Russia creating new nuclear missile system
White House says Bush knew about it
BY MIKE ECKEL; The Associated Press: Nov. 18, 2004

  MOSCOW - Russia is developing a new nuclear missile system unlike any weapon held by other countries, President Vladimir Putin said yesterday, a move that could serve as a signal to the United States as Washington pushes forward with a missile defense system.
  Putin gave no details about the system or why Russia was pursuing it, and it was unclear whether the Kremlin's cash-strapped armed forces could even afford an expensive new weapon.
  But in remarks that could also be aimed at a domestic audience, he told a meeting of the top leadership of the armed forces that the system could be deployed soon, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
  "We are not only conducting research and successful tests on state of-the-art nuclear missile systems, but I am convinced that these systems will appear in the near future," Putin said. "Moreover, they will be systems, weapons that not a single other nuclear power has, or will have, in the near future.
  "We'll continue our efforts to build our armed forces and its nuclear component," he said.
  ITAR-Tass indicated the new system could be a mobile version of the Topol-M ballistic missile, which have been deployed in silos since 1998. But Alexander Pikayev, a senior military analyst with Moscow's Institute for Global Economy and International Relations, said Putin seemed to be referring to the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, a solidfuel missile that had its first test in September.
  "Putin apparently wanted to boast the success of his military reform effort ... to both the military public," Pikayev told The Associated Press. "His statement also intended to show that Russia is regaining its status as a great power, which can't be ignored."
  Russian officials had stated earlier that the Bulava could be developed in both sea and land based versions and equipped with warheads capable of penetrating missile defense, Pikayev said.
  He said if the Bulava proves capable, it would represent a major success because it would show that Russia has succeeded in modernizing its missile forces despite the shortage of funds.
  "It will ring the bell for the Americans, forcing Washington to reassess its estimates," Pikayev said.
  White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it wasn't news to the Bush administration, and that President Bush and Putin had discussed the issue previously. He emphasized there were agreements in place to reduce the two countries' nuclear arsenals and noted Moscow is a partner in the war on terrorism.
  McClellan suggested that close ties between Bush and Putin makes alarm unnecessary, but doesn't eliminate Washington's concern.
  "We have a very different relationship than we did in the Cold War," he said. "The fact that we do have a good relationship enables us to speak very directly to our Russian friends."
  Christopher Langton, head of defense analysis at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, said it appeared to be the first time that Russian officials had spoken publicly about a new deterrent, though he has no idea what the system might be.
  "He said it was, firstly, unique and, secondly, capable of defeating any space-based defense system, which is clearly putting the spotlight on the anti-missile of the United States," Langton said.
  Military reform is a high priority for Putin, Langton noted, adding that Russia's conventional forces have proved difficult to improve. Missile forces, however, serve as a deterrent simply by their existence, he said.
  "He is sending a very clear message that Russia is not going to be rolled over by the United States or NATO," he said.
  A doctrine Putin signed in 2001 makes it easier for Russia's leaders to use nuclear weapons to oppose any attack.