Rokhlin Warns Yeltsin on State of Nuclear Forces

In late-June, General Lev Rokhlin, chairman of the Russian Duma's Defense Committee, cautioned that Russia's strategic nuclear forces are not being properly maintained and are "doomed to extinction." Rokhlin's warning sharply contrasts with recent statements made by several high-level Russian officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and newly appointed Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, who maintain that Russia's nuclear command and control system is safe and reliable. The warning came in an open letter to President Boris Yeltsin and members of Russia's armed forces, in which Rokhlin blasted Yeltsin's government for attempting to institute large-scale military reforms.

Meanwhile, on July 8, Russia flight-tested its single-warhead SS-27 ICBM (designated in Moscow as the Topol-M) for the fourth time. The missile, which will have both mobile and silo-based variants, is now ready for serial production and is expected to be deployed by the end of the year. Commenting on the significance of the test, which was conducted at the Plesetsk test range, General Vladimir Yakovlev, the new commander-in-chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, said, "Today it is possible to say that in the 21st century Russia will remain in the ranks of the leading nuclear states, thereby helping to guarantee strategic stability in the whole world." The single-warhead SS-25 and follow-on SS-27 will comprise the backbone of the Russian ICBM force if START II is fully implemented.