Well, actually we should distinguish between [different levels of] activating
... in that Norwegian incident the case was activated passively, so that
President Yeltsin opened it and looked [at the] information he received but he
definitely didn't make any orders which would enable launching Russian missiles
But the procedure is the following--if necessary, if the signal about
adversarial missiles launch is received by the national command authorities,
the President could decide to launch Russian missiles, and he sends his code
down to military hierarchy, then Minister of Defense will have to add his
codes. Reportedly, the Chief of General Staff will have to do the same, so that
a decision on launching Russian missiles must be made by three men - the
Russian President, Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff.
Now in this instance when the suitcases are activated, would they have
discussed how they should respond? What is the nature of the conversation that
would have taken place?
Well, actually, we don't know, because I believe it is top secret, but I think
that they could talk through this suitcase, the suitcase is a communication
terminal, nothing else, there is no red button there. It is a communication
terminal which has President, Minister of Defense and Chief of General Staff
and they could have conversation through it ... .
And then if they wanted to authorize a launch, how would they do
Well, President would execute orders and he would release certain codes which
are kept in this suitcase, the same will be done by Minister of Defense and
Chief of General Staff. It goes down to Strategic Rocket Forces command then to
command of the Rocket Division and then to Cruise and Cruise could launch the
missiles if necessary.
Was there any possibility in the Norwegian incident that a missile could
have been launched, if only to attack what might have been an incoming
Well, I think no. It was a single missile, its trajectory was not clearly
directed at Russian territories ... it was checked timely that it was just not
a military missile ... so that I doubt that it could lead to mistake. However,
if there was a launch of more missiles, say five missiles, and they would have
different trajectory going towards Russian territory, it could lead to mistake.
The Russian strategic plans permit to launch Russian missiles before enemy
missiles hit Russian territory, the same move has the United States.
Is that a potentially dangerous policy?
Yes, yes, very dangerous.
Do you think it's a policy that should continue to be held?
Well, it has to be considered because imagine if nuclear missiles hit national
territory. It might be very difficult to transmit orders for launch of missiles
after that, and many of them could be destroyed by first attack. ... So ...
this launch-on-warning [policy] unfortunately is unavoidable scenario.
Going back a little bit to the Norwegian case I believe at one point the
rocket separated into several sections, what would that have looked like on a
Well, it could be interpreted as a separation of re-entry vehicles from a
But the missiles didn't come anywhere near being launched?
What is the state of the early warning radar system, and how does it compare
to, say, 10 years ago?
The early warning system deteriorated, unfortunately, as a result of the Soviet
collapse. Russia lost several early warning radar stations which now are
located outside Russian territory. ...
And so are all of the radar stations that would have been operational ten
years ago still operational?
Most likely yes, maybe except one radar station in the Ukraine which Ukrainians
[are] trying to operating by themselves but they don't have reliable know-how
What's the status of the Ukraine radar station, and what does its status
mean for the way it operates and for military surveillance?
There is a radar station allocated in Ukrainian Peninsula, it is Ukrainian
property and it is operated by Ukrainian armed forces. According to agreements
reached within CIS--Commonwealth of Independent States--the Ukraine shares with
Russia information which is received by that radar station, but unfortunately,
given the collapse of the Ukrainian military--and Ukraine is a country which
spends maybe like eight hundred million dollars for its defense budget--it
definitely cannot properly operate that radar station.
So what does that mean in reality?
In reality it means that they could miss a missile launch. ... This radar
station is responsible southwest direction which covers parts of the Middle
East and Turkey particularly. ... The radar station still monitors the air
space in that sector, but whether Ukrainian operators could do it very reliably
is a bit question[able], so the risk is that they could miss something
important which takes place there.
Is the risk also that they could see something and misinterpret it?
But, overall, in the grander scheme of things, does that radar station not
working at an optimal level increase the risk of a mistaken launch?
Yes, improper activity of those critical elements of early warning system could
increase the risk of accidental launch.
Are there radar stations in other places that aren't working properly, or
won't be working properly in the future?
Well, in 1999 one of the radar stations located in Latvia will be closed
because Latvia doesn't want to continue its operation, and the existing
bilateral Russian Latvian agreement will expire in 1999 [and] after that the
radar station will be closed. Also there are uncertainties about another radar
station operating in Azerbaijan ... which covers very important southern
direction, which covers such countries like Iran, Iraq and other Persian Gulf
states. Its future is uncertain, because there are no formal bilateral
agreements about that radar station, so that in [theory] Azerbaijan could close
it every minute.
So what would it mean if Azerbaijan closed? Which countries would you be
blind to then?
It covers Iran, Iraq and a part of the Indian Ocean so that it is an area from
where potential missile attack could place.
Is that worrying?
It is worrying. Everybody are worrying about Iraqi and Iranian missile
programs. Definitely for Russia it would be a problem if [we] wouldn't be able
properly check missile launches from those countries. ...
Let's move on now and talk about satellites. Could you explain to me how the
military satellite system works in association with the early warning system,
and what the current problems are with it?
It's not a secret that both the Soviet Union and the United States had dozens
of satellites which executed not only civilian but mainly military missions,
and amongst such military missions early warning was perhaps the most
Overall with this satellite system, how does the number of operating
satellites now differ from the number of satellites ten years ago?
Well, I would say that number decreased significantly, and it affected early
warning system as well.
In what way does it affect the early warning system?
Currently, some potential areas of missile launch are not adequately covered by
early warning means, either radar stations or satellites, and it could lead to
a situation when, say, mistaken information from [a] radar station about
missile launch couldn't be confirmed by satellites, which means that Russian
national command authorities would find itself in a very difficult
And when you say difficult situation, what do you mean by that?
It means that they would receive information about missile launch against
Russia but they wouldn't be able to confirm it by other means. ... It is very
dangerous situation because it could lead to missile launch. ...
Can we talk now about the system of ships that used to exist? What did the
ships do and what's happened to them?
Well, you know that satellites they circulate or revolve around the earth and
if you want to receive information in a real time you would have to have space
control centers all around the globe. Russia is not a country which occupies a
whole globe, this is why in the past the Soviet Union had a chain of ships
which collect information from satellites in open seas. Currently a part of
those ships was privatized by Ukraine, and they're not operational and part of
them are in Russian ports and there is no money to keep them operational after
the Soviet collapse.
So to summarize about the early warning system, taking all of that
information into account, what does this deterioration of the system mean to
the overall reliability of the system and the level of mistakes?
Deterioration of the early warning system could lead to two problems, one of
them is that adversarial missile launch wouldn't [be] properly checked. ... The
other problem, which is maybe more serious for peace time, ... [is] that as a
result of deterioration of early warning capabilities [a] decision could [be
made] on launching missile which would be based on a wrong information. ... A
risk of the missile launch based on a mistake is increasing.