventional force capabilities," the report said.
The tactical nuclear forces include short-range missiles, artillery, air-delivered bombs, torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, it said.
President Vladimir Putin stated in January that the threshold for nuclear weapons use had been lowered. Mr. Putin said Russia would use "all forces and means, including nuclear weapons, if necessary to repel armed aggression," if other means fail.
A recent Russian military exercise used the scenario of a NATO attack on Kaliningrad and led exercising forces to resort to mock nuclear attacks on the Europe and the United States.
The Pentagon report also said there are "serious questions" about whether Russia secretly retained offensive biological and chemical weapons, in violation of arms treaties.
"At the same time [it is a signatory to treaties], Russian military leaders may view the retention of at least some of these capabilities as desirable, given the decline in Russia's conventional forces," the report said.
The report describes China as "one of the few countries that can threaten the continental United States."
"China is qualitatively improving its nuclear arsenal through a modernization program and by 2015, China likely will have tens of missiles capable of reaching the United States," the report said.
China's current arsenal of more than 100 warheads is being modernized to increase "the size, accuracy and survivability of its nuclear missile force." Currently about 20 aging CSS-4 missiles can hit the United States, it said.
"Some of its ongoing missile modernization programs likely will increase in the number of Chinese warheads aimed at the United States," the report said.
That statement contradicts the announcement of Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1998 that China no longer targets its long-range nuclear missiles on U.S. cities. The pledge was made during a summit in Beijing with President Clinton, who also has declared in speeches that no nuclear missiles are pointed at the United States.
If the United States deploys a national missile-defense system, China may change the pace of its nuclear buildup, the report said, noting that "the ultimate extent of China's strategic modernization remains unknown."
China also has "some biological and chemical warfare capabilities" in violation of its commitments to international agreements banning the arms.
Russia, too, is continuing to modernize its nuclear weapons force with deployment of new road-mobile SS-27 intercontinental ballistic missiles and a new generation of submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
North Korea allowed inspections of a suspect underground nuclear facility in 1999. However, the report stated that "concerns remain over [a] possible covert nuclear weapons effort." Pyongyang also is continuing development of the Taepo Dong-2 and "remains capable of conducting [a] test" of the long-range missile.
The report also warned of transitional threats of terrorism, including the possible use of chemical or biological weapons against the United States, including attacks on crops and livestock.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen warned in a speech yesterday that Russia may not make the transition to democracy and free markets and could revert to its past role as a global threat.
"I think there's cause for concern with the continued deterioration in Russian conventional and strategic forces," Mr. Cohen said at a National Press Club luncheon.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide