DATE=6/9/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA WARNING NUMBER=5-46472 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The Presidents of the United States and Russia signed an agreement recently to share once-secret information about tracking missile launches and warheads. A few years ago, sharing such sensitive military data would have been unthinkable. But as V- O-A's Jim Randle reports, some critics of the plan says it does not go far enough. TEXT: During the Cold War, both the United States and Russia built elaborate systems of spy satellites, radars, and computer networks to scan the skies for ballistic missiles and their deadly nuclear warheads. The U-S systems were pointed at the Soviet Union and the Soviet systems watched the Americas. The new plan is for U-S forces and the Russian military to share some of this missile warning data in a specially equipped facility near Moscow. The Americans will provide a computer screen with some information from the U-S global surveillance system, and the Russians will provide a separate screen with data from their sources. The system is supposed to allow Russian and U-S military officers to see missile launches anywhere in the world that might affect either nation. Pentagon officials say the idea is to give the two nations a quick way to resolve any misunderstandings and reduce the chance that a nuclear war would start by accident. Missile expert John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists says there is good reason for concern. He says a rocket launched near Russia to gather scientific data could have sparked a misguided and disastrous response from Moscow. /// Pike Act /// A few years ago there was a major malfunction in their early warning system, for a few minutes they mistakenly thought a scientific sounding rocket was in fact a missile, nuclear-tipped, headed in their direction. /// End Act /// Senior U-S defense officials say it will take about a year to set up the elaborate joint missile warning system in a building once used as a kindergarten for children of Strategic Rocket Forces troops near Moscow. It will take another three months to train a cadre of officers from both nations to be on watch 24 hours a day. Meantime, many arms control experts, including Jack Mendelsohn of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, say the Russian early warning system has deteriorated badly since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Only four satellites remain of more than a dozen that once watched the globe with their sensors. Some vital radar stations that once protected the Soviet Union are now closed because they are on territory no longer controlled by Moscow. Mr. Mendelsohn, a former U-S Foreign Service officer, says Moscow's military is blind and deaf for a much of each day. /// MENDELSOHN Act /// (all in all) I guess the estimate is they really have early warning coverage of the United States about a third to a half of the day. Which is really not adequate if you want to dispel concerns about a potential adversary. /// End Act /// Congressman Curt Weldon says the joint early warning center is a welcome step toward addressing these problems. /// Weldon Act /// That is definitely a step (direction) we want to move. And something I think would help provide confidence on both sides. So I support that fully. /// End Act /// Mr. Weldon is an outspoken critic of the Clinton Administration's foreign and military policies, which he says have thrown away an opportunity to build a stronger and safer relationship with Moscow. Mr. Weldon says the two nations should do more than watch missile threats -- they should be able to stop them. He is gathering experts from both nations to devise a joint plan for missile defenses. /// Opt /// Mr. Weldon is a strong supporter of U-S efforts to develop missile defenses, while officials in Moscow strongly protest such plans. /// End Opt /// Meantime, the publisher of the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, Steven Schwartz, thinks Washington and Moscow could take simpler steps to reduce the risk of war. He says they could start by changing procedures so it would take hours -- not minutes -- to launch nuclear- armed missiles. /// Schwartz Act /// The solution is to eliminate the problem, and not simply cover it up. Which is what this early warning center will essentially do. Dealing with the problem and eliminating it would mean taking nuclear weapons off of alert. /// End Act /// These discussions come as the United States gets ready for a critical test of a proposed national missile defense in July. President Clinton says that test will help him decide whether or not to build the N-M-D system. Russian President Vladimir Putin has missile defense ideas of his own. He suggested a joint program with Europe to protect that area from missiles, but offered no details. (Signed) NEB/JR/JP 09-Jun-2000 14:42 PM EDT (09-Jun-2000 1842 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .