Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

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.
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,
...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.
More later...

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...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My recollection is that the SALT limitations precluded land-attack nuclear weapons, such as TLAM-N, which were making the Russians wet their panties back then.

I don't recall that we got them to do anything in return that was in the maritime category...just a backing off of short-strike, land-based nuclear weapons.

If anyone thinks the Russian's aren't carrying nukes of some form on their attack boats -- such as nuclear-tipped torpedoes -- they need to have their head examined. The Russians are not known for having a high level of consciousness...just a high level of deceit.

But we can't say that, can we? After all, "the Cold War is over" -- just ask any Ivy League prof while he's drinking his morning latte.

9/14/2006 8:44 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

A few thoughts...

Revelation of the United States' routine conveyance of nuclear weapons in violation of numerous bans on nuclear port visits contributed to a Bush administration decision in 1990 to remove tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. ships and submarines, says William Arkin in his 2005 book "Code Names: DECIPHERING U.S. MILITARY PLANS, PROGRAMS AND OPERATIONS IN THE 9/11 WORLD"

Molten Eagle’s Vigilis made a prediction that the next Quadrennial Defense Review will include small submarine-launched tactical nukes. TLAM-Ns were not specified and proposed RATTLRS may soon be on the table, too.

Meanwhile, Chapomatic (infamous morning latte drinker) said, "What we do instead is keep from removing options from the table (by declaring we won’t use them). We make signals to communicate our lack of weakness–and one doesn’t do that with a stealthy system; one does that by noisily moving B-52s to Guam one day and saying things like 'all options are on the table'."

The Russians may, in fact, be a U.S. proxy in this case.

9/14/2006 11:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the Interfax story.

9/14/2006 2:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stories in Russian:


Don't see a mention of the issue there. FYI - the Russian word for nuclear weapon is "nuclear (yadernoe)" but a nuclear-powered submarine is "atomic (atomnaya)."

So even if the MinDef was confused at the difference between nuke power and missiles, he would have to be doubly confused and no one else caught it.

9/14/2006 3:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


The President of Russia's web site has a transcript in Russian of the conversation here.

I agree with the translation as represented in the article.

The President's report on the trip in English is abridged.

9/14/2006 3:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


The President of Russia's web site has a transcript in Russian of the conversation here.

I agree with the translation as represented in the article.

The President's report on the trip in English is abridged.

9/14/2006 8:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Understanding" the Russians requires insight into their moral compass -- and for all those years that atheism was the party line, they had none. You can't propogate that much spiritual damage and not expect consequences vis-a-vis judgment and character.

BTW, atheism is still the party line in China. We're not likely to "understand" them either.

9/15/2006 8:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's one good reason not to "understand" the Chinese:

9/28/2006 9:09 AM


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