KP continues to examine Russia’s cutting down on nuclear arms
In the last issue of our weekly, KP compared the nuclear resources of Russia and the U.S. This isn’t the first year the U.S. has called upon the Cold War’s ghost. Such a stance seems to benefit their foreign policy. When the U.S. government claims a lingering threat overseas, their people pay less attention to fly-by-night bombings in Belgrade or Iraq. This year, even the lovable archeologist Indiana Jones was called to the propaganda front. In the series’ fourth film, Indiana Jones fights Russian soldiers and ends up in the epicenter of a nuclear explosion. A census was held after the film was released in the U.S. and 78 percent of respondents said they aren’t against increasing the military budget. Seems like an odd coincidence…
Many analysts assert that U.S. ambitions could lead to a new nuclear standoff. The line of demarcation between the silently warring sides would no longer rest along the Berlin Wall, but rather lay claim to the U.S. anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
What are Russia’s trump cards? KP spoke with Colonel Mikhail Polezhaev to find out.
Our Topol missiles can’t be seen from space
KP: Colonel Polezhaev, the U.S. says they know the locations where our shaft missiles will discharge. Are they bluffing?
Polezhaev: No. They do know the locations of discharge for our silos. But wactually share this information. We also know the locations of discharge of their Minutemen missiles. These aren’t secrets.
KP: And are they watching our missiles from space?
Polezhaev: They can see our missiles from space in good weather. But they need the exact coordinates of a location nearby to target any object from space. Where can you get this information in the steppes or the taiga? So the U.S. may know where our missiles are located, but they’ll definitely have problems if they try to hit our silos on the nose.
KP: Can the U.S. locate our mobile Topol missiles? They’re on the surface, so they shouldn’t be hard to disable in a sudden attack?
Polezhaev: The Topol missile is 22 meters long, 3.5 meters wide and four meters tall. U.S. spy satellites travel over the regions where our Topols are based 2-3 times per day. The observation time is 15 minutes. In recent years, the Topol missile increased its masking ability — not only against optical and radiolocational reconnaissance, but against thermal reconnaissance, as well. So they would need to hunt for the Topol along the patrolling route.
Foreign missiles are more precise
KP: How precise are today’s nuclear missiles compared to the Cold War?
Polezhaev: The U.S. and Soviet first-generation missiles weren’t precise — 1-3 kilometers. As a result, the nuclear weapons were intended for large-scale strikes across entire cities. Today’s U.S. missiles are more precise than ours, that is, judging from available documentation. They have an accuracy of 100-200 meters. We can now use nuclear missiles to destroy highly protected targets like silos. So presently, nuclear weapons are the main arms used to combat nuclear weapons. In the U.S., they’ve even designed a warhead block that is able to penetrate the surface. These missiles don’t explode when hitting the surface, but rather at a depth. Similar designs were developed in Russia for the Voevod missiles. But their development ended after 1991.
Polazhaev: Because the primary developer was the Southern Construction Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk. After the fall of the Soviet Union, these activities were curtailed. Cooperation between manufacturers and enterprises simply fell apart. Of the four missiles in production at the end of 1991, only one was manufactured by a Russian company — the Topol. And ever since, the missile is growing more and more expensive. The price (without warhead) in 2000 was around $3 million. In 2005, the price soared to $5 million. Today, the Topol costs twice as much. Missile manufacturing is also short-circulation, meaning the price has to cover all the manufacturer’s expenses.
Gorbachev did the U.S. a big favor
KP: Why did we destroy our Soviet missiles for nearly 15 years on U.S. money? Did we need to throw them away because of their age?
Polezhaev: To an extent — yes. But the answer isn’t that straightforward. There was clearly a surplus of missiles in the Soviet Union. But huge resources are needed to maintain arms of different ages and models and to keep them ready for war. Enormous finances are also required for ensuring cooperation among manufacturers.
KP: But we could have negotiated pretty well and for a fairly long time with such a strong nuclear hand?!
Polezhaev: But unfortunately that didn’t happen. The last Soviet General Secretary surrendered everything that was created by an entire generation to the U.S. And we’re still paying the price today.
KP: But the U.S. seemed to have similar problems with their aging Minutemen-2?
Polezhaev: Yes, they saw cooperation dissolve while their expenses for maintaing the arms grew. Gorbachev did them a big favor when he signed the treaty “On the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms” (START-1). They saved a lot of money destroying missiles that they would have had to get rid of anyway.
What can I do for you, Uncle Sam?
KP: What was Moscow’s biggest strategic miscalculation in the arms reduction treaty?
Polezhaev: You can’t call it anything else but a desire to oblige the U.S. The first move was the treaty on mid- and close-range missiles. We destroyed far more missiles than the U.S. But what seems like a near betrayal is when we agreed to destroy the Oka strategical and tactical complex although it only fired missiles under 500 kilometers. And when they woke up from their stupidity, they started producing better, but analogous arms. These are colossal additional expenses! This is the money of the people, including retirees.
When START-2 was signed, Yeltsin agreed to destroy our missile trains in exchange for a lone promise from the U.S. to take their strategical bombers off duty. But these are unequal compromises. Railway missile complexes take part in first strikes. The aviation doesn’t.
The U.S. destroyed junk instead of warheads
KP: How did Russia end up in this situation?
Polezhaev: At the time, the country’s leadership didn’t have a new nuclear doctrine. There was such an euphoria, talks about the coming of a “new era in mutual relations with NATO” and even a “brotherhood with the U.S.” As a result, Russia decreased its strategic attack arms simultaneously according to two treaties (START-1 and START-2). We had to explode 150 nuclear silos and destroy all our PS-20 and PS-22. There were huge losses and expenses. It’s not surprising that the U.S. was ready to finance the destruction of our heavy missiles. Their gains from these two treaties were more than double ours.
KP: And the U.S. didn’t even ratify START-2. Why?
Polezhaev: There are no secrets for the U.S. in terms of our missiles. The Voevod was developed and manufactured in Dnepropetrovsk. The Sotka was made in Reutov, although the control system was made in Kharkov. The Topol was developed in Moscow, and the targeting system in Kiev. The U.S. knew when the missiles’ capabilities would end and that we’d have to spend our money liquidating them anyway without their financial assistance.
KP: You give the impression that the U.S. played us for fools.
Polezhaev: They didn’t even try to fulfil their obligations honestly. For example, we exchange our telemetry data with the U.S. during trial missile runs. They have Trident missiles on their submarines. But we registered the quantity of warheads as exceeding the number quoted in the treaty. READ MORE