Russia says new ICBM can beat any system

Updated: 2007-05-30 07:10
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SS-27 Missile

Ivanov said the missile was a new version of the Topol-M, first commissioned in 1997 and known as the SS-27 in the West, but one that that can carry multiple independent warheads, ITAR-Tass reported. Existing Topol-M missiles are capable of hitting targets more than 6,000 miles away.

Pikayev, a senior analyst at the Moscow-based Institute for World Economy and International Relations, said that little had been revealed about the missile's development, but that Russia has been seeking to improve its capability to penetrate missile defense systems and that the new missile would likely answer to that goal.

He said Russia had been working on a version of the Topol-M that could carry MIRVs - Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles - and that its development was probably "inevitable" after the U.S. withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in 2002 in order to develop a national missile defense.

Pikayev concurred with the missile forces' statement that the RS-24 conforms with terms laid down in the START-I treaty, which is in force, and the 2002 Moscow Treaty, which calls for reductions in each country's nuclear arsenal to 1,700-2,000 warheads.

Ivanov also announced the successful "preliminary" test of an improved tactical cruise missile designed for a mobile Iskander-M launcher, ITAR-Tass reported. Ivanov said last year that Russian ground forces would commission 60 short-range Iskander-M missiles by 2015.

Missile defense penetration

While Ivanov's assertion about missile defense penetration was clearly aimed at the United States - and at Russians who will vote in March for a successor to Putin - he suggested Russia's armament efforts were also aimed to counter a potential treat from the Middle East and Asia.

"We see perfectly how our eastern and southern neighbors here, there and everywhere are acquiring short and medium-range missiles," Ivanov said in televised comments at Kapustin Yar, the southern Russian site where the tactical missiles were tested.

Ivanov said the 1987 Soviet-American treaty limiting such missiles - the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF - is no longer effective because "dozens of countries - many of them along our borders - have acquired them. All of this is a real danger for us, and the consequences can be unpredictable."

He emphasized the need to equip the armed forces with "the most modern, precise weapons" and suggested Russia could arm itself with missiles whose range exceeds the lower limit of 310 miles set in the INF. The ranges of Russia's missiles are "for now within the commitments that Russia has taken upon itself, but I stress: for now," ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

Matthew Bunn, a senior research associate at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said the missile test was "in line with Russia's renewed emphasis in recent years of maintaining their weapons systems after years of decline."

Bunn said he did not think the Russians had planned the test as a reaction to U.S. plans to deploy the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, although they may have worded Tuesday's announcement to make it appear that way.

"I think if anything, the wording of the announcement may have been changed to emphasize the missile's ability to evade defense systems, but the test was probably planned way before," Bunn said.

Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the test was Russia's way of showing the U.S. and its own people that it was investing more in national security.

"The Russians have been talking about developing and testing new weapons for years now, so this isn't a surprise. They have a very aging nuclear missile structure and this test fits in with a broader trend of upgrading security," said Kuchins.

"After years of spending little on their military, they're now showing us and showing the Russian population that they're paying more attention to defense."

Russia is also embroiled in a dispute with the West over another Soviet-era arms pact, the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

Putin has announced a moratorium on observance of the treaty and threatened to withdraw altogether if the United States and other NATO members do not ratify an 1999 amended version.

Russia said Monday that it lodged a formal request for a conference among treaty signatories in Vienna next week.

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