Editor’s note: This is the first in a major series of WorldNetDaily
investigative reports on Russian arms-control violations and the very
real nuclear threat they indicate, by former Time magazine reporter
Kenneth R. Timmerman. Part 2, on the secret nuclear war-fighting command
centers in Russia, runs tomorrow, exclusively in WorldNetDaily.
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
WASHINGTON — As President Clinton met with Russian President Putin in
Moscow to discuss nuclear arms control over the weekend, an old story from
the Cold War has resurfaced that sheds doubt on Russia’s reliability as a
negotiating partner: nuclear-tipped SS-23 missiles that the Soviet Union
never declared to the United States, in direct violation of a 1987
These missiles, which are now slated to be dismantled in Slovakia this
month, were hidden by the Red army in deep underground bunkers in
Czechoslovakia, despite Soviet promises to withdraw all nuclear theater
missiles from Europe and destroy them.
WorldNetDaily has obtained exclusive video footage of the SS-23s, that
was acquired clandestinely by U.S. intelligence agencies. The Soviet-era
tapes show the missiles on operational deployment in Eastern Europe with the
Soviet-era photograph of the 4-axle SS-23 launch vehicle, in launch
During the Cold War, the SS-23 missiles were equipped with a 100-kiloton
nuclear warhead and were fired from wheeled launchers, making them virtually
impossible to destroy once they were deployed from their underground storage
The Soviets secretly deployed the SS-23s in East Germany, Czechoslovakia
and Bulgaria in 1986. In the event of war in Europe between NATO and the
Warsaw Pact, they would have given the Soviets a clear military advantage by
allowing them to launch a surprise nuclear strike at the heart of NATO
forces in Germany.
Under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Agreement signed in
Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 1987, President Reagan and General Secretary
Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to destroy all existing theater nuclear missiles in
Europe, including all SS-23s.
Soviet-era photo, supplied to the United States in compliance with
While the Soviets allowed U.S. inspectors to witness the destruction of
the longer-range SS-20 missiles, which constituted the bulk of their force,
they secretly rushed several batteries of the shorter-range SS-23s to East
Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria just prior to signing the Treaty, and
never declared them or destroyed them.
“This is a clear violation of the INF Treaty,” said Rep. Curt Weldon,
R-Pa., “and raises disturbing questions about the commitment of the Russian
government to arms control agreements.”
Article IV of the INF Treaty
(requires Adobe Acrobat
Reader to open) states: “Each Party shall eliminate all its
intermediate-range missiles and launchers of such missiles, and all support
structures and support equipment … so that no later than three years after
entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter no such missiles, launchers,
support structures or support equipment shall be possessed by either Party.”
SS-23 launch vehicle in the travel position, on display with the
The SS-23 was named as one of the missiles slated for total elimination
under the Treaty. All SS-20 missiles were reportedly dismantled by June
Weldon and other members of the House Armed Services Committee are
planning to visit the current storage site of the SS-23s in Martin,
Slovakia, since the United States is footing the bill for dismantling the
missiles, a process set to begin later this month.
“We want to film these missiles and then ask the Russians some hard
questions about their commitment to arms control,” Weldon said.
Weldon and Maryland Republican Roscoe Bartlett are concerned that Russia
may be hiding much larger reserves of nuclear weapons in a vast underground
site built into the Ural Mountains, known as Yamantau.
“We’re going to ask the Russians, here’s what you were doing in Eastern
Europe; what are you doing at home?” said Weldon.
Soviet-era photo, supplied to the United States in compliance with
Six missiles, two launchers and several dummy nuclear warheads will be
dismantled by the Slovak Republic with U.S. help later this year. A total of
73 SS-23s were secretly deployed by the Soviets in Eastern Europe, according
to Arms Control and Disarmament Agency compliance reports. If all 73
missiles had been armed with nuclear warheads, their combined firepower
would have equaled 365 times the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed
When the United States received
the first reports about the existence of a secret SS-23 force in September 1991, “it sent an electric shock through the intelligence community,” a former intelligence analyst told WND. “The realization that the Soviets had a secret nuclear missile force undermined all our premises about arms control.”
There had long been a debate about the actual size of the Soviet nuclear force, because of large numbers of non-deployed missiles and warheads the Soviets were known to keep in reserve.
“Here was a real, clandestine missile force — something the Soviets were trying to hide from us,” the analyst said. “It risked undermining every arms control treaty we had ever signed with them.”
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated in 1986 that the Soviet Union had a clandestine strategic “reserve” force of several thousand weapons, as large as Russia’s current declared force, making a mockery of arms control commitments with the United States.
Weldon agrees. “If arms control agreements are not upheld by both parties they are meaningless pieces of paper.”
The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, which was recently subsumed within the State Department, quietly accused the Soviets of “bad faith.” It equated the secret deployment of the SS-23s in Eastern Europe to other arms-control violations, notably the construction of a phased array radar system at Krasnoyarsk.
Russian officials later admitted that the Krasnoyarsk radar was built on the orders of the Soviet Politburo as a battle-management system, in conscious violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
|A 1988 photograph, published in Paris Match, showing the body of SS-23 rockets withdrawn with Soviet forces from East Germany as part of the 200 declared SS-23s the U.S.S.R. agreed to dismantle and destroy under the INF Treaty. The U.S. now believes the Soviet Union had an additional 73 missiles deployed secretly in Warsaw Pact countries.|
The last mention of the SS-23s appears in the
May 1995 ACDA compliance
report, which states that the SS-23 missiles were “transferred with their connecting sections, which would enable their use with nuclear warheads.” This led the United States to conclude that the Soviet Union had negotiated the INF Treaty “in bad faith.”
Despite these concerns, the May 1995 report states, “the United States does not intend to address this issue in future reports but will continue its ongoing efforts to see that these missiles are destroyed.”
The first public mention that undeclared missiles still existed in former Warsaw Pact countries dates from August 1997, when State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters in Washington that negotiations were under way with both Slovakia and Bulgaria to dismantle the missiles. He called the talks “action with friendly governments,” and said the U.S. stood ready to help them destroy the SS-23s.
The Bulgarians initially balked at destroying the missiles, stating it was in Bulgaria’s national interest to retain them, but eventually complied. Slovakia said it didn’t have the money to dismantle the missiles on its own. The controversy dragged on until earlier this year.
Then on April 27, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Bratislava, Douglas Hengel, signed a memorandum of understanding with Slovakia’s Chief of Staff Gen. Milan Cerovsky, providing for U.S. financing of the destruction of the last six SS-23 missiles by the end of October, with work beginning in June. Altogether, the destruction will cost U.S. taxpayers $385,000, according to the memorandum.
|Soviet-era photo, supplied to the United States in compliance with the INF Treaty in 1987, showing the 4-axle launch vehicle for the SS-23 system.|
The Slovak missiles are from a battery of six missile launchers and 30 missiles, initially deployed to an underground base known as Site Adam about 100 miles northeast of Prague, Czech embassy spokesman Martin Weiss told WND. Site Adam was originally part of a chain of defensive underground sites ringing the borders of Nazi Germany and Austria, Weiss said, built in the 1930s. While many similar sites have been opened to the public — including one that has become a hot tourist spot — Site Adam remains off-limits and is still used by the Czech military.
Investigators working with the House Armed Services Committee in Washington told WND that Site Adam was one of several underground sites in Eastern Europe reinforced by Warsaw Pact forces during the Cold War as a nuclear storage bunker. It is believed to extend some 20 stories below ground.
The Soviet army hastily pulled out of Eastern Europe over the summer of 1990, taking the nuclear warheads from the SS-23s along with them. U.S. officials believe it was not until September 1991 that Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel learned about the existence of the secret force of SS-23 missiles and informed the United States.
As Czechoslovakia itself began to break up in mid-1992, Havel resigned and the military assets of the country were split between the Czech and Slovak Republics. Havel was elected as president of the newly formed Czech Republic in 1993.
According to the Czech defense ministry, six of the 30 SS-23 missiles were transferred to the Slovak Republic in 1993 as their share of formerly joint military assets. The remaining missiles were dismantled quietly by the Czech Republic in 1995-1996.
Slovakia is now seeking to join NATO, and invited NATO military attachés stationed in Bratislava to view the missiles on May 10.
|A 1988 photograph, published in Paris Match, showing partially dismantled SS-23 missiles, with the nuclear warheads separated from the rocket bodies.|
“Warsaw Pact plans called for these missiles being ready to fire within 20 minutes of deployment,” said Slovak diplomat Jan Orlovski. “Our people were able to deploy them in front of NATO military attachés in 17 minutes” in a mock operational exercise conducted near the city of Martin.
The missiles will be dismantled at the Novaky military base in Slovakia between now and October, while the launchers are being disassembled in military workshops in the city of Trencin.
Related story in today’s WND:
Arms control cover-up?
COMING TOMORROW: In his next report, titled ‘Inside Russia’s magic mountain,’ reporter Ken Timmerman describes how, deep in the Urals, a mountain called Yamantau is believed to conceal one of Russia’s darkest nuclear secrets — a secret which President Clinton, members of Congress, and the U.S. military top brass have raised repeatedly with Russia’s leaders, without ever receiving a response. According to U.S. intelligence sources, the Russian government has pumped more than $4.5 billion into building a sprawling underground complex at Yamantau — impervious to direct nuclear assault — that spans an area as large as Washington, D.C., inside the Beltway, or some 400 square miles.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a veteran investigative reporter who has published three books on the arms trade and intelligence issues. In congressional testimony last year, he revealed the existence of an ICBM program in Iran known as the “Kosar,” helping to spark legislation that imposed sanctions on Russia for transferring missile technology to Iran. A contributing editor to Reader’s Digest, the former Time magazine correspondent is currently writing a book on Bill Clinton’s corrupt relationship with communist China.