Russia moving nuclear weapons

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U.S.: Russia Moving Weapons The Associated Press, Wed 3 Jan 2001 Email this story to a friend Print this story WASHINGTON (AP) Russia has moved short-range nuclear weapons onto one of its military bases in the Baltics, senior Clinton administration officials said Wednesday. Some in the administration believe the Russians may be seeking to step up pressure on NATO to withdraw similar weapons from Europe.

The movement of Russian nuclear weapons, first reported in Wednesday's Washington Times, also may reflect Moscow's response to NATO's eastern expansion in 1999 when Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined the alliance. The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia want to be the next new members.

Russia views NATO expansion as a potential military threat and has said it would undermine arms control.

Moscow has long argued for the removal of all tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons from Europe. The United States withdrew many missiles and other nuclear weapons from Europe in the 1980s and 1990s but maintains some nuclear bombs for aircraft based there.

The Times reported that Russia moved nuclear weapons last summer to the base in Kaliningrad, a Baltic Sea port located between Poland and Lithuania on a sliver of Russian territory not connected to the main part of Russia. The port is the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet.

The report was denied by the Baltic Fleet, according to Tass. The Russian news agency quoted Anatoly Lobsky, assistant to the fleet commander, as saying the fleet is unconditionally fulfilling its obligations to keep the Baltics a nuclear-free zone.

Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press there have been indications for more than a year that Russia moved nuclear weapons into the Baltics. Both officials said it was not clear how long the weapons have been there, but some were moved in recent months.

The Baltic states Wednesday expressed concern but said they didn't know enough to fully assess the potential threat.

``We don't know whether it's true or not,'' the office of Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Ilves quoted the minister as saying. ``But if it is true, it is regretful, because it decreases the stability of the region.''

Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said in an interview, ``This sounds alarming, but I see no reason Russia should try to escalate the situation in Baltic region.''

Liiga Bergmane, spokeswoman at Latvia's Foreign Ministry, said Latvia would seek independent confirmation of the reports.

``We don't see any reason why Russia should want to change its policy of keeping these kinds of weapons out of the Baltic region,'' she said. ``Russia pledged not to increase nuclear arms here and we can't imagine why it would reconsider.''

The Times report said the weapons are believed to be for use on a new missile with a range of about 44 miles.

Asked about the Times report, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said, ``We don't comment on intelligence.'' The Times quoted Bacon as saying, ``If the Russians have placed tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, it would violate their pledge that they were removing nuclear weapons from the Baltics, and that the Baltics should be nuclear-free.''

Russia and the United States announced in 1991 and 1992 nonbinding agreements to reduce arsenals of tactical nuclear weapons.The Russians said that all tactical nuclear weapons were removed from Eastern Europe to more secure areas in Russia. It was not clear whether that included nuclear weapons based in Kaliningrad.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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-- meg davis (meg9999@aol.com), January 04, 2001

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Poland Calls for 'Int'l Inspection' The Associated Press, Thu 4 Jan 2001 Email this story to a friend Print this story WARSAW, Poland (AP) Poland on Thursday called for an ``international inspection'' to check reports that Russia has moved nuclear weapons into its Baltic military enclave of Kaliningrad.

``Poland needs to monitor the situation in Kaliningrad on a day-to- day basis, and it is doing that,'' Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski said on Polish television. ``Verification will include pushing for international inspection, which is a normal thing.''

Russia, whose Baltic Fleet is based in Kaliningrad, has denied moving nuclear weapons into the area and insists it is sticking to its commitment to keep the Baltic Sea a nuclear-free zone.

``It is a problem whether to regard Russian assurances as credible,'' Komorowski said, noting that Russia has in the past barred inspection of ``some places'' in the Kaliningrad region.

``When one does not let somebody in, it means he has something to hide,'' Komorowski said.

He did not specify how any inspections might be carried out, but said they would involve using contacts between Moscow and the West's NATO defense alliance.

Poland, a communist ally of Moscow during the Cold War, joined NATO in March 1998.

Kaliningrad is a Baltic Sea port located between Poland and Lithuania, a former Soviet Republic. It was left isolated from the rest of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

-- Meg Davis (meg9999@aol.com), January 04, 2001.


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