Strategic missile mass production begins in Russia
Russia has begun mass production of the Topol-M strategic missile, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Tuesday. "We are now moving on to a new and very important rearmament stage for both our nuclear strategic forces and our tactical complexes," he said at the plant at Votkinsk in Udmurtia, some 1,000km east of Moscow, quoted by the Interfax news agency. "These are not prototypes but mass production," he said. The Topol-M is known to NATO as the SS-27 and is a three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 10,000km which can be deployed on both stationary and mobile launch platforms.
Meanwhile, NATO's chief put a brave face on the alliance's increasingly tense ties with Russia on Tuesday, acknowledging disputes over missile defense, arms control and Kosovo, as Moscow said the two sides face "difficult work." With Russian warnings to NATO and the US becoming more and more belligerent, NATO's secretary general appeared to scold Moscow for threatening to retarget missiles at European cities. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also acknowledged that a Soviet-era treaty governing the placement of heavy military equipment around Europe was a "bone of contention." President Vladimir Putin made the threat to retarget Russian missiles last month in what appeared to be a response to US plans to deploy a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Putin has also threatened to pull out of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. "The NATO-Russian relation is one of partnership and discussion, and the targeting of missiles will not fit in that discussion," he said. NATO, he said, also "deplores Russia's decision to put the fate of the CFE in danger." But de Hoop Scheffer also said both Western and Russian leaders should tone down their rhetoric. He said Russia and NATO had made good progress in building "a durable, mutually beneficial partnership."
"It is advisable to lower the volume of public comments on both sides," he said. Earlier, at a meeting of the council, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the NATO-Russia Council against steps that would compromise Russian security and pointed to persistent disagreements on arms control. "These issues touch on key aspects of European and international security, and aspects of strategic stability," he said. "Of course, it's necessary to approach them in a way that reflects care for each other's stability and security -- not taking any steps aimed at improving someone's security at the expense of the security of others."
Russia has demanded that the West sign the new CFE treaty; Western allies say Russia must first remove troops and materiel from two former Soviet republics, Moldova and Georgia. Moscow has also taken umbrage over US plans to deploy missile defense facilities in the former Soviet bloc states of Poland and the Czech Republic. And Russia, a historic ally of Serbia, has strenuously objected to a UN-backed plan to grant internationally supervised independence to Kosovo, suggesting it would use its UN Security Council to block the plan. Scheffer cited some areas of bilateral cooperation, such as anti-terrorism efforts, including patrols in the Mediterranean Sea and joint efforts to fight drug trafficking from Afghanistan. "NATO cannot do without its important partner Russia, and I think Russia cannot do without NATO," he said. For his part, President Vladimir Putin, during his meeting with Scheffer at the Kremlin, tried to portray the relationship between the alliance and its former opponent positively. "We have moved from a period of confrontation to cooperation with the organization," Putin said. "Naturally, this is big, multifaceted work, and it cannot happen without problems."
Russia reports successful missile test
Russia said a new sea-based ballistic missile made its first successful test flight Thursday after several previous failures, in what was the country's second major test of new rocket technology in a month. Capt. Igor Dygalo, a spokesman for the Russian navy, said the Bulava missile was fired from the submarine Dmitry Donskoi in northern Russia's White Sea and hit its target on the Pacific peninsula of Kamchatka, about 4,200 miles east of Moscow. President Vladimir Putin has hailed Bulava as a key component of Russia's nuclear forces for years to come, saying it has the ability to penetrate any prospective missile defenses. However, three earlier tests in recent years failed, raising doubts about the missile. Russian media speculated the military was trying to avoid embarrassing Sergei Ivanov, the former defense minister who is now a first deputy prime minister and widely considered a leading candidate to succeed Putin in next year's presidential election. According to Russian news reports, the Bulava is designed to have a range of 6,200 miles and carry six individually targeted nuclear warheads. It is expected to equip three new Borei-class nuclear submarines that are under construction. Thursday's test comes amid an aggressive Russian effort to upgrade its missile forces after years of underfunding and a lack of testing. On May 29, the Strategic Rocket Force said it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple independent warheads. A U.S. plan to deploy a ballistic-missile defense system in eastern Europe has been criticized by Putin and other Russian officials, who say it will undermine Russian security. Putin meets with President Bush on Sunday and Monday at the Bush family estate in Maine in a bid to address divisions between the countries.
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Russia successfully launches military satellite
A Russian-built space rocket on Friday sent a new military satellite into orbit, military officials said. A Zenit-2M booster rocket put the Kosmos-2428 satellite into its designated orbit 13 minutes after its launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Russian Space Forces said in a statement. It was the first successful launch of the Zenit-2M rocket with an additional booster, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. It is similar to the Zenit-3SL rocket used at an oceangoing platform floating on the equator in the Pacific, the ministry said. "The satellite will expand the orbital group of Russia's military satellites," the statement said. It did not elaborate on the satellite's purpose and characteristics. Russia is believed to have a network of about 60-70 military reconnaissance satellites, though much of the country's satellite fleet is thought to have suffered amid the persistent funding crunch that the armed forces and military industries suffered in the 1990s. While Russia's manned space program is widely seen as a success — Russian rockets consistently and reliably shuttle crews and cargo up to the international space station — its efforts to expand into lucrative commercial satellite launches have seen several embarrassing failures. On Thursday, a Russian-built Dnepr rocket carried a private U.S.-built spacecraft into orbit from a launch pad in the western Ural Mountains.