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Nuclear News - (03/27/00)
RANSAC Nuclear News, 27 March 2000


A. Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)

    1. Russian Weapons Plant to Manufacture Medical Equipment,Department of Energy (03/24/00)
B. Russian Nuclear Forces
    1. Russia Tests Two Ageing Sea-Based Missiles, Reuters(03/27/00)
    2. 30 Subs In Danger Of Sinking, Thomas Nilsen, Bellona(03/27/00)
C. Russian Elections
    1. Putin Clinches Russian Presidency, Plans Changes, Reuters(03/27/00)
    2. The Shaping Of Putin's Foreign Policy Priorities Is NearlyOver; PIR Arms Control Letters - Letter Of March 2000, PIR - Centerfor Policy Studies in Russia (03/27/00)
 

A. Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)

1.
Russian Weapons Plant to Manufacture Medical Equipment
        Department of Energy
        March 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Department of Energy's Nuclear Cities Initiative in Dramatic BreakthroughBrings Civilian Work to Former Weapons Manufacturers

The Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)signed a contract yesterday with the Avangard Foundation to support themanufacture of kidney dialysis equipment at the closed city of Sarov. Thisis the first time a Department of Energy laboratory has signed a contractwith a former Russian nuclear weapons manufacturer; this follows last week'ssigning of two other contracts between LLNL and a Russian weapons designinstitute.

"Russians who used to make weapons of mass destruction are now goingto apply their scientific knowledge to designing life-saving equipment,"said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "Such profitable, commercialindustries must be introduced to Russia's closed cities so these scientistsdon't defect to rogue nations willing to offer generous salaries in returnfor nuclear expertise."

"Until now this facility has refused to allow any Westerners inside.Now they are permitting us to make structural changes to the facility andnegotiate with private businesses to work inside this factory that hasbeen used to manufacture nuclear weapons components. This is a majorbreakthroughfor the Nuclear Cities Initiative," added Rose Gottemoeller, Acting DeputyAdministrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.

The dialysis contract was developed under the Nuclear Cities Initiative(NCI), a Department of Energy effort to help the Russian government providecivilian employment opportunities to weapons scientists in closed Russiannuclear cities. The goal of the NCI is to make it possible for the Russianscientists to remain in their homeland and work on sustainable civilianand commercial projects as facilities in Russia's weapons complex are downsizedor closed.

In the first phase of the contract with Avangard, the fences surroundingcurrent weapons buildings will be moved, effectively placing these facilitiesin the open part of the city. These buildings, previously the site of nuclearweapons work, will be modified for the installation of production linesfor dialysis components.

The goal of the Avangard contract is to eventually employ several hundredformer weapons builders in the daily production of parts for dialysis machinesand ultimately the fabrication of complete dialysis systems. The AvangardElectromechanical Plant is seeking international manufacturing certificationand hopes to become a major player in the manufacture of medicalinstrumentation.As a preliminary arrangement, three Avangard-manufactured dialysis componentswill be purchased by a western company and installed in machines distributedworld-wide.

The Avangard plant was the first Russian facility to manufacture nuclearweapons on an industrial scale. The Avangard Foundation has been establishedas an independent business entity that can contract with western customers.The Foundation will be open for scrutiny to ensure that funds are usedfor the purpose intended, consistent with U.S. government policy.
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B. Russian Nuclear Forces

1.
Russia Tests Two Ageing Sea-Based Missiles
        Reuters
        March 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, March 27 (Reuters) - Russia's navy said it launched two oldsubmarine-based ballistic missiles on Monday as part of a programme toextend the life of outdated weaponry, adding the crew dedicated the "fireworks"to new President Vladimir Putin.

The RSM-54 missiles, called Skiff in NATO's classification, were launchedin the Barents Sea at 10 a.m. (0600 GMT) and at 1 a.m. (0900 GMT) fromthe Karelia 667 BDRM nuclear submarine, or Delta IV under U.S. DefenceDepartment classification.

Their warheads hit the Kura testing ground in Kamchatka in Russia'sFar East half an hour later.

"The missiles were launched as previously scheduled with the purposeof extending the shelf life of this type of rocket," the spokesman said,adding that the crew dedicated the launch to Putin's victory in a presidentialelection on Sunday.

"The launch became a kind of fireworks in honour of the election ofVladimir Putin as president and the armed forces' commander-in-chief,"he said.

RSN-54 missiles were commissioned in 1986. They can carry four or 10separate warheads but modifications with 10 warheads have never been deployed.

Russia has encountered severe difficulties financing replacements forits ageing missile fleet and has opted not to decommission many of itsexisting rockets.

It has conducted a series of test launches of such missiles over thelast months and has said they have proved to be in good enough conditionto remain in service for several more years.

Putin has emphasised the importance of Russia's vast nuclear arsenalas the cornerstone of its defence system and a powerful deterrent againstany large-scale attack.
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2.
30 Subs In Danger Of Sinking
        Thomas Nilsen
        Bellona
        March 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

(Moscow): A report by Minatom released in Moscow this week outlinesthe danger of laid-up submarines. The hulls of 30 submarines are no longerhermetic; the boats are in danger of sinking.

It is the oldest nuclear powered submarines that are in danger of sinking,says report titled "Nuclear and Radiation Safety in Russia", produced bythe Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy (Minatom). The report, releasedto public at a nuclear safety conference in Moscow, ranks the risk, emanatingfrom laid-up nuclear powered submarines, as one of the major challengesfor the nuclear safety priorities in Russia. Today, a total of 183 nuclearpowered submarines are taken out of operation in the Russian Navy. 120of them still have spent nuclear fuel in their reactors and pose the highestsafety risk.

110 nuclear powered submarines are taken out of operation in the NorthernFleet, 72 of them still have spent nuclear fuel onboard. Since most ofthe submarines have two reactors, the total number of reactors with spentnuclear fuel in the Northern Fleet is 135. In the Pacific Fleet, 73 submarinesare taken out of operation, of which 48 still have spent fuel onboard.The total number of reactors with spent nuclear fuel is 91 in the PacificFleet.

Corroded submarine hulls
According to Minatom, 30 submarines that have been laid up for as longas 15 years mostly without any kind of repair or maintenance might sinkat its piers. These submarines belong to both first and second generations.Years of corrosion have led to a situation where the hulls of the submarinesare no longer hermetic, downgrading the submarines' capability to remainafloat. All 30 submarines in question have spent nuclear fuel in theirreactors.

The report also says that a leakage from primarily cooling circuit inthe reactors has been detected onboard several first generation submarines.Such leakage is detected on board of at least six nuclear submarines atthe remote naval base Gremikha in the eastern part of the Kola Peninsula.Gremikha hosts submarines of November- and Victor-class. A total of 17submarines are laid-up at Gremikha, and Minatom suggests it is necessaryto build a facility at Gremikha to decommission the submarines, fearingthat towing them to other naval yards pose a high risk of an accident.

Risky operation to remove spent fuel
As Bellona Web reported last week, a pad for storage of spent nuclearfuel containers from retired submarines is to be built at Gremikha. Removalof spent nuclear fuel from the first generation submarines is a risky operation.The condition of reactors has not been monitored for years that makes ithard to predict the state of the fuel elements. The risk for the fuel elementsto go critical in their current position is low due to the designparticularitiesof a naval reactor. But the Navy fears a steam explosion that can occurduring lifting the reactor lid at the oldest submarines to get access tofuel. To avoid the steam explosion, the cooling water can be tapped out,but that would give higher radiation doses to the personnel involved insuch operation.

The first generation submarines that are in danger of sinking is nota problem related only to Gremikha. At the Sevmorput naval yard in Murmansk,two such submarines are anchored at piers, and some few more are locatedat naval shipyard no. 10 in Polyarny. Similar trouble submarines are scatteredat various naval yards and bases in the Pacific Fleet as well. The reportby Minatom, however, does not give any risk assessments of what might happenedshould one or more of the submarines actually sink with spent nuclear fuelinside.
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C. Russian Elections

1.
Putin Clinches Russian Presidency, Plans Changes
        Reuters
        March 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, March 27 (Reuters) - Former KGB agent Vladimir Putin swept tovictory in Russia's presidential election on Monday and swiftly beganconsideringgovernment changes and work on an economic programme for his impoverishednation.

But questions remained about the direction Putin would take the world'ssecond biggest nuclear power after outright victory in Sunday's electionwith 52 percent of the vote. Communist Gennady Zyuganov was second with29 percent.

Putin, 47, who has risen from obscurity to leader of the world's largestcountry in just eight months, gave few clues about his intentions in hisfirst comments after the election.

RTR state television showed him restrained and business-like addressinga meeting of deputy prime ministers and security aides without a traceof triumphalism, thanking them for continuing to work responsibly duringthe election campaign.

"(The results) give us an additional push towards working to achieveeven better results," Interfax news agency quoted Putin, who will leadRussia for the next four years, as saying.

"In the near future, (we must) put together all our work (on an economicprogramme) into a weighty document," RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Russian news agenciesas saying Putin had asked his ministers to prepare suggestions for governmentchanges, although a new government will not formally be installed untilhe is inaugurated in May.

QUESTIONS ON POLICY

Putin has said he backs market reforms but also wants a strong stateto ensure that laws are obeyed.

Some liberals fear he will be an authoritarian leader because of hisbackground in the KGB security police and his record of relentlessly pursuingthe war in rebel Chechnya.

The war was Putin's testing ground after being picked by former PresidentBoris Yeltsin as his prime minister and preferred successor in August 1999,although Russians have also responded to his energetic, decisive style.

Russian shares, which rallied ahead of the vote, gained a further threepercent, and the rouble firmed slightly.

Economic analysts were generally pleased with Putin's win. GintarasShlyuzhius of Raffeissen Bank Moscw said he expected "no surprises" fromthe new leader. Others said he faced tough economic as well as politicalchallenges.

MEDIA BIAS CRITICISED

After a cliffhanger night when Putin's total crept up to the minimum50 percent plus one vote needed to win outright, Election Commission ChiefAlexander Veshnyakov declared him the victor with 52.52 percent based on94.27 percent of votes cast.

As in the last presidential election in 1996, Zyuganov came second.This time he had 29.44 percent but failed to drive his Kremlin opponentto a second round runoff. Zyuganov said the vote was falsified, but thiswas denied by election officials.

International election monitors said the vote was largely clean althoughthey criticised media coverage.

State-owned channels RTR and ORT gave blanket coverage to Putin andoften bitterly criticised his rivals. Many Russians rely on both channelsfor most of their news and information.

"It is a common problem how not to let the media detract from democacybut serve democracy," said Helle Degn, head of an observer team from theOrganisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. She criticised a lackof serious policy discussion.

Liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, one of the candidates attacked on ORT, camethird in the poll with 5.85 percent. Eleven candidates took part and thefinal turnout was almost 69 percent.

CONGRATULATIONS ROLL IN

Chinese President Jiang Zemin congratulated Putin and hoped Beijingand Moscow, once rivals to lead the Communist world, would be "good friends."Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Britain's Tony Blair also spokeby telephone with Putin.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Washington would judgePutin on his actions and not his words. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroederhoped for a "constructive, fresh start" in relations.

The European Union hoped Russia would be an "even more reliable partnerfor Europe and the West" and for a solution to the war in Chechnya. FormerCold War ally Poland desired what it called a normalisation in frosty tiesand a reform of Russian foreign policy.

Putin's attitude to the West has been to reject criticism of the warin Chechnya but to underline the need for cooperation.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said there could be changes in foreignpolicy but did not say what they might be. On Sunday he had spoken of continuityin Russian diplomacy.
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2.
The Shaping Of Putin's Foreign Policy Priorities Is Nearly Over;PIR Arms Control Letters - Letter Of March 2000
        PIR - Center for PolicyStudies in Russia
        March 27, 2000
        (for personal use only)

On March 26, 2000, the presidential elections in Russia took place.According to the preliminary results, the winner of the race is ActingPresident Vladimir Putin, who has obtained some 52% of votes. Thepresident-electwill, presumably, unveil soon some key aspects of his future policy, includingthe foreign policy agenda.

One of the main peculiarities of Vladimir Putin's policy, when he wasappointed Acting President, was the lack of any sort of hierarchy of foreignpolicy priorities. Although during his service in the Russian intelligenceand in the mayor's office in St. Petersburg Vladimir Putin was in chargeof external relations, he has never participated in foreign policydecision-makingat any stage of his career. As FSB Director and Secretary of the RF SecurityCouncil, Putin participated ex officio in the meetings concerning foreignpolicy issues but he preferred to stay within the area of his competence.At the same time, Putin was reportedly against the disruption of relationswith NATO after the launch of the Alliance's operation in Kosovo.

Presumably, Putin's team lacks experts in international affairs capableof working out an efficient foreign policy strategy for the president-elect.Moreover, Putin doesn't strive to form such a team and relies on the oldguard - Presidential Foreign Policy Aid Sergei Prikhodko and Minister ofForeign Affairs Igor Ivanov.

Under these circumstances, the situation with the new Concept of NationalSecurity was quite typical. The document has been under development sinceautumn 1999 under Putin's supervision. Besides, the new Secretary of theSecurity Council - Sergei Ivanov - is Putin's protege. Since the inceptionof the Concept, the Acting President has made a lot of statements concerningthe Security Council's agenda, i.e. various aspects of national security.At the same time, Vladimir Putin hasn't yet approved the new military doctrineprepared by the MOD. Until lately, he has preferred to refrain from makingprincipal statements, which are the responsibility of the MFA.

According to our sources of information, Vladimir Putin has had to taketime out in the area of foreign policy, because his team was working onhis foreign policy concept in January-February 2000 and the results ofthis work are to be presented after the March elections.

During this period, Russian foreign policy has remained inertial, withthe prevalence of provisions set forth in 1999 (concerning Chechnya, NATO,disarmament, etc.). The MFA was still in charge of implementing these provisionsand enjoyed the full and explicit support of the Acting President. However,with this background, Vladimir Putin has held a number of meetings withtop-level officials and key figures on the world stage. After every suchmeeting, Russia's Western partners have expressed their full backing ofthe Acting President. The parties regarded these meetings as intended forfamiliarization but, in fact, they became testing grounds to explore areasof international relations and to assess the acceptability of Putin's foreignpolicy stand.

The thing is that Putin's popularity in Russia is based to a large extenton his rigid position as far as national security matters are concerned.This limits his room for maneuver to the public opinion on these issues,which has recently formed in Russia. The major characteristics of thispublic consensus are as follows:

  • Russia can preserve its Great Power status only through the firmest measuresto maintain its unity and integrity;
  • Nuclear weapons are a key factor to preserve Russia's weight in the worldand to guarantee it against any pressure on the part of NATO;
  • Russia's partnership with the West in the first years of democratic reformsweakened Russia's influence on world affairs and brought no dividends tothe state and the people;
  • Despite a complicated relationship with the West, Russia is not interestedin encouraging confrontation in the relations or in accepting the forcescenario;
  • Taking into account the national interests and the existing internationalcommitments, Russia should strengthen and develop the WMD nonproliferationregime.
To keep his authority in the eyes of the electorate, Vladimir Putin hasto demonstrate his tough attitude towards relations with the West. Thismostly concerns the problems of Russia's territorial integrity and thestruggle against terrorism, which have arisen during the war in Chechnya.However, the economic situation and the threat of international isolationlead Russia to seek common ground and possible areas of cooperation. Forinstance, this cooperation can be based on nuclear security, nonproliferationand export controls if Vladimir Putin demonstrates enough flexibility inthese spheres, e.g. at present, the government headed by Vladimir Putintakes steps to facilitate START II ratification by the State Duma.

However, in fact, as far as ideology is concerned, Putin's actual foreignpolicy seems to be quite liberal and rational, aimed at partnership withthe world community. In practice, this will mean Russia's readiness totake into account the concerns of the international community about anyissues, in exchange for the lack of any actual steps to limit Russia'sfreedom in the North Caucasus. Vladimir Putin will try to leave aside theexisting differences and to postpone the solution of certain protractedproblems, since the intensity of disagreements in these areas rules outthe possibility of compromise. The issues in question are the NATO expansionto the east, Russian-Iranian cooperation, and the situation in Chechnya.Hence, the debate on a number of matters should be suspended.

In exchange, Russia is eager to demonstrate its willingness to resumethe partnership with the West. This must be proved with a compromise onthe ABM/START III problem and the revived Russian participation in thePartnership for Peace program. The prerequisite for a suspended decisionshould be the US and NATO commitment not to undertake any large-scale militaryor enforcement operations in any part of the world.

Putin's team has been concerned about the possible attempts of the oppositionto exploit the national security and foreign policy agenda during thepresidentialrace. This is why the Russian leadership has been adhering to the courseadopted last spring and enjoying the full support of the parliamentaryopposition, i.e. not to breach the aforementioned consensus.

Vladimir Putin will presumably draw particular attention to the problemof improving relations with the new NATO members, above all with Poland.Dialogue with this country may help to neutralize the negative geopoliticalconsequences of the past NATO expansion and mitigate the anti-Russian characterof the new round of the Alliance's expansion. This accounts for Putin'sstatement on Russia's possible accession to NATO.

The Russian foreign policy may de facto undergo a dramatic turn. Russiais ready to shift away from the persistent assertion of its position onany matters regardless of their significance to the tactics of tacitdisagreement.The Russian position on this or that issue will be formulated and voicedbut, if differences with Western partners arise, Moscow won't focus onthe contradictions.

Meanwhile, Sino-Russian and Indo-Russian relations should remain atthe existing level of partnership. Moscow presumes that Beijing will demonstratemore interest in the Russian strategic partnership initiatives if the US-Russianrelations improve. This, in turn, will make the Western partners more willingto take into account the Russian interests in the global arena.

In the 1990s, Moscow became a weak part of the Russia-USA-China triangleand was mostly used by Washington and Beijing to pursue their goals. Russiawas only a passive player and failed to benefit from the US-Chinese differences.Nowadays, the situation is different. China and the USA strive for an almostequal level of partnership with Russia. Thus, in promoting a rapprochementwith one party, Moscow forces the other side to seek closer relations withthe Kremlin. Obviously, this approach has certain limits, but it may restorea better balance to the process of resuming Russian relations with theUSA and NATO.

Vladimir Putin about Nuclear Nonproliferation and Arms Control As apresidential candidate, Vladimir Putin had no published program on nuclearnonproliferation and arms control issues. The vision of his policy canbe formed from rare public statements and his actions as the Secretaryof the Security Council, the Prime Minister, and the Acting President.

Nonproliferation and Export Controls. On February 2000, in his openingspeech to the Moscow summit of foreign ministers, members of the groupto promote multilateral negotiations in the Middle East, Vladimir Putinmaintained that along with the positive changes in the international relations(such as the end of the Cold War and the elimination of the threat oflarge-scalenuclear conflict), there were a large number of unresolved problems. Someof them are part of the Soviet-Western confrontation legacy. At the sametime, a new generation of challenges, which has recently emerged, becomesmore and more topical. According to the Acting President, the urgent problemis the danger of nuclear arms and WMD proliferation.

Addressing the journalists after the Security Council meeting of April29, 1999, which discussed the development of the nuclear weapons complex,Putin emphasized that the Security Council touched upon international contactsin the nuclear sphere. He stressed that, naturally, Russia would observeall its commitments.

These international contacts in the nuclear sphere may be a referenceto Russia's participation in various international agreements in the areaof nonproliferation and arms control. In this case, the Putin's statementcan be regarded as Russia's commitment to its obligations.

Meanwhile, presumably, the nuclear contacts might also include the Russiancooperation with Iran in constructing the nuclear power plant in Bushehr.Hence, Putin meant Russia's intention to continue the work, despite USpressure.

The problems of nonproliferation and export controls were discussedon August 4, 1999 during a telephone conversation between Putin (at thattime the Secretary of the Security Council) and US National Security AdvisorSamuel Berger.

Putin argued that "Russia demonstrates its firm commitment to strengthenexport controls and WMD nonproliferation regime". He emphasized that Russiatook into full account the US concerns about export controls and couldexpect appropriate feedback from Washington. However, regretted Putin,the problem of lifting US sanctions against a number of Russian enterprisesand institutes still existed. Putin expressed his hope that this matterwould be
solved in the very near future.

On February 29, 2000, Vladimir Putin signed several documents to improvethe system of export controls in the Russian Federation:

  • Government Resolution No. 176 "On Approving the Statute on State Accreditationof the Organizations, Which Have Established the Intra-Firm Export ControlPrograms";
  • Presidential Decree No. 447 "On Making Amendments to the List of Dual-UseGoods and Technologies, Whose Export Is Controlled, Which Was Approvedby Presidential Decree No. 1268 of August 1996 'On Control over the Exportof Dual-Use Goods and Technologies from the Russian Federation'".
Nuclear Tests. The April 1999 meeting of the Security Council also touchedupon the problem of nuclear tests. Vladimir Putin called it "a complicatedissue" and pointed out that Russia was the first to declare a ban on itsnuclear tests and, hence, had the longest history of not conducting tests.He admitted that this caused certain difficulties, since Russian partnershad advanced technologies and the opportunity for making progress in thisarea. In this connection, the meeting suggested that Russian specialistsshould enjoy the same capabilities as those in other nuclear weapon stateswithout violation of the existing agreements with the members of the nuclearclub.

On August 30, 1999, Vladimir Putin participated in the celebration tocommemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Soviet nuclear test. In hisspeech, he said that the CTBT's entry into force met the vital interestsof the country.

Nuclear Policy, Arms Control and Disarmament. Vladimir Putin has statedmany times that the Russian nuclear forces will continue to be the maindeterrence against external aggression and an indispensable factor forinternational security. At the same time, it is possible to say that VladimirPutin doesn't regard the nuclear weapons as a means to exert pressure,as reflected in his reaction to Yeltsin's statement in Beijing. In thisstatement of early December 1999, Boris Yeltsin reminded President Clintonof Russia's nuclear status. Vladimir Putin asserted that the statementsof the US and Russian presidents were not aimed at cooling down the relationsbetween the two powers. As for the nuclear component of Russia, "it hasalways been and will exist," said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

According to the Acting President, the development of the strategicforces should be made a top-priority issue. However, Vladimir Putin hascriticized the existing disproportion in the defense contracts, when theconventional forces are financed with the leftovers.

Addressing the aforementioned Moscow summit on the Middle East, VladimirPutin maintained that the disarmament process affects the interests ofthe international community on the whole, not only the interests of thenuclear club.

Putin called the ABM Treaty "the cornerstone of all agreements on nucleararms reduction". In his interview with the Financial Times in December1999, he expressed deep concern about the US willingness to make amendmentsto the treaty. According to the Prime Minister, such US steps force Russiaand even other states, which possess smaller nuclear might, to modernizetheir
weapons.

As far as US-Russian arms control and disarmament treaties are concerned,Vladimir Putin supports START II ratification; he has voiced his positionon the matter many times. As the Prime Minister, he took some measuresto achieve the ratification in December, at the last sessions of the previousState Duma.

As for the current Russian policy on disarmament, the Acting Presidentargued that Russia would welcome "the shaping of a new system of internationalsecurity, the establishment of substantially reduced, non-threatening,and defense-sufficient military might of the states".

In conclusion, we can point out that in the course of formulating hispolicy in the area of nuclear nonproliferation and arms control, VladimirPutin will have to maneuver between the desire to preserve authority inRussia (based on the tough relations with the West due to the Chechen war)and the need to seek common ground to avoid international isolation. Moreover,the changes in Russian foreign policy will require reshuffles in the foreignpolicy team of the president-elect. Such decisions are likely to be takensoon, now that the presidential elections have been held.
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