|... Gradually, this competent generation left, but before they left, as I said,
they've studied the systems very thoroughly, in great detail, and they knew
things about it that the engineers who built the systems didn't know, perhaps.
And, as a result, some of these officers were able to do something without
letting the command know. Any system has technological blocking, unsanctioned
launch is blocked, technically, and on the other hand; [it can also be blocked]
organizationally. ... Partially it's done through technology, and secondly,
done through people and organization of people. You have two, three, or four
people, and the procedure of launch is distributed between these people, say,
one person is turning one key, the other person is turning another, the third
is pressing a button and the fourth is doing something else, and only in
combination, when three people are doing it, you can have a launch. ... And so,
through that ... there would be a very, very small chance for [an unsanctioned
But a man is only a man, so sometimes he may have certain alterations in his
psyche, he may be depressed, he may be tired. And people's behavior is
sometimes unpredictable. And there were incidents, in a difficult environment,
on duty, you know, on these command posts, there's sometimes, in bunkers, or
deep underneath the Earth's surface ... . There are a lot of factors affecting
the behavior of people, and people sometimes get tired, and their morale worn
out, so there may be alterations in people's psyches, which may lead to
inadequate behavior of this particular operator. In our army, everything was
fine at first, and a lot of money was given to the development of these systems
... . This field drew huge attention of the commanders, and the armed forces
[and] the command posts were not limited in terms of personnel, nor in
technology. The equipment was always modern and there was always plenty of
personnel. And when Gorbachev arrived, only then, big cuts began to take place,
sharp reductions. ... When you begin to reduce personnel at the command posts
which are in charge of operating all the armed forces, then you have a certain
degree of tension. ...
What mistakes are possible?
In general, the machinery is built in such a way as to prevent major mistakes.
You know, it's built to be manned by a fool. If you do something wrong, it
blocks itself. Inadequate functions of operators, in my memory, had led, only
once, to [a problem] ... not a transfer to a high state-of-readiness mode ...
just an alternative mode, it cause[d] alarm and leads to specific, very quick
actions. ... That [was] because of a mistake, because of wrong actions.
Sometimes there were malfunctions of equipment ... . On one of the command
posts, we had to ban gold rings, because the equipment malfunctioned. But then
this malfunction was eliminated and probably no one even remembers about this
Was the experience of working in the missile forces very different 10 years
[Back then] people acknowledged the importance of work on these command posts.
... We were well off at the time, we were paid on time, and we earned enough,
we were able to buy a car or a dacha. Our children went to normal schools. So,
psychologically we were stable, and we were prepared to carry out these duties.
... A lot has changed now. An officer now, who is in charge of the nuclear
button, ... an under-colonel, earns two hundred dollars a month. Two hundred
dollars a month and irregularly. Sometimes he's not paid for a month, two
months, sometimes three months. He is deprived of a number of other benefits
and privileges. ... A lieutenant now, who works in this system, he gets ...
probably less than a hundred dollars. Imagine it, when he's on active duty, all
he's thinking about is where to get the money in order to feed his family. ...
And thinking this, he's in charge of a nuclear button. And that is what's
worrying us, the moral weariness of personnel. ...
What about the missile forces?
Most of the officers live in the one small town, closed. And they live in one
part, there is no place for their wives to work, because it's a small remote
town far from other cities. And so there's competition between the wives to
work as store attendant or a garbage collector. ... One irregularly paid wage
is not enough to provide for an officer, and the prices there are quite high,
because the local population raise the prices because they know that these Army
people have no option but to buy things there. And local authorities often
switch off electricity and heating because the rent's not been paid, and
sometimes there were riots because of this. ...
[There's intense] psychological impact [on the] people at the command centers.
They're on duty for three days and then there's four days off, they're on duty
for four days again. Of course, a lot depends on how he gets on with his
family, but in current conditions, when children are often underfed, when they
shut off electricity, people are tense, they're like a trigger. He keeps on
thinking about his family when he is on duty, the family is all that's on his
mind. So, it distracts people at the command centers when they're on duty.
What is the status of the satellite warning system?
... We had about 200 satellites in orbit that were surveying the
territory of the U.S., Britain and France, all our potential enemies, and we had
an absolutely crystal clear picture of what was going on at your launching
sites, so we could monitor the missile launches. We had the machinery to
pinpoint the missile traveling in our direction. We would be able to monitor
its movement and we would see that, for example, it's falling into the ocean,
so that's fine. When you see your enemy, when you're not blinded, you're not
afraid, because you know that he means no harm. But the break-up of the Soviet
Union and perestroika led to us losing one third of the satellites we had in
orbit. Even the Minister of Defense, Igor Radionev, said, "... these satellites
... [lose] four hours a day [out of 24, for four hours we can't see]
what's going on ... ." Our surveillance systems in the now CIS states, like in
Armenia or Ukraine or Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, we've lost these
surveillance systems. Some of them are still functioning, but they're
approaching their end. We're unable to see what our potential enemy is doing,
and that enhances nervousness. ... It takes six to nine minutes for a missile
to travel ... from the Mediterranean, or 25 minutes from the United
States, and I cannot see, for four hours a day, what is going on, so you can
imagine my psychological state. If I'm in control of this button, I have to be
100% sure, then, in my commanding officers and my president. But
there is no trust in the armed forces, there is no faith in the president ...
because the president is unable to provide the simplest living conditions,
simply the conditions where you're at least not hungry and your family is
provided for. ...
Have you ever seen a portable nuclear bomb?
In 32 years, I was in many countries. I have never seen portable
nuclear devices, back-pack nuclear devices. I've traveled around the world and
I know my army well, but I've never seen anything like that. ... Of course,
theoretically, you could make a back-pack nuclear device, but I do not see any
logical point in creating such an instrument.
Could one person in the missile forces launch a nuclear weapon?
I don't know about today, but 10 years ago technically one person was capable
of sending a launch command. ... But now, I suppose, measures were taken to
prevent this from happening. But, previously, one person, yes, could send a
signal for launch, but whether this command will be carried out on the ground
level, maybe people would not carry out the program, they would wait for
confirmation, but, in principle, one person could send a command for the system
to go into combat mode. ...
Do you think the Cold War is over?
A military person would not say that [the Cold War is] ended. Because
confrontation arises. You see current examples in Serbia, in Kosovo, we're
taking different positions than the United States. Iraq, again, our position is
different to the United States. And the United States are very active and they
use arms wherever they feel that it's their sphere of interest .. . So we
cannot be weak, we have a big territory, and the surrounding countries on all
sides have certain territorial ambitions. So, in this respect, the early
warning system for stability and peace on earth is very important, it has to be
restored, we cannot trust Americans all the time, or France or Germany or
Britain, because they're pursuing their own goals and their own political
interests, and we have to be able to see what they're doing in this particular
If you dismantle a certain amount of silos, missiles, you can't say the world
has become safer. The safety lies within the trust that can be obtained by
transparency of your enemy, when you know everything about your potential
enemy, when you see what he's doing ... . Even if there is only a thousand
nuclear warheads left, the level of safety, even then, will only be high as a
result of trust, not because of a lesser quantity of missiles. ...
Is it better to de-target the missiles--set their flight mission to
zero--than to focus efforts on destroying them?
Unsanctioned launch has to be ruled out. ... If the flight mission is zero, no
matter what cataclysms there may be, the missile will not go anywhere, it will
self-destruct itself at a certain height ... . What if the missile is targeted
and someone launches it? Then it will reach this target, you see. How would you
feel if I'd be pointing a gun at you? You'd probably feel better if the gun is
on the table rather than if I'm pointing the gun at you, even if I'm not
shooting. So, the important thing is that the mission is set to zero on a
missile. When a missile is targeted, it can be launched within two or three
minutes, when it's not targeted, it will take extra time to target the missile,
and perhaps this extra time can be used for our leaders to sort out their
differences and come to some sort of agreement. The less time it takes to
launch a missile, the less chance there is for a peaceful resolution. ...
What do you think about the programs Russian and American leaders are
developing to use American money and resources to help secure the Russian
We'll have to think about this. Americans never gave us money for anything
good. If they give money, they give money while pursuing their own interests.
This issue needs a detailed study, we need to establish what, exactly, they
want from us. They defend their own interests and we pursue our goals. As they
say in Russia, friendship is friendship, but let's split the cash. ...