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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

C. I. S. Nukes Controlled By Russia, General Says

Russia wields de facto control over the former Soviet nuclear arsenal, the commander of the Commonwealth forces said Monday, despite his own nominal power over the warheads.

"The powers of command of the nuclear forces are mine", Marshall Yevgeny Shaposhnikov told a press conference. "But I cannot fulfill my tasks without Russian structures, as the infrastructure that controls the strategic forces is in Russia".

The question of who controls the former Soviet nuclear arsenal, and of who owns its warheads, came to the fore during a summit between the leaders of former Soviet states last Friday in Bishkek. But disagreements between Ukraine and Russia over possession of the weapons on Ukrainian territory prevented agreement.

When the Soviet Union collapsed last year, Russia. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan all inherited parts of the world's mightiest nuclear arsenal. They agreed that by 1994 Russia would remain the sole nuclear power among them. Until then, overall control of the arsenal would lie with the Commonwealth, and therefore Shaposhnikov.

The terms of the agreement were vague, however, and only Belarus has officially accepted a strict interpretation. Belarus agreed, even for the interim period while the missiles were awaiting removal, to relinquish all control over them to Russia.

"You know that Russia has a complete right to the weapons and that Russia is the single owner of strategic nuclear forces", Shaposhnikov said.

Through bilateral agreements of the kind that Belarus signed and more difficult multilateral pacts, the four states should set down detailed provisions for control and use of nuclear weapons, Shaposhnikov said. He added that they should also name him commander of strategic forces.

Ultimately the command of the weapons would be arranged through the Russian Defense Ministry, Shaposhnikov said. But judging from his earlier lemarks, the Defense Ministry already exercises practical control.