Military technology starred in the Victory Day parade on Red Square for the first time in ages. The Russian Army’s mightiest weaponry was also on display — nuclear arms.
Various statements have been made by politicians, generals and military experts describing the state of nuclear arms in Russia. Some specialists say that Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal is being renewed and growing stronger. Others say that that’s just cheap PR. As a result, the average Russian doesn’t know much about how the situation actually stands.
KP decided to shed some light on the issue and spoke with candidate of Military Sciences Colonel Mikhail Polezhaev. Polezhaev worked for many years at elite design bureaus and scientific research institutes. He also served in the top secret Central Directorate of the Joint Staff. On numerous occasions, Polezhaev prepared reports for Russia’s leaders and the Defense Ministry. KP military columnist Viktor Baranets spoke with Polezhaev.
One hit and Russia is gone?
KP: An article appeared recently in a U.S. publication stating that the U.S. could wipe Russia off the face of the Earth with one strike. The authors also said that Russia’s nuclear arms wouldn’t have time to respond.
Polezhaev: I actually read that article by Lieber and Press. Both are university teachers. Here it is: “The U.S. Nuclear Primacy.” I even underlined a bit: “Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the U.S. stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the U.S. to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike.” What can I say? It’s a nice article. The U.S. is just confident that its nuclear arms are superior.
KP: And so this confidence has tempted the U.S. to “choke” Russia morally via its increasing missile power?
Polezhaev: Of course. They’re also trying to depreciate our missile potential with their anti-missile shield. Have any doubts? Former U.S. Defense Minister Casper Weinburg said: “If we establish an effective anti-missile shield, we’ll render Soviet arms useless and return to a situation similar to post-1945 when we were the only country with nuclear arms.”
KP: Could this American dream really see fruition in our lifetime?
Polezhaev: Yes. If Russia’s missile arsenal continues to decrease until only 200 missiles can be launched in a counter attack.
Polezhaev: That’s the number of missile the U.S. continental anti-missile shield can repulse at one time. The full-scale four-country anti-missile shield (Alaska, California, England, Czech Republic, Poland) that composes not only missiles, radars and ships, but also satellites and lasers, should protect the U.S. from 500 attacking warheads.
KP: But we have TMA missiles…
Polezhaev: Yes. Over 500 at the moment.
KP: How many exactly if it’s not a secret?
Polezhaev: We have 702 strategic missiles in our arsenal that can carry 3,155 nuclear warheads.
Gaping holes as big as France
KP: Is it really possible that all our armada wouldn’t be able to squash the U.S. in the event of a war?
Polezhaev: According to their current defense minister, “unacceptable damage” to the U.S. is the destruction of 20 cities with a population of over half a million. Our Voevod missiles can handle that task. But the goal of the U.S. is to prevent these missiles from taking off.
KP: How could this be possible?
Polezhaev: Strategic U.S. facilities forsee the sudden use of military power. Preference is given to applying non-nuclear force. The U.S. has 48 ship carriers with 1,484 cruise missiles and 92 bombers with 736 guided air missiles.
KP: But we have anti-aircraft defense…
Polezhaev: The country’s anti-aircraft defense has long been superfluous. It has gaping holes that a European country the size of France could fly through let alone a bomber. Not all the missile divisions of the Strategic Rocket Forces of Russia (RVSN) are covered, and many cities aren’t protected from air strikes.
KP: But regardless, what’s the guarantee that all the U.S. missiles will hit their targets?
Polezhaev: Today, the precision of U.S. cruise and guided missiles is about 1-2 meters. The diameter of the blast doors on our missile silos is 6 meters. So it’s difficult to say how many of our 255 Topol missiles will be able to launch — 100, 50, 10?
Russia and the U.S. have the might to destroy the world
KP: Is it really possible that nothing will be able to reach the U.S.?
Polezhaev: Let’s talk about the worst-case scenario — an unexpected nuclear attack by the U.S. Of course, this is theoretical. Let’s say the attack leads to the destruction of 90 percent of our silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Our lightly sheltered Topol missiles and the long-range jets and atomic submarines at our bases may also be destroyed. So we’ll have 15-25 silo-based ICBMs, up to 20 missiles on our submarines and no more than 80 air-based cruise missiles. This may suffice to ensure that unacceptable damage is done to the aggressor. Of course, these are only calculations. But a nuclear war isn’t a computer game. The figures may come out differently.
KP: How precise do out ICBMs fall?
Polezhaev: The maximum accuracy of the Sotka is 920 meters; the Voevod — 500 meters; and the Topol-M — 200 meters.
KP: And our strategic nuclear land-attack arms? How do they differ from their Soviet analogues?
Polezhaev: In the Soviet era, the RVSN had 5 missile armies. Today only three remain. We had 1,398 ICBMs with 6,612 warheads. Today, we have 430 and 1,605, respectively. This decrease is continuing. In 2010, we will have two armies consisting of 10-12 divisions in the RVSN. That’s approximately 350 missiles and 1,200 warheads.
KP: What’s the reason for the constant decrease in our nuclear potential?
Polezhaev: It seems like a lack of desire to spend money — 1,200 warheads are enough for mutual containment. The issue at hand is observing circumstances backed by agreements. Today, Russia and the U.S. have enough force to destroy the world.
We’re destroying our missiles. They’re hiding theirs in storage
KP: What’s the current situation in terms of U.S. nuclear power?
Polezhaev: The U.S. has 500 Minutemen ICBMs, 18 atomic submarines with 432 missiles and over 240 heavy strategic bombers. Overall, they have 1,200 nuclear-arms carriers and almost 6,000 warheads. The U.S. believes that by 2015 they will have 1,700-2,200 nuclear warheads on strategic carriers. These are the figures set forth in the Treaty Between the U.S. and Russian Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT). But the U.S. is being tricky. They aren’t destroying their warheads like we are. Instead they’re sending them to storage. They could recall them any second. It’s called “recall potential.”
KP: So why isn’t this considered an infringement of the agreement?
Polezhaev: What can I say if former U.S. Defense Minister Donald Rumsfield stated openly that the U.S. doesn’t intend to discuss any procedures for inspecting how the agreement is being executed with their Russian partners. READ MORE