During his trip, Habiger examined a nuclear weapons storage facility at Kostroma, a rail mobile SS 24 ICBM base located approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Habiger said he was impressed with its safety and security procedures and was assured that Kostroma was "representative" of ICBM bases throughout Russia. As an example of these security measures, he said access to nuclear weapons in Russia requires the presence of three people, whereas the United States has a two person policy.
Under the proposed exchanges, which could begin within the next few weeks, a team of four or five Russian specialists would visit a U.S. ICBM base to observe the safety and security procedures instituted at nuclear weapon storage facilities. A team of U.S. specialists would also have similar access in Russia. Habiger and Yakovlev also agreed to establish a so called "shadow program," under which Russia would send the equivalent of a wing commander, a squadron commander, a flight commander and a missile crew member to the United States to shadow their respective counterparts for a one week period. A similar U.S. team would pay a reciprocal visit to a Russian missile base.
Habiger said he also had access to various Russian nuclear command and control centers, from the national level down to the unit level. In an apparent effort to alleviate lingering concerns about an accidental or unauthorized Russian nuclear launch, he stated that these centers seek to function in a "fail safe" mode, whereby any one of the centers (even at the unit level) can inhibit the launch of an ICBM.
During his Pentagon briefing, Habiger also discussed Russia's plans to modernize its strategic nuclear forces. He said the single warhead SS 27, which will constitute the backbone of the Russian ICBM force under START II, is expected to achieve initial operational capability around the middle of 1998. Habiger noted that Russia laid the keel for a new class of ballistic missile submarines (known as the Borey) in the fall of 1996, which is expected to become operational around 2005. As for its bomber force, he said Russia has a research and development program for a new air launched cruise missile and that new Blackjack bombers may come on line in the near future.
Habiger noted that the Russians did not modernize their strategic forces during the 1980s when the United States was moving forward with systems such as the B 2 bomber, the Trident submarine and the corresponding D 5 ballistic missile. As a result, he pointed out that Russia is pushing hard for a START III agreement in part because the service life of its systems, including the SS 18 ICBM, is "coming to an end."