Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia: U.S. Lists 13 As Makers Of Mass Destruction Weapons

Washington, 2 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. Commerce Department has published a list of 13 organizations in Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel which it says are involved in developing weapons of mass destruction and are now prohibited from buying American technology and products without a license.

The list includes the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Technical Physics, known as Chelyabinsk-70, the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, known as Arzamas-16, and all entities associated with the Ministry for Atomic Power of Russia in either Snezhinsk or Kemlev, Russia.

Creation of the list was prompted by the sale of two super-computers to the Chelyabinsk center by a U.S. computer firm, Silicon Graphics, last year. The company said it was unaware the institute was a weapons lab when it made the sale under export regulations which have been greatly relaxed since the days of the cold war.

Russian officials earlier this year also announced that the Arzamas center had acquired an IBM supercomputer through a purchase made in Europe. Both sales are under criminal investigation.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Export controls, William Reinsch, says the list is not comprehensive and that it is up to firms to find out who their customers are before selling any products which could be used to make weapons of mass destruction or the missiles to deliver them.

U.S. export laws, which once virtually prohibited the export of any advanced technology to the nations of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet union, are now much more relaxed.

While export of the most advanced of the supercomputers has remained restricted, the level of computers that could be sold anywhere in the world under what is known as a "general export license" -- that is, requiring no specific approval from the U.S. government -- had been raised to the levels of computers generally available on commercial markets throughout the U.S. and western Europe.

Similarly, restrictions on civilian products which "could" be converted to military uses were eliminated or considerably eased.

U.S. companies had argued that in a day of global markets, especially after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the export restrictions merely prevented American firms from selling the same products that are available anywhere.

U.S. restrictions on products which could be used for weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear and chemical, generally -- have remained in place, but the Clinton administration had resisted efforts to actually publish a list of end users known to be violating the non-proliferation treaties.

Disclosure of the Russian purchases, and China's ability to acquire a large number of supercomputers, prompted Congressional pressure on the administration to release the list. The Commerce Department published the list quietly Monday.

Private groups which have been pushing for the listing say it is completely inadequate. Gary Milholland, the director of the Wisconsin Project, an anti-proliferation monitoring group, says the list is "better than nothing" but calls it "incredibly small."

He told the New York Times it was a "good first step, but it's a baby step" and comes "too late" in identifying organizations which have already acquired supercomputers and other advance technology.

In addition to the three organizations in Russia, the U.S. rules now apply to three in China -- The Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics and all of its affiliated labs and institutes, the Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics in Beijing and the High Power Laser Laboratory in Shanghain.

In Israel, the Nuclear Research Center at Negev, Dimona, was listed with a note that Ben Gurion University had been officially published earlier.