News

DATE=2/7/97
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
NUMBER=2-209813
TITLE=RUSSIA / NUCLEAR (L)
BYLINE=ELIZABETH ARROTT
DATELINE=MOSCOW
CONTENT=
VOICED AT:

INTRO: RUSSIA'S DEFENSE MINISTER HAS TONED DOWN HIS COMMENTS THAT THE NATION MIGHT HAVE LOST CONTROL OF ITS NUCLEAR FORCES. BUT AS V-OA'S ELIZABETH ARROTT IN MOSCOW REPORTS THE DEFENSE CHIEF GAVE APOCALYPTIC WARNINGS ABOUT THE FUTURE.

TEXT: THE COLD WAR MAY BE OVER, BUT THE NUCLEAR THREAT REMAINS. AT LEAST, THAT IS WHAT RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IGOR RODIONOV WARNS.

MR. RODIONOV SAYS THE DANGER COMES NOT FROM POLITICAL RIVALRIES, BUT ECONOMIC HARDSHIP. AGING EQUIPMENT, POOR MAINTENANCE, AND STAFF THAT GO MONTHS WITHOUT PAY POSE A THREAT AS GREAT AS AN MILITARY CHALLENGE.

/// RODIONOV ACT -- IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER ///

IF THIS YEAR'S BUDGET IS CARRIED OUT AS PLANNED, THE DEFENSE CHIEF TOLD REPORTERS FRIDAY, YOU CAN CONCLUDE FOR YOURSELF WHAT WILL HAPPEN.

THE REMARKS FOLLOW BY ONE DAY MR. RODIONOV'S DECLARATION THAT SOMETHING WORSE HAD ALREADY OCCURRED -- THAT NO ONE COULD GUARANTEE THE RELIABILITY OF RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR CONTROL SYSTEMS.

WHILE MAINTAINING THAT REMAINS A POSSIBILITY, THE DEFENSE MINISTER NOW SAYS CONTROL OF THE NUCLEAR SYSTEMS IS, FOR THE MOMENT, FINE.

MR. RIODIONOV HAS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS SOUNDED THE ALARM ABOUT THE STATE OF RUSSIA'S ARMED FORCES, OFTEN AT THE SAME TIME LAWMAKERS WERE DECIDING THE DEFENSE BUDGET. BUT FEW MILITARY EXPERTS, EITHER HERE OR ABROAD, DOUBT THE ACCURACY OF HIS CONCERNS.

THE DEFENSE MINISTRY HAS RECEIVED ONLY AN ESTIMATED 60 PERCENT OF THE MONEY IT NEEDS TO MAINTAIN ITS FORCE, LET ALONE UNDERTAKE THE MASSIVE REFORMS ENVISIONED TO TRANSFORM THE SOVIET-ERA FORCE INTO A MODERN EFFICIENT ARMY.

ONE OF THE OFFICIALS WHO IS BELIEVED TO HAVE BLOCKED MR. RODIONOV'S EFFORTS AT REFORM JOINED THE DEFENSE CHIEF FRIDAY TO ARGUE MORE MONEY IS NEEDED.

PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN ORDERED HIS DEFENSE ADVISOR YURI BATURIN TO APPEAR AT MR. RODIONOV'S SIDE AT THE NEWS CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW IN AN APPARENT ATTEMPT TO DOWNPLAY RUMORS OF A RIVALRY.

/// BATURIN ACT -- IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER ///

MR. BATURIN AGREED THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE DEFENSE FORCES IS CRITICAL. THE MILITARY ADVISOR WARNED THAT WITHOUT DECISIVE MEASURES NOW, RUSSIA FACES A NAVY WITHOUT SHIPS AND AN AIR FORCE WITHOUT PLANES. (SIGNED)

NEB/EA/JWH

07-Feb-97 12:00 PM EST (1700 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America