Created: 1/11/1999

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To Keep Nuclear Options Open

Analytic Perspective

Russia's efforts to modernize its nuclear weapons and strategic forces reflect its determination to preserve its claim to superpower status in (he face of the decline of its conventional forces. Moscow also wants to keep its options open should arms control agreements collapse and the US proceedational ballistic missile defense,

A Russian press announcement said the five experiments conducted late last year at the Novaya Zemlya nuclear test site were intended to enhance the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons. The CIA cannot rule out that these experiments also were related to stockpile modernization or new weapons development

In addition. Moscow isair-launched cruise missile for the bomber force and aballistic missile for use as an SLBM and an ICBM,press reports. i

Insufficient Resources Exacerbate Difficulties

Press reports indicate lbc SSBN

force will suffer increasing patrol gaps and readiness difficulties, heavy bomber aviation will do little flight training and will not get additional aircraft under current funding restraints, and ballistic missile attack warning satellites and radars will continue to haveoverage.

The general cutback in training suggestsobile ICBM deployments out of garrison will decline.

The cutbacks have prompted Russian officials publicly to warn that the strategic forces could face drastic degradation by the end of Ihe next decade, but Moscow isnd procurement programs to try to avoid such an outcome. Russian officials appear confident lhat they can deter large-scale nuclear or conventional attacks at least through the middle of the next decade.

Officials publicly say such attacks are highly unlikely, but Moscow measures its capabilities against these worst case contingencies.

critics charge that Moscow's reliance on nuclear weapons toroad range of external threats and its adoption of limited nuclear optionsowering of the nuclear threshold and earlier use of nuclear weaponsajor war or regional conflict.

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