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Nuclear News - 09/17/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 17 September 1999


  1. U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Press Conferencewith the Director of the Zvezdochka Ship Yard, Nikolay Kalistropov at theZvezdochka Ship Yard, Severodvinsk, RussiaUSIA(09/14/99)
  2. United States and the Russian Federation Secure Nuclear Materialson Russian Navy Ship, Department of Energy (09/16/99)
B. Nuclear Power Industry
  1. Russia Takes Extra Security Measures at Nuclear Stations,Itar Tass (09/16/99)
C. Y2K
  1. Y2K Poses Threat to Russia and Eastern Europe, USIA(09/15/99)
  2. Focus-Russia, Ex-Soviet States Play down Y2K Chaos,Reuters(09/15/99)
D. Russia – Iran
  1. Russia Upset by Congress Iran Bill, UPI (09/16/99)
  1. Russia Refutes Holding Nuclear Tests on Novaya Zemlya,Itar Tass (09/16/99)
F. U.S. – Russia General
  1. Address and Q&A Session by Secretary of State MadeleineK. Albright on U.S.-Russian Relations at the Carnegie Endowment forInternationalPeace Washington, D.C., USIA (09/16/99)
  2. Albright Defends Russia Policy, Secretary Notes Achievementsas Well as Corruption's Peril, Washington Post (09/17/99)
  3. Arms Control: Still a Must, Christian Science Monitor(09/17/99)


U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Press Conference withthe Director of the Zvezdochka Ship Yard, Nikolay Kalistropov at the ZvezdochkaShip Yard, Severodvinsk, Russia
        September 14, 1999
        (for personal use only)

"Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much. I was going to say thatthat was almost a demonstration of a lack of efficiency by engaging inover-production.

We have heard of beating swords into plowshares. This may be the firsttime that I see you've beaten them into a pair of scissors as well.

But let me just say a few words about the history of the relationshipwith our two countries. For so many years the United States and then theSoviet Union were engaged in a rather massive arms race. But less thana decade ago we were able to negotiate a START I agreement which calledfor the reduction of our respective nuclear arsenals from 10,000 strategicweapons down to 6,000. And if the Russian Duma will ratify the START IITreaty, we'll be able to reduce those levels down from 6,000 to as lowas 3,000. And if the Duma will ratify START II as I believe they should,we can move on to START III where we can  reduce those levels evenmore, as low as 2,000 strategic weapons.

That will make a great contribution to a world of security and stability,and at the same time also provide for jobs for the people here and alsoback home in the United States.

While we are here to witness the dismantling of several of the Deltaclass and even Typhoon submarines, we should point out that the UnitedStates also has destroyed some 23 submarines and some 368
submarine-launched ballistic missiles as called for by the START Iagreement.

As we have noted before, this is an expensive proposition – the cuttingup and the dismantling of these nuclear submarines. We have spent roughly$1.7 billion under the Nunn/Lugar program. We are committed to spending$2.7 billion over the next six years.

I might say that one of the reasons I wanted members of the Americanpress to come and to witness this visit today and to see the progress thathas been made in this fine yard under your very strong and gifted leadershipis so that they can go back to the United States and communicate to theAmerican people the benefit of the program which the Congress and the countryhas been strongly supporting.

It is my hope that the American people will continue to support thisvery important program and they will see, again, the very able leadershipthat you've provided and the talent, the hard work and the dedication ofthe Russian people who are carrying out the work at this fine facility.

Now we'd entertain your questions.


Q: Mr. Secretary, might I ask if you've received any signalsor any assurance from members, influential members of the Duma, that STARTII might be passed this year?

Secretary Cohen: I have spoken with a number of key members ofthe Duma, just as I have spoken with a key member of the Ministry of Defense,Marshal Sergeyev, who also supports the ratification of START II as dothe key members of the Duma that I have spoken to. They have also indicatedto me that as a practical matter, because elections are imminent, thatit's unlikely that we will see a ratification of the START II agreementuntil after a new Duma is constituted, until they have their electionsin December.

Just as the United States Senate has ratified the START II agreement,we believe that it's important for Russia to do the same, and we believethat key members of the Russian Duma understand that.

Q: We understand, Mr. Cohen, that you have actually written twobooks and also some books of verses. We are wondering which Russian poetsor writers you are familiar with and know.

Secretary Cohen: I am familiar with Yevtushenko and AndreiLostensenski,both of whom I consider to be personal friends.

Q: While there have been negotiations on the elimination of themultipurpose submarines here in Russia, I'm wondering when the United Statesis planning on disposing or salvaging of its multipurpose
submarines which would be the Ohio class submarines.

Secretary Cohen: We are required under the START I agreementto reduce our forces as well, and under START II we will go down to evenlower levels.

We have a somewhat different approach to reaching our levels under STARTI than the Russians do. We will place greater emphasis on our sea-basedsystems; the Russians place greater emphasis upon their land-based systems.But we will both achieve the levels that we've agreed upon in START I.As a gesture on our part to show you we are committed also to reducingthe levels of our submarine force, here is a piece of the USS GEORGEWASHINGTON."

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United States and the Russian Federation Secure Nuclear Materialson Russian Navy Ship
        Department of Energy
        September 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Department of Energy Participates in Commissioning Ceremonies inSeverodvinsk

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the Russian Federationannounced today that nuclear materials on a Russian navy submarine serviceship, Russian Navy Ship P.M.-63, have been secured against insider andoutsider theft. A security system has been installed to protect new (fresh)nuclear fuel destined for the refueling of nuclear powered submarines.This project is a part of the Department of Energy’s nuclear materialprotection,control and accounting (MPC&A) cooperative program with Russia to preventthe proliferation of materials that can be used in weapons of mass

This is the first of three Russian Federation navy submarine serviceships scheduled to receiveMPC&A upgrades with technical assistancefrom the Energy Department. Representatives of the two governments areholding Commissioning Ceremonies for the new security system today inSeverodvinsk,Russia.

"Just ten years ago it would have been unthinkable to have the U. S.Department of Energy and the Russia Federation cooperating to safeguardnuclear materials on a Russian Navy ship," said Secretary of Energy BillRichardson. "This historic milestone in the cooperation between our nationswill help better safeguard nuclear materials and keep them from fallinginto the wrong hands."

Admiral Nikolai Nikitovich Yurasov, Russian Navy, Russian FederationMinistry of Defense, and Kenneth E. Baker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretaryfor Nonproliferation and National Security, U.S. Department of Energy arerepresenting the Russian Federation and the United States at the commissioningceremonies for the security system on board the ship.

Russian Navy Ship P.M.-63 is located in the Northern Region of Russiaand is based in Severodvinsk, Russia. In addition to ship-based systems,upgrades were installed at specific shore locations where the ship maybe docked. Work began on Russian Navy Ship P.M.-63 in late 1997 and hasbeen completed on schedule.

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B. Nuclear Power Industry

Russia Takes Extra Security Measures at Nuclear Stations
         Itar Tass
         September 16, 1999
         (for personal useonly)

MOSCOW, September 16 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Atomic Energy Ministryhas decided to tighten up security control over nuclear stations to preventterrorist acts there, the ministry's press service told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

There is a programme for protecting the nuclear objects, and itsimplementationbegan two years ago. The programme, the cost of which is 220 million dollars,is financed from the federal budget as well as foreign sources. In particular,the United States allocates funds and supplies technical means of protectionfor Russian nuclear stations.

Special police units are constantly on duty at the objects. The officersare specially trained to protect nuclear stations from terrorist acts.

Extra security measures were also taken at the Rostov nuclear powerplant, though there is no atomic fuel there. The station is closed now.

Reactor No. One at the station is 90 percent ready, and the second oneis 30 percent ready, local nuclear officials told Itar-Tass.

The plant has been under construction for 15 years already. First, thework was drawn out due to lack of finances and, then, because ofenvironmentalists'protests.

Now, the station is under ecological examination. Meanwhile, Moscowspecial services continue to examine apartment buildings, Moscow governmentdeputy premier Boris Nikolsky told reporters on Thursday.

According to the official, the situation in the city is calm on thewhole.

Police received 25 bomb threat calls over the past twenty four hoursby Thursday morning. In particular, classes in two Schools, no. 112 and518, were suspended for an hour after such threats.

On the whole, more than 900 reports about suspicious things, peopleand cars were received by the 02 telephone line.

More than 18,000 cars was examined on Moscow entry roads. Police alsoexamined garages and parkings and inspected filling stations.

Works at the explosion sites are continuing. In Guryanova Street, thebadly-damaged buildings no. 17 and 19 will be removed. The area at KashirskoyeShosse is being cleaned, and the work will be finished by the end of thisweek.

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C. Y2K

Y2K Poses Threat to Russia and Eastern Europe
        Phillip Kurata
        September 15, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Washington -- The U.S. government says the year 2000 (Y2K) computerproblem poses the greatest threat to countries that have severe winters,such as in Eastern Europe.

"I would say that in terms of high risk ... we have countries in EasternEurope with fragile electric power distribution systems who will be inthe grip of an Eastern European winter," said John O"Keefe,
Special Representative for the Year 2000, U.S. State Department.

O'Keefe made that statement September 15 before a joint congressionalhearing on the year 2000 computer problem. He said the electrical energysector is the area where Y2K worries are greatest.

David Jhirad, senior adviser for multilateral and bilateral affairsat the Department of Energy, said the U.S. government is moving from theinformation exchange and diagnostic phase to "hard edged contingency

Next month in Prague, U.S. energy officials meet with electric powergrid operators and power plant managers from Russia, Ukraine and easternand central Europe.

"Quite clearly, we are concerned about these international power grids,about gas transport from Russia to Western Europe, particularly Italy,"Jhirad said. "Also there's the issue of transit countries like Ukraine,which is quite vulnerable to Y2K breakdowns of the electric power sector."

The Energy Department official said Ukraine already has a lot of poweroutages and very little excess capacity. "The unreliability is occurringall the time," he said.

On September 14, the State Department released information on the Y2Kreadiness of 196 countries and territories around the world.

Ukraine "seems unprepared to deal with the Y2K problem. It appears thatthere may be a risk of disruption in all key sectors, especially the energyand electric services," the department's consular information sheet (CIS)for Ukraine said.

The CIS for Russia said the country is better prepared to deal withthe Y2K problem than its western neighbor, but probably will experiencedisruptions in electric power, heat, telecommunications,
transportation and financial and emergency services.

Jhirad said he is troubled by the lack of evidence of testing or contingencyplanning in Russia. He said the U.S. Energy Department is concerned abouttwo main areas in the Russian and eastern European energy sector: 1) thecentral control systems of the electric power grids and 2) nuclear reactors.

Jhirad said the embedded chips and the software of the control systemsmay fail because they are not Y2K compliant. He said an ensuing lack ofelectric power could make manual operation of the grids impossible.

"People will have to get on the phone or radio and give instructionsto power plant operators about how they should operate the plant," Jhiradsaid. "If the telecommunication systems go down because there isn't powerto run it and there's no backup diesel fuel, then even the manual backupbecomes tough."

The Energy Department official said unstable voltage in the power gridscould cause a shutdown of nuclear reactors.

"Most nuclear plants are programmed to shut down if there's a variationin the grid voltage or the grid frequency. Once shut down, they will delinkfrom the grid and we will lose even more power, so that an initial blackoutor brownout could be amplified," Jhirad said.

He said the likelihood of a serious nuclear accident resulting fromY2K is "very minimal."

At international Y2K energy meetings until December, Jhirad said theUnited States will try to frame the "worst credible case that could happen,how long it will last and over what region."

The energy official said he was not greatly worried that Y2K glitcheswould disrupt gas and oil deliveries.

"Many countries have several days of gas in storage. Germany has threemonths in storage. Electricity is more critical because it is a just-in-timeindustry. With gas, there are some buffers in the system," Jhirad said.

Jhirad said deliveries of crude oil probably will not be interruptedas a result of Y2K problems because plenty of oil will be in transit intankers or in storage facilities.

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Focus-Russia, Ex-Soviet States Play down Y2K Chaos
        September 15, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Russian officials shrugged off suggestionson Wednesday that the Y2K computer bug could plunge the vast country intoa darker, colder winter than usual, saying their hard work to stop computerchaos should pay off.

Other former Soviet states also played down a U.S. State Departmentreport which said Y2K disruptions could hit key sectors like energy andelectricity services, saying they were taking steps to prevent the glitchamong their few computers.

Ukrainian officials said they faced fewer dangers than neighbouringRussia and that the bug may only threaten secondary computer programmesat Chernobyl, where a reactor exploded in 1986 in the world's worst civilnuclear disaster.

Georgia, Armenia and Belarus said the fewer computers, the better thechances of survival.

"In Russia, organisations of the highest level are working on this problem...Every region has its own internal plan to prepare for the problem," saidAdrian Makeshin, deputy head of the parliamentary committee fortelecommunications.

Makeshin said he believed regional leaders would comply with a governmentorder to take measures by mid-October.

Some officials challenged other countries, many of which have criticisedthe former Soviet Union for its slow response in waking up to the millenniumbug, to state with confidence that they would not face problems when theclock strikes midnight.

"As I understand it, no one can guarantee, not one country can guaranteethat they will be successful in avoiding this problem, not even us," Makeshinsaid by telephone.


Company officials were confident Russians across 11 time zones wouldhave light and heat when the clock ticks to midnight in the depth of winter-- traditionally very cold in Russia.

Russia's national power utility UES has said it was increasingly confidentthat Russians would not be without light.

Yuri Bespalko, spokesman for Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry, said hedid not envisage any problems with the millennium computer bug, which mayscramble systems that have not been programmed to recognise the date changeto 2000.

"We think that there will be no failures across Russia, we think ourspecific computer systems are pretty safe, they are good quality systemsmost of which are from the West," he said.

Vladimir Korba, vice president for Belarus's energy firm, called onpeople to celebrate the new year, not fear it.

"I do not see any problem with the year 2000 problem...we can calmlytoast the new year," he said by telephone, adding that new software wasbeing installed in the energy sector.

The director of an Armenian nuclear power plant said disaster was unlikelybecause it was "not very computerised." Georgian officials also said thethreat posed to the Black Sea country was minimal because of the lack ofcomputers.

"This problem bothers those countries which have used an old computersystem," Mindiya Kashibadze, head of the state's administration said. "Wedo not have such old computers."

Even Russia's central bank was upbeat about the continued work of thebanking system, which was shattered in a crippling financial crisis lastyear.

"An analysis of the information...shows that in the banking system therehas been certain progress in undertaking the measures to prevent the year2000 problem," the bank said on its website. It said 80 percent of thecredit organisations had taken "necessary measures."

Steps have also been taken to stop Moscow's military launching missilesagainst the United States.

U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen and Russian Defence Minister IgorSergeyev signed a landmark agreement for officers of both countries tostaff a Y2K joint missile launch warning centre in the United States asthe new year dawns.

"The greatest Y2K danger comes not from the threat of an accidentallaunch, but from the threat of Y2K glitches being misinterpreted by personnelon either side of the Atlantic," said Senator Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican.

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D. Russia -- Iran

Russia Upset by Congress Iran Bill
        September 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, Sept. 16 (UPI) _ Russia, upset by passage of an anti-Iranianbill by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week, has issueda strongly worded statement claiming the move will ``have the most negativeimpact on U.S.-Russian cooperation in the fields of non- proliferationand export control.''

Today's Russian Foreign Ministry statement says the move by Congressto approve the bill, which imposes sanctions on countries helping Irandevelop weapons of mass destruction, is anti-Russian and ``escalatesanti-Russiansanctions under a vain pretext of Russian rocket technology leaks to Iran.''

Moscow insists it is meeting international commitments on nuclearnon-proliferation,but the statement says the threat of sanctions ``will mean a need tore-assess...U.S.-Russiancooperation in the fields of non-proliferation and some other joint militaryand political issues which form the basis of joint work to ensure strategicstability and international security.''

The House of Representatives voted 419-0 for the bill on Tuesday, requiringthe Clinton administration to impose sanctions against governments or companiesthat have transferred missile components or technology to Iran.

The United States has long pressed Russia to cut its close ties withIran and to put a halt to the transfer of sensitive technology that couldbe used by Iran for military purposes.

Congress passed a similar bill in 1997, but President Clinton vetoedit, saying he wanted to solve the problem through methods other than sanctions.

There has been widespread bipartisan dissatisfaction with the Clintonadministration's progress, and even the Democrats are now saying a morestringent policy on Russia's links with Iran is needed.

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Russia Refutes Holding Nuclear Tests on Novaya Zemlya
         Itar Tass
         September 16, 1999
         (for personal useonly)

MOSCOW, September 16 (Itar-Tass) -- The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energyon Thursday refuted U.S. media reports of nuclear tests on Novaya Zemlya,an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean between the Barents and Kara seas.

"The U.S. Washington Times newspaper on Wednesday reported that Russiahad held low-yield nuclear tests on Novaya Zemlya, citing unnamed analysts,"a spokesman for the ministry told Itar-Tass.

"This information is not true. The Novaya Zemlya firing range holdsonly so-called subcritical tests, which are effected by conventional blasts,not prohibited by international agreements. But such tests have not beenheld there this year," the spokesman stressed.

According to the Washington Times, U.S. intelligence agencies registereda subterranean explosion on Novaya Zemlya on September 8. It quoted unnamedanalysts as saying the explosion had been a low-yield nuclear test. Thenewspaper claimed that such tests were challenging a Russian-U.S. treatybanning all nuclear tests, which awaits ratification by the U.S. Senate.

The test is also a blow to the Clinton administration which is justabout to begin pushing for ratification of this treaty, the WashingtonTimes added.

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F. U.S. – Russia General

Address and Q&A Session by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albrighton U.S.-Russian Relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceWashington, D.C.
        September 16, 1999
        (for personal use only)

"In those great missions, we have made a good start.

Since 1992, our support has helped to deactivate almost 5,000 nuclearwarheads in the former Soviet Union; eliminate nuclear weapons from threeformer Soviet Republics; strengthen the security of nuclear weapons andmaterials at more than 100 sites; and purchase more than sixty tons ofhighly enriched uranium that could have been used by terrorists or outlawstates to build nuclear weapons. A number of these accomplishments aredirectly attributable to the work of our binational commission with Russia,chaired on our side by Vice-President Gore.

Despite these steps, the job of preventing "loose nukes" is far fromcomplete. That is why the overwhelming majority of our assistance dollarsto Russia go to programs that lower the chance that weapons of mass destructionor sensitive missile technology will fall into the wrong hands.

It is why President Clinton announced in January the Expanded ThreatReduction Initiative. This includes measures to help Russia tighten exportcontrols, improve security over its arsenals, and provide opportunitiesfor more than 30,000 former Soviet weapons scientists to participate inpeaceful commercial and research ventures.

We are also seeking Russia's cooperation in responding to the potentialof new dangers posed by long-range missiles. For decades, we viewed thisthreat primarily through a narrow Cold War lens. But the spread of ballisticmissile technology to a number of potentially hostile states has broadenedour concerns.

We have pressed Russia to use its new laws and export controls to curtailthe flow of missile technologies to countries such as Iran. This was discussedat length in the meeting last Sunday between President Clinton and PrimeMinister Putin.

As these discussions and our ongoing high level talks with North Korea'sindicate, we are doing all we can diplomatically to defuse regional rivalriesand prevent destabilizing developments. And we maintain what is by farthe world's most powerful military deterrent.

But we are also developing theater missile defense systems to protectour territory, troops, friends, and allies. And we are developing and testinga National Missile Defense system, with a decision on
deployment of a limited system possible as early as next summer.

Already, the President has made some decisions on the changes to theAnti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that would be necessary were we to decideto go forward with deployment. And we have begun discussions with Congress,our allies and Moscow on these issues.

To the Russians, we have emphasized that these changes would be consistentwith the underlying purposes of the Treaty, which we value deeply, andwhich are to maintain stability and enable further reductions in strategicnuclear arms.

We have made it clear that we are willing to cooperate with Russia onstrategic defense. We have no intention of undermining Russia's nucleardeterrent, and our proposal wouldn't do that. Moreover, we are suggestingsubstantial further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Thisis a step Moscow welcomes, in part because of the high cost of maintainingnuclear weapons. In short, we seek an agreement that will give us the earlyprotection we need to safeguard our security, without undermining Russia's.

We recognize, of course, that our proposal may be seen by Moscow asasking too much, and by some of our domestic critics as demanding too little.

Our response to Russian officials is that not only we, but they, arepotentially vulnerable to these new threats. And that, in any case, theycannot have it both ways. They cannot fail to crack down effectively onthe transfer of advanced technologies, and then express surprise when weinsist on protecting ourselves against threats fueled by those transfers.

Our message to our own citizens is that the best way to protect oursecurity is to provide for our defense, while preserving strategic nuclearcooperation with Moscow. We will not be safer, if in responding to newthreats, we revive old ones.

Throughout this decade, we have tried to work with Russia, our alliesand partners, to build a Europe that is secure, stable, and free from thedivisions that have endangered our own security on numerous occasions duringthis century."

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Albright Defends Russia Policy, Secretary Notes Achievements asWell as Corruption's Peril
        Steven Mufson
        Washington Post
        September 17, 1999
        (for personal use only)

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, beset by congressional criticismof the Clinton administration's policy toward Russia, said yesterday that"the suggestion made by some that Russia is ours to lose is arrogant; thesuggestion that Russia is lost is simply wrong."

However, in the wake of recent reports about Russian corruption andcapital flight, Albright said Moscow's response to corruption "has notbeen adequate," and she maintained that Russian President Boris Yeltsin"needs--at last--to make fighting corruption a priority."

"The Russian legal system remains no match for well-connected criminals,"she added. "The deadweight of corruption is holding Russia back."

In a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Albrightsaid that Russian leaders should cooperate with the investigations intomoney laundering and the misuse of International Monetary Fund funds "nomatter where or to whom the evidence leads."

Albright's unusually pointed comments about the need for Yeltsin totake a personal role in fighting corruption followed a report that Yeltsinand his family directly benefited from improper payments from foreign companiesseeking to do business in Russia.

Rumors have also circulated in Moscow about the possibility that theunpopular Yeltsin might use the recent terrorist attacks as a pretext forpostponing or changing Russia's scheduled parliamentary elections in Decemberand the presidential election next year.

Many Russia experts have said the Clinton administration has investedtoo much political and diplomatic capital in bolstering Yeltsin personally.Yesterday, Albright said that Russians should be given the chance to choosea successor to Yeltsin "because nothing could do more damage to Russia,at home or abroad, than a failure to observe the constitutional process."

Albright's remarks were the latest in a series of Clinton administrationefforts to rebut critics who say that the new allegations about Russiancorruption point to a failure in recent U.S. policy toward Russia.

Attention has focused on the possible laundering of Russian funds throughaccounts at the Bank of New York and on alleged misuse of IMF loans.

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) said that"the unparalleled financial graft in Russia . . . marks the ineffectiveendof the Clinton-Gore administration's approach to Russian reform. . . .The stated purpose of the Gore-Clinton policy was to help the Russian peoplebecome a peaceful and productive free-market democracy. Instead, Russiahas become a looted and bankrupt zone of nuclearized anarchy."

Armey added, "It's time for Congress to ask the question: Who lost Russia?"

Albright responded yesterday that the corruption scandals were a bloton a record that had many other successes.

"It is right to focus on the cloud of corruption in Russia," she said."But it is not the whole picture."

Among the bright points, she cited a reduction in nuclear warheads,the elimination of nuclear weapons from three former Soviet republics andthe U.S. purchase of more than 60 tons of enriched uranium that could havebeen used for nuclear weapons. She also praised U.S. efforts to obtainRussian cooperation on arms proliferation, the expansion of NATO and thepeacekeeping forces in the Balkans. And she hailed the rise of a vigorouspress and electoral process in Russia.

She said financial assistance to Russia during the Clinton administrationhas helped to employ Russian nuclear scientists, thereby safeguarding theirtechnical know-how, and has benefited programs for aiding entrepreneurs,independent media and independent trade unions. She attacked congressionalplans to cut 25 percent or more of President Clinton's budget request forprograms in Russia and other former Soviet republics, saying the cuts "wouldrequire unacceptable and self-defeating trade-offs."

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Arms Control: Still a Must
        Christian Science Monitor
        September 17, 1999
        (for personal use only)

One thing hasn't changed since the cold war: The top priority in US-Russianrelations remains negotiating reductions in the two countries' vast nucleararsenals.

That priority isn't easy to concentrate on these days, with financialscandals in Moscow that may involve international aid dollars, lingeringtensions over the Kosovo crisis, and the onrush of presidential politicsin both nations.

But high-level negotiators are making the effort. They're meeting topush the nuclear agenda forward. And none too soon: For maximum impacttheir work needs to succeed within the next year, before the politicaldecks are reshuffled.

The task has two major parts. First, arriving at a much lower limiton the nuclear weapons allowed each side. Second, altering the existingtreaty governing antiballistic-missile (ABM) defenses to take into accountthe threat posed by so-called rogue states like North Korea or Iran.

The two parts are closely intermeshed. Progress on the first shouldmean increased Russian willingness to move on the second. In line withthat, Washington should quickly move to a START III treaty, with warheadlimits between 1,000 and 2,000 - thus leapfrogging the START II treaty(3,000 to 3,500 warheads), which the Russian parliament still hasn't ratified.Moscow, beset by economic woes, favors the smaller START III limits becauseit has a much better possibility of maintaining that number of weapons.

Above all, Washington wants changes in the ABM agreement. The Russianshave been stubborn on this, arguing that weakening the current treaty wouldundermine strategic parity between the countries. They have a point, butthey face a reality: Given the momentum in Congress, the US is likely tobuild missile defenses with or without Moscow's consent.

Russia also has to recognize that if it goes along with ABM changes,it will have some say, at least, in a final pact, and should benefit fromprobable provisions to share the missile-defense technology the US develops.

The biggest question mark in all of this is the willingness of partisansin Congress to let the negotiating process move ahead unhindered, sincerelations with Russia are shaping up as a campaign issue. Successfularms-controltalks take far-reaching vision. Few things matter more than reducing thethreat of nuclear war.

Wise negotiators - and the political leaders that must implement theirwork - will fit both limits on warheads and the development of credibledefenses within that goal.

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