Russian Nuclear-Armed SSNs?
I'll comment more on this later, but this article from the Eurasia Daily Monitor is quite interesting. Excerpt:
Then came the real sensation: Putin asked how many Russian nuclear subs were at sea. Ivanov reported: "Today, there are eight nuclear-powered submarines at sea on combat patrols. Five of them are strategic and three are multipurpose, but each of them has nuclear arms aboard" (Interfax, September 10). Ivanov made the statement and then repeated it once again unequivocally, as broadcast the same day by Russian government’s Rossiya television channel: "The subs have different tasks -- some are armed with ICBMs, others are multipurpose -- but each of them has nuclear weapons aboard." Ivanov's statement is highly significant, because under existing agreements it is illegal for Russia to deploy non-strategic nuclear weapons on board attack (multipurpose) subs.More later...
On September 27, 1991, U.S. President George H.W. Bush announced drastic cuts in non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons and invited the Soviet Union to follow his lead. Ten days later Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to do the same. In January 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin officially committed Russia to continue tactical nuclear disarmament.
The non-strategic arms limitation agreements required the total destruction of all nuclear artillery shells, tactical land-based missile warheads, and nuclear land mines. They also mandated the partial destruction of anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense missile warheads, non-strategic naval nuclear weapons, and Air Force and Naval Air Force bombs. All the nuclear weapons left after the partial destruction and, in particular, all non-strategic naval weapons were to be detached from delivery systems, taken off ships and subs, and placed in centralized storage facilities away from naval and other military bases. The only exceptions were Air Force tactical bombs that were allowed to be deployed at storage facilities near air bases (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Nuclear Status Report, www.ceip.org)...
...The tactical nuclear limitation agreements are not a formal treaty, and no compliance verification mechanism ever existed. Despite statements to the contrary, questions about Russian compliance with non-strategic nuclear disarmament have been raised. Unlike U.S. naval-based, long-range cruise missiles, their Russian (Soviet) equivalents -- the Granat and Granit -- were not designed or ever tested to carry conventional warheads. Still Russian attack subs continued to deploy these missiles at sea, which did not make sense if only their nuclear tips continued to be in place despite official pledges.
However, now the time for speculation is over. Ivanov’s statement, made in front of reporters and President Putin reveals unequivocally that Russian attack subs are being deployed "on combat patrols" against NATO ships with battle-ready non-strategic nukes onboard. Russia is clearly cheating now and may have been cheating on its signed tactical nuclear arms control promises all along.
Update 0021 15 Sep: Back in 1991 or '92, I remember they had us change the standard response we were supposed to give if anyone asked us about the presence of nuclear weapons aboard non-SSBNs. To the original, "I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons aboard any U.S. Naval vessel", they added something like, "However, it is the policy of the U.S. government not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard attack submarines or surface ships". So, while we can't confirm or deny, I can say that I personally never saw a nuclear weapon, and I was stationed only on attack submarines and an aircraft carrier.
If the Russians are cheating on this agreement, my initial thought was that it'd be stupid on their part -- but, the Russian Navy was never known for being run by the brightest group of Admirals. Then I thought some more; the only real mission the Russian submarine force has nowadays is protecting whatever SSBNs they can get out on patrol, so I suppose they'd be willing to risk having us put nukes back on our SSNs (a minimal tactical advantage, if any) in order to have a weapon that's really their only chance to kill one of our SSNs going after their boomers. I have no idea why they'd want to publicize it, however.
I never did really understand the Russians...