Russia: June 15, 2000

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Russia's missile defense warning satellite system continues to degrade. After Cosmos-2345 failed in 1998, only one geosynchronous missile warning satellite remained in operation (Cosmos-2224), and it has apparently failed recently. It may still be functioning, but it is no longer in a fixed location or under firm control from Russia. The Russians were to orbit a series of nine "high elliptical orbit" satellites that could give them missile launch coverage over the US, but only four are working in orbit. Russia cannot, today, detect missile launches in wide areas of the world, including most of the ocean areas frequented by US missile submarines. During a time of crisis, Russia might have no way to know that the US has just launched a missile attack until the missiles appear on ground-based radars located in Russia itself. This would not leave enough time for the Russian missile force to get off the ground before super-accurate US warheads began digging them out of their silos. Seven Russian missile warning satellites have been built but never launched due to a lack of money. The US and Russia are continuing to negotiate plans for a joint missile warning center that could share information and provide the Russians with confidence that no US attack was imminent, but these talks were delayed when Russia boycotted them for several months as a protest against the Kosovo War.--Stephen V Cole

 

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