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General: Russia Must Rely on Nukes

November 26, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia will have to rely on the threat of using its nuclear arsenal to ensure security for at least the next decade because its conventional forces are not sufficient, a top general said Friday.

``Strategic nuclear forces ... must not be regarded as a panacea for all threats to ground security, but they are capable of being a reliable deterrent guarantee,″ strategic missile force commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Yakovlev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, Russia’s army has become an underfunded and demoralized force, plagued by severe hazing and miserable living conditions.

It suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1994-96 Chechnya war to a much smaller armed group of rebels.

Russia’s conventional forces are likely to remain inadequate ``for at least the next decade,″ Yakovlev said.

The government bitterly opposes U.S. plans to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that would allow the United States to build a limited missile defense system.

Washington insists that the system would not be able to protect against the kind of a massive nuclear attack that Russia is capable of launching and is only meant as a defense against possible strikes by ``rogue″ states such as Iran or North Korea.

But Russia fears that such a system would reduce the deterrent value of its own nuclear forces.

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