Arms and the Russians

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: A report that malfunctioning control systems have switched some missiles into "combat mode" on several occasions is raising new worries about the safety of Russia's rapidly deteriorating nuclear arsenal. According to the Washington Times, a CIA report says Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov warned Russian government officials in February and March that the country's nuclear control equipment will soon collapse without much-needed funding for repairs and upgrades. While the study rates the risk of an accidental nuclear attack as low under "normal circumstances," even one accidental launch could prove deadly. Although Russian missile technically no longer target the U.S., if a missile is launched without a destination it automatically reverts to its original target. Pentagon officials insist there is no evidence that risk of an accidental nuclear attack exists, since codes that control locks on the weapons and supply target data must first be bypassed for a missile to be launched. But the news proves another embarrassment for Rodionov, scheduled for talks Tuesday with Defense Secretary William Cohen about how to safely manage a Russian nuclear weapons system operating on only an estimated one-tenth the necessary funds.