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Security Watch: May 9, 2001

9 May 2001, Volume 2, Number 18
FOREIGN MINISTRY READY TO DISCUSS U.S. NMD PLANS... Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov provided the first official Russian reaction to the National Missile Defense (NMD) proposals by U.S. President George W. Bush. As carried by on 3 May, Ivanov said that Moscow welcomes Bush's ideas about reducing nuclear weapons and about consulting with all concerned before moving forward. Russia looks forward to such conversations because it has "a lot to say," Ivanov added.

...AS KARAGANOV URGES AVOIDING CONFRONTATION AND HUMILIATION... Sergei Karaganov, the head of the prestigious Council for Defense and Foreign Policy, told on 3 May that Moscow must avoid isolating itself by taking too hard a line against Bush's NMD proposal. But at the same time, Karaganov said Russia ought not to risk taking part too precipitously in any negotiations about revising the ABM agreement lest it set itself up for a humiliation if the U.S. simply ignores what Russia has to say. The best course, Karaganov counseled, is to wait and see, especially since any American NMD effort will encounter "technical uncertainties."

...BUT ROGOV CALLS FOR 'EXHAUSTIVE' TALKS. Sergei Rogov, the director of the Institute of USA and Canada, said that Moscow should enter into immediate talks because Bush is committed to the idea of NMD but that Washington has not yet worked out the details, reported on 3 May. As a result, Rogov said, prompt Russian participation will give Moscow a greater chance to influence the outcome.

MUBARAK LEAVES MOSCOW EARLY. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Middle East peace prospects but then left early without explanation, Interfax reported on 28 April.

PRIMAKOV SAYS MOSCOW WILL IGNORE U.S. ON IRAN. During a visit to Tehran, Yevgenii Primakov, the former foreign minister and head of the Fatherland-All-Russia faction in the Duma, said that Moscow should continue to expand its ties with Iran despite Washington's oft-expressed opposition, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 April. His Iranian interlocutor, Foreign Minister Jamal Kharrasi, said he sees no reason why Russia cannot be "a friend of both Iran and the United States."

MOSCOW EXPANDS MILITARY TIES WITH CUBA... Cuban Defense Minister Julio Casas met in Moscow with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and with Duma Defense Committee head Mikhail Dmitriev to discuss expanding military cooperation between the two countries, the Military News Agency reported on 25 April. The two sides agreed that Moscow will supply Havana with new weapon systems for Cuba's air force.

...AND NORTH KOREA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov signed an accord with visiting North Korean Armed Forces Minister Kim Il-chol in Moscow that calls for Moscow to replace Pyongyang's aging Soviet-era military equipment, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 April. Despite this agreement, there may be problems ahead in the relationship. On the one hand, North Korea has relatively little cash on hand. And on the other, Moscow agreed earlier this year to supply South Korea with $700 million in Russian weapons as partial repayment of Moscow's debt to Seoul.

PUTIN PRAISES RELATIONS WITH CHINA. President Putin told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan that there are "no problems" in bilateral relations between Moscow and Beijing and that he is looking forward to signing a friendship treaty with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin this summer, Interfax reported on 29 April. But Tang, for his part, used more cautious language, saying that Chinese-Russian relations "cannot be called an alliance," even if they constitute "a strategic partnership."

MOSCOW SEEKS 'COORDINATION' WITH CHINA AND INDIA. Aleksandr Yakovenko, the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that Russia wants to expand its coordination of foreign policies with China and India not to create an alliance but rather because the three countries have "a unity of interests," RIA-Novosti reported on 4 May. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in New Delhi on that same date said that in addition to "trilateral" political coordination, Moscow also seeks to support India's candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

PUTIN, KARIMOV DISCUSS THREAT FROM SOUTH. President Putin told his visiting Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov on 4 May in Moscow that relations between their two countries are on the rise and that the two countries must work together to resist the Islamist threat from the south. "Without Russia," Putin said, "it will be impossible to stop the expansion of Islamic extremists on the territory of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan." Karimov responded that his country seeks to build closer ties with Moscow even as it recognizes Russia's continuing interests in Central Asia.

CHELYABINSK FSB CAPTURES TURKISH SPY... The Federal Security Service in Chelyabinsk announced that it has expelled several Turkish citizens who have visited that region because they were working for the Turkish intelligence agency MIT, reported on 3 May. One of those expelled supposedly has links to the Turkish nationalist Gray Wolves organization as well.

...VORONEZH FSB CAPTURES A FRENCH SPY... Meanwhile, the FSB service in Voronezh said that it has launched an investigation into a Chechen who lived in France and has confessed to working for French intelligence against Russia, reported on 27 April. The FSB said that he had collected information while working for the charitable organization Doctors without Frontiers.

...AND KRASNOYARSK FSB BRINGS NEW CHARGE AGAINST CHINESE SPY. FSB officials in Krasnoyarsk brought an additional charge of fraud against Valentin Danilov, who has already been accused of spying for China, Interfax reported on 29 April.

WAS SOVIET WEAPONS RESEARCH BEHIND FOOT-AND-MOUTH EPIDEMIC? NTV reported on 5 May that workers at a scientific research center in Kazakhstan say that biological weapons research conducted there in Soviet times created a bacteriological strain that could cause foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks like those currently affecting cattle throughout Europe.

PUTIN ATTENDS CHEKIST JUBILEE. President Putin attended the 80th anniversary celebrations for what is now called the FSB Academy, and "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 27 April. The Moscow training school was founded by Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzhinsky in 1921. The academy's rector, Valentin Vlasov, said that the seven faculties at his school training all counterintelligence and security personnel except for those in the SVR which has its own academy.

IVANOV'S TRANSFER TO DEFENSE DOESN'T REDUCE HIS POWERS. President Putin's decision to shift Sergei Ivanov to the Defense Ministry has in no way reduced Ivanov's broader security role, reported on 3 May. Rather, it gives him a new bureaucracy to support his policy ideas, the website said. One indication of that is Ivanov's already announced plans to transform the Defense Ministry's 10th Chief Administration from a body supervising defense treaties and representations into a more general strategic planning center. The revamped administration will be renamed the Administration for Military Policy and International Relations and will be headed by SVR General Mikhail Dmitriev.

SHANGHAI FIVE STRENGTHEN MILITARY TIES. General staff chiefs from the five countries which make up the Shanghai Five agreed at their Moscow meeting to set up a joint anti-terrorist center to respond to threats from Afghanistan and elsewhere, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 April. Except for China, all of the countries involved are already members of the CIS anti-terrorist center. The chiefs announced that the group will sign a treaty on combating terrorism at the June meeting of the chiefs of state in Shanghai.

KVASHNIN'S 'SECRET' VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN. General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the Russian general staff, paid an unscheduled and unannounced visit to Tashkent recently to warn Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov about Moscow's belief that Central Asia will soon face a major invasion of Muslim extremists from Afghanistan, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 April. Russian intelligence believes that some 4,000 fighters will be in the insurgent force, a figure recently confirmed by German sources, the paper said. Kvashnin asked Karimov to open Uzbekistan airspace for Russian air force flights.

TURNOVER AT THE TOP OF THE DEFENSE MINISTRY. President Putin has named Nikolai Kormiltsev to be the new ground forces commander, Military News Agency reported on 30 April. In the same decree, Putin put the ground forces directly under the defense minister rather than under the general chief of staff. At the same time, Putin named Nikolai Solovtsev of the Missile Forces Academy to head the Strategic Rocket Forces in place of Vladimir Yakovlev.

CAPITAL FLIGHT LIMITS INVESTMENTS. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told RIA-Novosti on 27 April that capital flight remains so high -- some $28 billion in 2000 alone -- that it is preventing investments in domestic industry. He added that the country's finance sector has done little or nothing to modify this trend.

BALANCING PRIVATIZATION WITH NATIONALIZATION. First Deputy Property Relations Minister Aleksandr Braverman told ITAR-TASS that the government plans to balance privatization with nationalization in two bills governing those processes.

CHORNOBYL'S IMPACT STILL DISPUTED. On the 15th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe, there are still disputes about its consequences, reported on 26 April. Official statistics maintain that there were 25-30,000 dead as a result, with other experts saying that the actual number of premature deaths both direct and indirect stands at 500,000, the website said.

LOUTCHANSKY WINS IN LONDON COURT. Russian magnate Grigorii Loutchansky won a slander suit against "The Times" of London, reported on 28 April. He had sued the paper for suggesting last year that he has organized crime connections and engages in money laundering. "The Times" said it will appeal.


By Paul Goble

Falling salaries among Russian scientists working on nuclear weapons and missiles represent a looming proliferation threat, according to a study by an American think-tank.

That is because, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in a report released last week, many of these underpaid specialists may now consider selling nuclear materials or even offering their own services abroad.

Prepared by Russian social scientist Valentin Tikhonov, who was able to gain access to areas still closed to Western scholars, the Carnegie study reports on surveys conducted in eight Russian cities, five of which specialize in building nuclear weapons and another three which are involved in the production of missiles and missile-related technologies.

According to the Carnegie report, 62 percent of all workers in the enterprises in these cities make less than $50 a month, with more than half of the scientists involved reporting being forced to take a second job to make ends meet. Almost nine out of 10 said they had suffered a decline in their standard of living, and a majority felt their salaries were only one-third or half of what they should be.

Because of the precipitous decline in their incomes, the report suggests, at least some of the scientists may be tempted to sell off some of the nuclear materials to anyone with the money to buy. And at least some of the nuclear and missile scientists said they would like to work outside of Russia, raising the specter that they might sell their services to rogue states interested in developing a nuclear missile capability.

If the scientists either sell nuclear materials or offer their services to rogue states, the report says, this would exacerbate "the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation" around the world. If they do both, that could represent one of the most serious proliferation threats of all time. And to prevent that, the Carnegie report urges that both Moscow and the West work together to increase the salaries and job satisfaction of the scientists involved.

At the very least, it says, "the Russian government and associated experts have a responsibility to understand the particular social and economic problems that beset these specialists at a time when Russian reforms are evolving," because "the better these trends are understood, the more effective targeted programs to address current circumstances will be."

What makes the Carnegie report so disturbing is that it comes after almost a decade of efforts both by Moscow and Western governments -- especially that of the United States -- to try to prevent any leakage of nuclear weapons, equipment, or personnel out of the countries that emerged following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Beginning almost immediately after 1991, the U.S. successfully pushed for the return of all Soviet nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation. It promoted the dismantling of nuclear weapons and the denaturing of nuclear materials. And it provided assistance through the Nunn-Lugar program to sustain Russian nuclear scientists and thus dissuade them from selling their services to rogue states.

Since 1991, the so-called Nunn-Lugar program -- named for U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn -- has helped destroy some 5,000 nuclear warheads as well as weapon materials and delivery systems.

Throughout this decade, the Russian government has continued to insist that it has complete and effective control over nuclear weapons, nuclear materials, and nuclear and missile scientists. So far, there is no evidence that Moscow has lost control over the weapons, but there has been leakage of at least small amounts of nuclear materials and some nuclear and missile scientists seeking higher-paid work.

The Carnegie report suggests that there may be more leakage of both in the near term unless something more is done to address the income needs of the Russian scientists. And its conclusions are likely to prompt at least some Western governments to consider extending more assistance to prevent the flight of nuclear fuel and nuclear scientists to countries like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.

But precisely because the Carnegie study calls into question much of the optimism at the core of most earlier investigations into this matter, its findings are likely to spark a new debate in both Moscow and the West about just what is the best way to prevent proliferation at a time when the major nuclear powers are cutting back their programs while some other countries are seeking to acquire such weapons.

And in that debate, some are certain to call for a new round of disarmament talks, while others are likely to insist that the Russian government must take steps to control the situation with its nuclear scientists if it wants to be taken seriously. But as the Carnegie study reminds, while this debate is taking place, ever more Russian nuclear and missile scientists will be reconsidering just what their options are in the post-Cold War environment.