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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, U.S. Mull Plans To Stockpile Warheads

Russian nuclear officials reacted calmly Friday to statements from Washington that the United States plans to stockpile, rather than destroy, warheads removed from missiles under disarmament treaties in order to build a "hedge" for the future.


The U.S. plan, which would appear to run counter to the spirit but not the letter of the START I nuclear arms reduction treaty, was announced Thursday by Defense Secretary William Perry.


But a disarmament expert with the Defense Ministry said Friday that Russia's nuclear command had also instructed its scientists to look for ways of ensuring that its nuclear arsenal could be rebuilt if necessary.


"It is a rule for all professionals to reserve an option for the worst possible development," the expert said by telephone Friday. "If there is ungentlemanly behavior on the side of America, we will have a response ready."


Major General Vitaly Yakovlev, the acting chief of staff of the nuclear forces, said however that Russia would not follow the American example of storing decoupled nuclear warheads because it made no sense.


According to The Associated Press, Perry had said Thursday that storing the warheads would help provide a "hedge" against a possible change of Russia's attitude towards America, enabling the United States to rebuild its nuclear might fast should the need arise.


"I have not seen the statement myself, but the idea of keeping the warheads sounds unreasonable," Yakovlev told The Moscow Times by telephone Friday. "Every warhead has a storage term which expires from time to time."


Yakovlev also said that if a quick buildup of nuclear arms became necessary within the lifetime of the warheads, then the money saved on their production would account for a very insignificant share of the cost of making new missiles to deliver the warheads.


It was precisely due to these considerations, Yakovlev said, that Russia and the United States originally omitted the requirement to destroy the warheads in the START II treaty.


That premise was questioned, however, by a nuclear expert in London, who asked not to be named. She said that it would make sense for Americans to keep their warheads.


"It is good housekeeping," she said of Perry's proposal. "The less they have to re-produce, the cheaper it is to restore the weapon." She added that the shelf life of nuclear warheads was long enough to justify keeping them.


If the new U.S. policy is financially sound, other Western analysts said it was a mistake of policy, likely to discourage Russia from destroying its vast nuclear arsenal.


"The policy might more aptly be labeled 'Cold War Lite,'" said Stan Norris, a nuclear specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, AP reported.


"This one-sided approach," he said, "is not likely to engender much enthusiasm on the Russian side."