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Krasnaya Zvezda
No. 227
[translation from personal use only]
By Yevgeny LISANOV

The Russian Defence Ministry hosted a meeting of Colonel- General Yuri Baluyevsky, First Deputy Chief of the General Staff, with journalists. They analysed problems of vital significance for the strengthening of global stability, including Russia's attitude to the US intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, the latest US initiatives on strategic offensive weapons and Russia- NATO cooperation.

Strategic Offensive Weapons: New Ceilings

The Western and Russian media have reported that Russia was allegedly making concessions to the USA in the sphere of strategic offensive weapons and the ABM Treaty. General Baluyevsky refuted these reports as untrue and stressed that Russia welcomed the initiative of the US president on reducing strategic offensive weapons to 1,700-2,200 warheads. But this positive initiative should be complemented with a clear-cut mechanism of its implementation and this is where Russian military experts have questions to their American colleagues.

For example, there is no mechanism of removing charges from delivery vehicles, their liquidation and utilisation and the mechanism of monitoring the reduction of strategic offensive weapons to the proclaimed ceilings is not clear. As for the figures suggested by the US president, it would be expedient to determine the minimum number of warheads necessary for maintaining security in the world. The calculations of independent American experts seem interesting in this respect. According to them, the USA needs as few as 51 warheads to do considerable damage to Russia, which is why the ceilings suggested by the USA seem strange. For everyone knows at whom the remaining missiles will be targeted.

Neither can we understand the US stand on other key military treaties signed with Russia. In particular, the USA has not yet ratified the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, the START-2 treaty and the verification mechanism of the convention on the prohibition of biological and toxic weapons.

Meanwhile, Russia has been consistently fulfilling its obligations. It ratified the START-2 Treaty and will finish the implementation of the START-1 provision on reducing weapons to the stipulated ceiling. The USA is doing nothing of the kind. "We have quite a few questions to it concerning the implementation of START-1," said Yuri Baluyevsky.

However, Russia plans to carry on dialogue on this issue. In accordance with the proposal of Russian military experts, representatives of the defence departments of Russia and the USA will meet in late December or the first half of January to discuss related problems.

The ABM Treaty: No Hindrance

The 1972 ABM Treaty will be one of the key issues on the agenda of Russo-American talks. It is a well-known fact that the new Republican administration of the USA proclaimed the intention of withdrawing from this treaty.

It should be said that the treaty stipulates the right of either side to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty and the mechanism of doing this. To withdraw from the treaty, a side should notify the other side of its intention in good time, explaining what "exceptional circumstances" prompted the decision.

What exceptional circumstances appeared after the presidential elections in the USA that encouraged it to withdraw from the treaty? According to the new administration, the so-called rogue countries can create nuclear weapons within a year and target them at the USA.

The Russian leadership disagrees with this assumption. "The statements about the rogue countries that can allegedly create mass destruction weapons within a short span of time threatening US territory are not justified at the research-technical level." Yuri Baluyevsky said the treaty has quite a few so-called grey zones, where actions can be interpreted either way. This is why much had been said about the creation of an ABM testing range in the USA. Some experts say this is a violation of the treaty, but General Baluyevsky believes that the treaty permits the creation of an additional test base. "As of today, we have no reasons to say that the USA is guilty of direct violations of the treaty," he said. "Although it is close to the edge in some instances."

If the USA withdraws from the ABM Treaty, Russia will take adequate reply measures to minimise the threat to its national security, said the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff. But in this case the international community will have many more reasons for concern. A new stage in the creation of defensive systems will not strengthen global stability or trust and understanding between countries.

Russia-NATO Rapprochement

The nascent trend for the rapprochement of Russia and the West is a vital element of the current situation and is especially well seen in Russia's relations with the NATO countries. After the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA, many Western and Russian politicians started speaking about the possibility and even necessity of NATO membership for Russia.

Russia has always advocated equitable cooperation with NATO. The preamble to the 1997 Founding Act says that NATO and Russia are no longer adversaries. But the nuclear plans of the USA, which is a NATO member, still include the factor of Russia. Translated from the military language, it means that targets for a nuclear strike are marked on the map of Russia.

Or take another example. The Partnership for Peace programme elaborated jointly in the 1990s stipulated the involvement of Russia in the tackling of security problems. Actually, NATO tackled these problems without Russia and did not even consult it. A graphic proof of this is the bombing of Yugoslavia.

Now that the sides are clearly moving towards each other, relations between them should be equal and mutually beneficial. Russia should become a full-fledged participant in all security- related processes in Europe, said General Baluyevsky. And there has been certain progress in this sphere. In particular, the sides are coordinating a plan of military cooperation for the next year.

The First Deputy Chief of the General Staff does not think that Russia should join the NATO's military organisation. Being a self-sufficient state, it can independently resolve all problems of national security.

Long Road to Peace in Afghanistan

The world community's attention is still focused on Afghanistan, but the media sometimes provide unverified information about the events taking place there. For example, the other day it was reported that two Russian airborne regiments had been airlifted to Afghanistan. Yuri Baluyevsky categorically refuted this information, saying that not only military transports but also civilian planes would have been needed to airlift the hardware of two airborne regiments.

Speaking about the military operational situation in that country, he said that the anti-Taliban coalition controlled about 90% of the territory. Yet the bulk of the Taliban forces have remained intact for the simple reason that they did not take part in military operations. Individual shoot-outs were sporadic and did not do much damage to the main forces of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the point at issue is a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict. It will not be easy to restore peace in that country without the help of the international community, said the general.

Chechnya: Smaller Space for Fighters

"The time has come to deliver a blow at the fighters after which they would not rise again next spring," General Yuri Baluyevsky said about the military operational situation in Chechnya. The situation in that republic is unique in that winter and counter-terror efforts of the federal forces are limiting the bandits' activities. Chechen fighters might survive by hiding among civilians, but international terrorists, of whom there are 300 to 500 in Chechnya, will have to search for hiding in neighbouring countries. But not everyone now wants to give shelter to terrorists on the international wanted list.

At the same time, the military element of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya is no longer crucial for the settlement of the crisis there. Social and economic matters feature more prominently today and the restoration of peace in the republic will depend on their solution.

Reform of the Armed Forces

The development plan of the armed forces, centred around quality indicators, was launched this year. It was a difficult year, yet much has been accomplished. In particular, the contours of a new, three-service structure of the armed forces have become visible and work is underway to reorganise technical supplies and logistics. Next year the armed forces will work by a joint logistics plan.

In addition, plans for the immediate future have been outlined and include the modernisation of weapons and hardware, and the search for additional funds for the armed forces.

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