August 25, 1999

Russia's Military Today


Russia's Military Today

Recently, a neighbor of mine commented to me that we don't need a military anymore. I had to ask why and the reply was, "haven't you noticed, the Cold War is over?" The Cold War, of the post WWII era, may be over. However, concern over nuclear power and anti-ballistic missiles is still alive and well.

How big is the threat, if any? U.S. President Clinton has informed the American people, on over 130 occasions, that Russia does not have any missiles pointed at us, nor us at them. But, there is growing concern, on the part of Russia and the US, regarding the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II (START) and START III treaties.

Russia has yet to ratify START II and the immediate future does not look good for this treaty. The problem centers around the ABM Treaty, signed by US President Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, on May 26, 1972. The upshot of this treaty was to prevent the US and Russia from developing or deploying defense systems capable of shooting down incoming ballistic missiles. Many believe that this treaty placed the US in serious jeopardy rendering her defenseless against any form of foreign attack. With the fall of the Soviet, and thus the demise of the world's only other serious nuclear threat, these same people feel that the ABM should be considered null and void. Without this treaty, all nations would be free to develop and employ defense systems of virtually any type.

Other provisions of the ABM Treaty prohibits either country from providing air defense missiles, radars or launchers with the ability to deter strategic ballistic missiles. The treaty, also, prohibits the testing of such systems. In 1993, President Clinton announced his intention to begin testing and deployment of the Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) system. Since this system intercepts strategic ballistic missiles, and is considered, by many, to be in violation of ABM.

In 1983, President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense System (SDI), better known as Star Wars. The concept was one of deterrence and defense; not aggression. SDI would intercept and destroy any incoming attack to the US. This system would have utilized laser technology, computer guided projectiles and a series of space based sensors. A costly program, indeed. In 1992, the project was tabled by the newly elected President Clinton and replaced by the less expensive Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). This program uses a ground based anti-missile system whose missiles can be launched to destroy or divert incoming attacks.

On October 17, 1999, the US offered to assist Russia in completing their radar site near Irkutsk, Siberia. The trade off is that Russia must agree to renegotiate the ABM Treaty. The US needs this treaty re-worked to allow it to build its new national missile defense system. US officials claim that the desire is not to nullify the ADM Treaty and that the US does not desire a new arms race with Russia or China. On the other hand, the US perceives a growing ballistic missile threat from nations such as N. Korea, Iraq, Iran and other suspected states. The US is attempting to convince Russia that a reworking of the ABM is in their mutual interest as a means of protection against common threats. Thus far, Russia is not interested in or willing to make any changes to the 1972 treaty.

The US has assured Russia that its new defense system will not be aimed at Russia. Under this plan, the first phase would be completed by 2005 and involve constructing a new radar in Alaska and the deployment of about 100 antimissile interceptors. Russia remembers that, in the1980's, they were forced, under the provisions of the ABM, to tear down a radar which they had built at Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. The second phase of the US defense system would be done by 2010 and include another radar in Grand Forks, ND, and deployment of another 100 interceptors. Additionally, the US has offered financial assistance towards the completion of a radar at Mischelevka, near Irkutsk and another one in Azerbaijan, which would be controlled by Russia.

Currently, Moscow is looking to the United Nations for support in preventing the US to alter the ABM Treaty. Russia contends that such revisions would place disarmament and non-proliferation processes in dire jeopardy. They are joined, in this opinion, by China and Belarus. On October 2, 1999, the US launched an unarmed strategic missile from the Marshall Islands, over the Pacific Ocean, which successfully intercepted another missile launched from California. This was a test of their new defense system and seen, by Russia, as a direct violation of the ABM Treaty. Russia made it clear that this type of activity and further talk of revisions to the ABM Treaty would halt efforts to push ratification of START II through the Duma. The main objective of START II is for the two countries to eliminate strategic nuclear delivery vehicles by December 31, 2003.

Russia Sees New Arms Race . . .

Russia has warned that a renewed Cold War style arms race, racked with uncertainty and distrust, may well result from the US's insistence upon testing and deploying its new defense system. Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, Commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, recently commented that such action on the part of the US could result in Russia stockpiling nuclear weapons, dropping of all disarmament treaties and denying entry to any US arms observers. Russia feels that since the US is violating the standing ABM Treaty and doesn't allow Russian observers near its facilities, Russia need not allow US inspectors hear her arms.

Russia has been consistent in its warnings that by putting aside the ABM Treaty, the US can expect Russia to pull out of the START I treaty, abandon ratification efforts of START II and forget about further talks on START III. This would lead to a renewed arms race. It's no secret that Russia is experiencing severe economic difficulties. As such, she has little, if any, funds to develope and deploy a system similar to that of the US. However, critics point out that she is capable of arming her new Topol M (S-27) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with multiple warheads. This is an act which Russia has not done, to date, because of her commitment to disarmament plans and treaties, such as the ABM and START.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
The Best of Russian Life

The Best of Russian Life

We culled through 15 years of Russian Life to select readers’ and editors’ favorite stories and biographies for inclusion in a special two-volume collection. Totalling over 1100 pages, these two volumes encompass some of the best writing we have published over the last two decades, and include the most timeless stories and biographies – those that can be read again and again.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

802-223-4955