The Former Soviet Union

Goals and Interests

The fundamental interests of the United States regarding Russia and the independent states of the former Soviet Union, as articulated by President Clinton, are to reduce the nuclear threat, to support the development of these states as stable democracies, and to assist them to establish market economies.

Within these broad foreign policy goals, the United States has five primary national security interests in this region: implementing START I and II and all other arms control agreements, and safeguarding the enormous nuclear arsenal that is the legacy of the Cold War; deterring the use of nuclear weapons should a strategic reversal occur in the former Soviet Union and a regime emerge which is hostile to U.S. interests; preventing the proliferation of NBC weapons; maintaining regional stability in and among the nations of the former Warsaw Pact; and avoiding reestablishing an antagonistic global rivalry with Russia.

The Proliferation Challenge: Capabilities, Intentions, and Trends

From the former Soviet Union, Russia has inherited the largest stockpile of NBC weapons and delivery systems in the world. Although additional strategic weapons are still deployed in the new independent states of Ukraine and Belarus, these weapons are under Russian control. Russia's public statements and actions regarding the safety, security, and dismantlement of this massive inventory and commitment to cease all offensive BW activities have been positive, although Moscow still needs to fully implement these commitments, and its adherence to some proliferation control norms has been uneven.

The magnitude of the numbers, the complexity of weapons systems to be moved, dismantled, or destroyed, and the vast distances involved have been and will continue to be daunting challenges to Russia and to U.S. interests for several years to come. In the face of serious economic and political challenges, most of Moscow's actions regarding its strategic programs -- and the actions of Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus -- demonstrate a commitment to denuclearization and nonproliferation. Nonetheless, the United States continues to have concerns about Russian biological and chemical warfare programs, including about information provided by Russia regarding those programs.

Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus have stated publicly that they consider proliferation to be a potential threat to their own security. Although compliance with the various nonproliferation norms varies, turbulent political, social, and economic conditions continue to complicate their nonproliferation efforts. Additionally, scientists and technicians may be enticed to emigrate by money from abroad, and could provide critical knowledge to develop such weapons to nations with emerging NBC weapons programs. Furthermore, crime and corruption are significant threats to the security of nuclear materials. The December 1994 Czech seizure of highly enriched uranium (HEU) is one of several cases involving smuggled nuclear material that serves as a stark example of the need to safeguard these materials. These and other factors could have an adverse effect on Western efforts to prevent proliferation.

As a result of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia assumed control over thousands of strategic weapons. Russia is a party to the START I Treaty and has signed the START II Treaty that will reduce significantly the size of its strategic forces. It is also removing nuclear weapons and delivery systems from Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus, primarily for dismantlement.

In his February 1994 State of the Union Address, Russian President Boris Yeltsin described one of two priorities for Russia's national security as: "strengthening the arrangements governing the nonproliferation of mass destruction weapons and sophisticated technologies, and enhancing control over the international arms trade while watching over Russia's commercial interest in this sphere." Russia has continued to implement effective export controls on missile-related items, and in August 1995, Russia joined the MTCR.

Ukraine agreed in January 1994 to return the strategic nuclear warheads located on its territory to Russia for dismantlement in exchange for security assurances, compensation for the nuclear material in the warheads and expanded Western assistance. Ukraine has acted on its commitment by returning strategic nuclear weapons to Russia. In accompanying letters to the Lisbon Protocol, the former Republics of Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus agreed to eliminate from their territory all former Soviet nuclear arms. In addition, Ukraine acceded to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state on December 5, 1994. This action fulfilled a Russian precondition for implementing START I, which entered into force on December 5, 1994. In May 1994, Ukraine signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States, committing itself to adhere to MTCR Guidelines.

Kazakstan also faces major challenges, but has demonstrated its commitment to denuclearization and nonproliferation in several important ways. It ratified START I and the Lisbon Protocol in 1992 and acceded to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state in 1993. Also, Kazakstan informed the United States about a vulnerable cache of approximately 600 kg of HEU and cooperated with a joint Department of Defense/Department of Energy team in removing the cache from Kazakstani soil for safe and secure storage in the United States.

Kazakstan had returned to Russia all the strategic nuclear warheads on its territory by April 1995. Kazakstan does not possess, nor can it afford to acquire, the infrastructure needed to maintain and operate a nuclear force.

President Nazarbayev's Comments
on Denuclearization
March 24, 1994
"Kazakstan is fulfilling its pledges for the elimination of nuclear weapons. We were the first CIS state to ratify START I and the Lisbon Protocol. The only delays were due to the fact that we were trying to secure guarantees that this is our lawful property and that we will be compensated for the cost of the enriched uranium."

Kazakstan inherited a small amount of the Soviet Union's defense industrial facilities. The outlook for Kazakstan's defense industry remains bleak. There is limited demand for weapons internally; few of the military systems are exportable; and most importantly, Russian orders have been drastically reduced. However, Russia and Kazakstan will retain close military ties through a series of military cooperation agreements, encompassing Moscow's 20-year lease of the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Tyuratam Space Missile Test Center), and various military test ranges.

Belarus is also committed to denuclearization. In February 1993, its parliament ratified the START Treaty and the Lisbon Protocol, and acceded to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state, thereby codifying Belarus' intent to become nuclear-free. Also, Belarus and Russia have agreed that the withdrawal -- already underway -- of nuclear weapons and support equipment located in Belarus will be completed by the end of 1996. Further, in an effort to provide evidence of its commitment to nonproliferation, Minsk is cooperating with the United States on improving the Belarus export control system.

  1991 1995
Russia 7,327 6,530
Ukraine 1,512 300
Kazakstan 1,360 0
Belarus 81 18
Total 10,280 6,848*
* 33% reduction
  1991 1995
Russia 2,074 1,345
Ukraine 210 50
Kazakstan 144 0
Belarus 81 18
Total 2,509 1,413*
* 44% reduction

Nuclear Programs

Russia's immediate challenge is to account for and control the approximately 27,000 tactical and strategic nuclear warheads that it inherited from the former Soviet Union. Moscow maintains strong operational launch control of the strategic nuclear weapons it inherited. However, the large number of tactical nuclear weapons and the need to protect them from theft or sale are serious security and proliferation concerns.

Russian statements and actions are consistent with the large-scale dismantlement efforts now underway. These efforts will generate tons of recovered weapons-grade plutonium and hundreds of tons of highly enriched uranium by 2004. The United States has contracted to buy low enriched uranium (LEU) from 500 metric tons of HEU from dismantled weapons. In addition, weapons dismantlement requires Russia to construct new, or refurbish old, storage facilities for this fissile material. Frequent and often long-distance movements make the materials vulnerable to loss or theft during transit between sites within Russia, as well as from Belarus and Ukraine to sites in Russia.

Additionally, serious concerns exist regarding the potential for illegally acquiring and trafficking in industrial nuclear and radioactive materials, which are commercially available in Russia. This type of material is particularly vulnerable to theft from nuclear power plants and research facilities.

By May 1992, all tactical nuclear weapons had been removed from Ukraine to Russia. Further, on January 14, 1994, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and the United States signed a statement regarding the withdrawal and dismantlement of all remaining strategic nuclear weapons in Ukraine. One month later, Moscow and Kiev reached a further understanding concerning specific measures to implement the January statement. In December 1995, Ukrainian officials said that about 1,410 warheads had been removed from their country. All warheads probably will have been withdrawn by mid-1996.

By April 1995, all nuclear weapons had been withdrawn from Kazakstan. This occurred under a March 1994 bilateral agreement between Almaty and Moscow. The ICBM airframes that remain in Kazakstan probably will be withdrawn in 1996.

Belarus has agreed with Russia to return the nuclear weapons located on its territory. These weapons include tactical nuclear weapons withdrawn by July 1992 and the SS-25 ICBMs and their associated nuclear warheads being withdrawn currently. As of December 1995, only 18 SS-25 missiles and warheads remained in Belarus. Belarus is expected to complete all SS-25 withdrawals by the end of 1996.

Chemical Programs

The United States has a number of questions and concerns regarding the chemical warfare program Russia inherited from the Soviet Union. Russia has the largest and most advanced chemical warfare program in the world and maintains a considerable stockpile of nerve, blister, and choking agents. Moscow has repeatedly stated that its chemical weapons stockpile consists of 40,000 metric tons of toxic agents in weapons and in bulk storage. A consolidation effort has been underway since the mid-1980s, and President Yeltsin declared in January 1992 that all former Soviet chemical weapons had been transferred to Russian territory.

Russia has signed but not yet ratified the CWC. Under the Convention, Russia would be obligated to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons and destroy or, consistent with CWC requirements, convert former chemical weapons production facilities to peaceful purposes.

Currently, Russia has no large-scale chemical warfare destruction facilities and is unlikely to begin full-scale destruction before the late 1990s. The Russian chemical warfare destruction program has been stymied by delays in formulating a plan, building facilities, obtaining needed foreign technical and financial assistance, and obtaining legislative approval.

Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus have no known chemical warfare programs and no intention of establishing them.

Biological Programs

The United States continues to have concerns about Russian compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, despite President Yeltsin's decree in April 1992 banning all activities contravening the Convention. Russia may be retaining capability for the production of biological warfare agents. The Soviet Union's offensive biological warfare program employed thousands of its best scientists at numerous facilities, almost all of which are located in Russia. In addition, as with its nuclear materials, Russia's biological warfare technology may be vulnerable to leakage to third parties.

Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus have no known biological warfare programs and no intention of establishing them.

Ballistic Missiles

Some 1,300 ICBMs and SLBMs are deployed in Russia. In addition, another 50 deployed operational ICBMs are located in Ukraine and slated for dismantlement, and the 18 ICBMs remaining in Belarus are to be returned to Russia. Many Russian ICBMs and SLBMs are slated for dismantlement under START I, and more will be destroyed under START II. Russia also has an inventory of SCUD-B and SS-21 SRBMs.

Russia inherited the bulk of the Soviet Union's ballistic missile industrial base and remains capable of developing and producing the full range of both solid- and liquid-propellant ballistic missiles, and all associated technologies.

In Ukraine, since mid-1993, about 75 percent of the ICBM warheads have been removed from active status and, as of December 1995, Ukrainian officials said that about 1,410 ICBM and air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) warheads have been returned to Russia. Under the Trilateral Statement signed January 14, 1994, all the warheads associated with these ICBMs, as well as those from ALCMs, are to be transferred to Russia for dismantlement. We expect all warheads will probably be transferred by mid-1996.

Ukraine also has an inventory of SCUD-B and SS-21 SRBMs, as well as fighter and bomber aircraft that could be used to deliver NBC weapons. It has extensive and highly developed missile production capabilities and has indicated intense interest in developing an indigenous space launch vehicle program.

In April 1995, the Russians announced that all nuclear warheads had been removed from Kazakstan, thereby removing all ICBMs in Kazakstan from operational status. Moscow will probably remove the remaining ICBM airframes and support equipment from Kazakstan well before the 1997 agreed deadline. While Kazakstan also has an inventory of SCUD-B SRBMs, strategic aircraft which had been based in Kazakstan have already been redeployed to Russia. With material and technical assistance from Russia, Kazakstan has the capability to continue producing ballistic missiles and launchers, but has put a high priority on converting the former missile production facility at Petropavlovsk. Additional ballistic missile assembly technology and expertise is available at the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Tyuratam Space Missile Test Center), which remains under Russian control.

In Belarus, as of December 1995, 63 SS-25 ICBMs originally deployed there have been returned to Russia. As of December 1995, Belarus had two operational SS-25 mobile ICBM regiments remaining on its territory, with a total of 18 nuclear warheads. In July 1992, Belarus signed an agreement with Russia placing the regiments under exclusive Russian control. In September 1993, Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement requiring the return of these nuclear missiles and all related missile support equipment to Russia by the end of 1996. After withdrawal from Belarus, these SS-25s will be stored or deployed in Russia. Belarus also has an inventory of SCUD-B and SS-21 SRBMs, which it will retain.

Belarus has a variety of aircraft capable of delivering NBC weapons. It has no capability to produce missiles, but does produce the chassis for road mobile missile launchers.

Cruise Missiles and Other Means of Delivery

The states of the former Soviet Union inherited the largest inventory of cruise missiles in the world. The majority of these missiles are now under Russian control, are located on Russian territory, and include large numbers of air-, sea- and land-launched systems. However, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakstan have air-launched cruise missiles in their air forces, while Ukraine may have a small number of sea-launched and coastal defense cruise missiles under its control.


Russia's numerous cooperative actions with the West in international arenas is evidence that Russia's overall policy appears to support nonproliferation actions. Further, Russia's military doctrine lists proliferation of NBC weapons as a threat to its own security. Russia has made some progress in designing a system to control the sale of sensitive technologies. Moscow has established lists of controlled items and developed official procedures governing their potential sale. Serious concerns remain, however, ranging from certain Russian exports policies to effective security measures for fissile material. To date, theft has focused primarily on small arms and military goods that are readily convertible to cash. Interest in the theft of advanced weapons, critical components, and weapons-grade fissile materials has been highlighted by several incidents in 1994 involving the smuggling of nuclear material.

Uncertainty persists concerning the long-term implications of other types of technology transfers, despite recent Russian actions to monitor and control illegal proliferation. The emigration of Russian scientists, engineers, and technicians with experience in NBC weapons and missile development technologies could provide certain nations with access to critical research or production know-how and thereby accelerate their acquiring such capabilities. Finally, recent Russian declarations regarding the extent of chemical and biological warfare programs have not been complete.

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