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Russians Still Digging Bunkers

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 1997 – Russian workers are still burrowing underground, building civil defense bunkers despite the Cold War's end, DoD officials said here recently.

Russian officials have been building various underground facilities for some time, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. Started by the Soviet Union, the construction program is being continued by Russia today, he said. "They have always placed a heavy emphasis on civil defense and underground protection."

U.S. officials do not regard the Russian effort as a threat, Bacon said. "Money that's being spent on digging tunnels is not being spent on developing new missiles or new offensive capabilities," he said. "That's a very important distinction. These are defensive measures. We are worried primarily about offensive measures."

The bunkers are intended to protect Russian leaders, Bacon said. "Every country makes decisions about how to defend itself and how to defend its leaders." Bacon said. "We have hardened structures to protect our leaders in the event of nuclear war, and we also have other ways to protect our leaders from nuclear attack by moving them, by putting them in the air, etc."

While the bunkers are reminiscent of an age past, Bacon said, reduction of Russia's nuclear arsenal is a sign of the post-Cold War era's new relations and developing cooperation. "They are moving forward with their weapons destruction as required under START I, and we fully anticipate they will under START II after the Duma [Russian parliament] ratifies it," he said. "Just in recent weeks they've destroyed 19 submarine-launched ballistic missiles."

Under the terms of the first strategic arms reduction talks, the United States and Russians agreed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals to 6,000. START II, once ratified, will further reduce the inventory to between 3,000 and 3,500. START III would bring arsenals down to between 2,000 and 2,500.

"This will be a reduction of about 80 percent in a 10- to 15-year period," Bacon said. "This is an extraordinary development."

While both sides maintain extensive nuclear forces, Bacon said, they're trying to limit and contain them as much as possible. In an effort to build stability and confidence, both nations have agreed to stop targeting each other with strategic nuclear weapons, Bacon said. "We no longer have the hair trigger that we lived with for decades under the Cold War."

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