Russia, U.S. Retarget Warheads

Russia and the United States are no longer aiming nuclear missiles at each other's territory, a Russian parliament leader announced during a meeting with members of the U.S. Senate. The declaration Monday by Sergei Yushenkov, who heads the defense committee of the Duma, was amplified later in a Foreign Ministry statement. "Day-to-day control of the Russian side's nuclear force is now based on the assumption that the United States and Great Britain are not Russia's enemies," the statement said. The U.S.-Russian agreement to stop aiming long-range nuclear missiles at each another's countries was reached during President Clinton's visit to Moscow in January. It was later joined by Britain. Yushenkov also said Britain and Russia were no longer targeting missiles at each other's territories. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev told Interfax on Monday that his report on completing the measure was sent to President Boris Yeltsin last Wednesday. Instead of coordinates for U.S. targets, the missiles' guidance systems now have "zero flight task," Colonel General Igor Sergeyev, commander of the Russian strategic troops, told Interfax. That means that the missiles have no target coordinates in their computer memory and will not move even in the case of an unauthorized launch, Sergeyev explained. The measure would help increase global nuclear security, he said. Yushenkov made his announcement at the opening session of a two-day meeting between a delegation from the Senate's Armed Services Committee and their Russian counterparts. Committee chairman Senator Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who leads the U.S. delegation, said his group plans to discuss parliamentary procedures, especially relating to defense budget drafting and oversight. The veteran senator evaluated the new Russian parliament, "elected by the people and reflecting the will of the people," as a "viable instrument" of democracy in the country. In contrast to his former visits to Russia, when meetings in parliament "were perfunctory, and our main goal was to meet with the members of the executive branch," Nunn said, this time "the main purpose of the trip will relate ... to our discussion with you," meaning parliament members. The debate with Russian lawmakers will also cover arms control, nuclear non-proliferation, regional issues including Bosnia, and organized crime.