Russia Defines New Security Policy
Seeks to be sole nuclear power in former Union, but plans downscaling of nuclear capacity
A DRAFT security treaty for the new Commonwealth of Independent States will eventually leave Russia the sole nuclear power in the former Soviet Union, says a senior Russian defense official.However the treaty seeks to reassure Russia's neighbors, and the world, by placing nuclear forces under a unified military command. In addition, the official reveals, the Russian government is now formulating its own disarmament policy which will aim at an 80 percent cut in the Soviet nuclear arsenal within this decade. "Russia will still remain a nuclear power as long as there are still nuclear weapons in other countries, while there are still third countries with underground nuclear weapons or striving to acquire their own nuclear weapons," Maj. Gen. Geliy Batenin, the military adviser to Russia's Foreign Ministry, told the Monitor. He unveiled details of the Russian defense policy discussed in private on Monday with visiting United States Secretary of State James Baker III. But a spokesman for Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told reporters that if Russia insisted on keeping nuclear arms, Kazakhstan would have to do the same. Soviet nuclear forces are currently deployed in four of the former Soviet republics - Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Kazakhstan. The Ukraine and Byelorussia have stated their desire to become non-nuclear states, pledging to destroy the weapons on their territories as part of the arms reductions called for by US-Soviet treaties. Kazakhstan has called for "the complete destruction of nuclear weapons," but President Nazarbayev told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Baker on Wednesday that he talked to Russian President Boris Yeltsin about "having nuclear arms stay both in Russia and in Kazakhstan." This potential dispute will be on the table on Saturday when the three original founders of the commonwealth (Russia, Byelorussia, and the Ukraine) meet with six new members including Kazakhstan and the four Central Asian republics. The security treaty, which has been drafted by representatives of the four nuclear republics plus the Soviet Ministry of Defense and General Staff, could be finalized there. This meeting is expected to lead to the formal end of the Soviet Union on New Years Eve. While Russia has no intention to shed its nuclear superpower status, General Batenin says the Russian government has formulated an approach designed to clarify its intentions for its nuclear weapons. The Russian forces will be reduced to a level for "minimal nuclear deterrence," he says. "In the course of the next five to seven years, we could come down to a level of 3,000 to 4,000 warheads, about seven to eight times less than now," the general explains. Russia is ready to move beyond the Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (START) already signed with the US, says Batenin, who earlier served on the staff of the Communist Party Central Committee as an adviser to President Gorbachev. This might be better done through unilateral moves on the part of Russia than by negotiating a new treaty, he suggests. The last element of the new Russian policy will be cooperation with the West on tight controls over the proliferation of "dangerous military technology" such as ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The draft treaty would create a single command for the nuclear forces, under the collective political control of the leaders of the four nuclear-weapons republics, according to Batenin, who worked on the draft from the Russian side. The unified command will have under its wing all the nuclear forces, both the long-range "strategic" weapons such as inter-continental ballistic missiles and the short-range "tactical" weapons such as nuclear-armed artillery shells, short-range rockets, and plane-delivered bombs. This includes heavy bombers, missiles based in silos, and part of the naval forces, such as submarines and ships carrying long-range cruise missiles. Strategic forces also include non-nuclear parts of the Soviet armed forces. The large air defense force made up of jet fighters and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as the complex communications and command systems, will all continue to be controlled by the central Ministry of Defense and the General Staff, Batenin says. There will be a military commander in chief, although a civilian defense minister is also envisioned for the future. According to Reuters news agency, citing a senior US official accompanying Baker, the current Soviet Defense Minister Air Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, was named in the Monday meeting as the candidate for commander in chief. But the bulk of the 3.7 million-man Soviet armed forces are infantry and armored units which will fall under the authority of republican armies and their own ministries of defense. Batenin says there is also a proposal to create a second position of a chairman of a united General Staff, whose job it would be to coordinate among the republican armies for the common defense of the "military territory of the commonwealth." The Ministry of Defense in Moscow will have the authority to put the unified forces on alert, says Batenin, but the ultimate political decision on their use will rest with the leaders of the four nuclear republics. Each of them will carry a version of the nuclear "button," namely codes to give approval for an attack. It has yet to be decided whether all four must agree, giving any of them an effective veto. In the other option under discussion, the Russian military official explains, "one president, for example [Ukrainian President Leonid] Kravchuk, says I don't want to participate with my nuclear weapons in the case of a retaliatory attack. In this case, the command line over Ukrainian nuclear weapons will be blocked but others will participate." The Ukraine government, which has expressed concern over potential Russian domination, wants to end the joint command once the nuclear weapons are destroyed. Ukrainian defense officials and officials from the Soviet Ministry of Defense are holding talks in Kiev this week in an effort to come to a common view of the handling of nuclear weapons, including their disarmament. The Russian government foresees the need for a unified command even if the nuclear weapons outside Russia are eliminated. "It is impossible and unwise to give exclusive powers only to Russia because nobody knows who will be in charge of Russia ... tomorrow," says Batenin.