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Nuclear News - 06/08/00
RANSAC Nuclear News, 08 June 2000


A. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

    1. News Briefing [SWU Price], Uranium Institute (6/5/00)
B. Loose Nukes
    1. The Moscow Summit And Nuclear Terrorism, Yonah Alexanderand Milton Hoenig, Washington Times (6/7/00)
C. Nuclear Cities Initiative
    1. Severodvinsk To Become Closed City, Bellona (5/24/00)
    2. Putin Promises Foreign Investors He'll Establish Rule Of Law,RFE/RL (6/7/00)
D. ABM, Missile Defense
    1. U.S.-Russia Missile Accords to Strengthen Strategic Stability,Susan Ellis, Department of State (6/6/00)
    2. Putin Missile Plan Covers All Europe, David Sands, WashingtonTimes (6/7/00)
    3. NATO Cautiously Welcomes Putin's ABM Proposal, RFE/RL(6/7/00)
E. Arms Control-General
    1. Arms Control Reverts to a Waiting Game, David Hoffman,Washington Post (6/6/00)
    2. Deadly Germs From Cold War, David Hoffman, WashingtonPost (6/7/00)



A. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Deal

1.
News Briefing [SWU Price]
        Uranium Institute
        June 5, 2000
        (for  personal useonly)

[NB00.23-17] The terms of a new SWU contract have reportedly been agreedby USEC and Tenex.  The deal would see Russia selling SWU to USECfrom blended-down weapons HEU from 2002 to 2013 at a price that is market-related(reportedly in the low US$60 per SWU range). The agreement also calls forUSEC to buy an additional 1 million commercial SWU annually in 2000 and2001. The contract is under review by US and Russian officials.  However,opposition to the proposed deal is mounting among the US utility industryand the government.
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B. Loose Nukes

1.
The Moscow Summit And Nuclear Terrorism
        Yonah Alexander and MiltonHoenig
        Washington Times
        June 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

The headlines surrounding the Moscow summit meeting between PresidentClinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin focused primarily on the growingbut inconclusive dialogue over mounting a defense against ballistic missileslaunched from rogue states. Only scant media attention has been paid toconcrete agreements related to the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The summit outcomes add to the almost decade-long U.S.-financed effortto thwart the flow of nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and the drainof scientific brainpower out of the former Soviet Union to countries orto terrorist groups seeking a nuclear capability. Presidents Clinton andPutin set a 20-year timetable, starting in 2007, for each side to disposeof 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium from their military stockpiles.High-level discussions reportedly were held on upcoming actions to refurbisha Russian nuclear weapon dismantlement site and to improve security overhighly enriched uranium and nuclear submarine spent fuel stored at decayingRussian naval facilities.

These programs are part of the current Expanded Threat Reduction Initiativeof the departments of Energy, Defense and State, with a budget of morethan $1 billion in the next fiscal year. Yet, what is being spent is onlya fraction of what is needed to safely secure the nuclear weapons and materialsleft over from the Soviet Union, convert the 10 once-secret "nuclear cities"to viable commercial enterprises and find employment for former weaponsscientists.

As long these goals remain unfulfilled, the threat posed by nuclearweapons, materials and technology getting into the hands of nuclear terroristsremains real. There is a new breed of theologically driven terrorist groupswith the resources and capabilities and motivation to acquire and deliverweapons of mass destruction, and the threat is active and menacing. Thisis confirmed by the just released study by the National Commission on Terrorismand the recent State Department report titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism:1999."

The two prime examples are the network of Osama bin Laden's al Quaidaand a Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Although inspired by different religiousmotivations, mass destruction is part of their agenda. The possibilitythat these groups would steal or smuggle a nuclear weapon or acquire theplutonium or highly enriched uranium for making one cannot be dismissed.Nor can opportunities for purchasing nuclear waste to spread in a radiologicaldevice be ignored.

There are numerous officially documented attempts to steal or sell weapons-gradenuclear material originating from storage facilities in Russia. In March,border guards at a customs post in Uzbekistan seized an Iranian truck witha cargo of radioactive material in lead containers bound for a destinationin southern Pakistan. Reportedly, this material, intended for a radiologicaldevice, was headed for the Afghanistan camps of bin Laden.

The wealthy bin Laden's nuclear aspirations are also portrayed in aManhattan federal court indictment issued last year, accusing one of hisclose associates of being involved in a scheme to buy uranium for nuclearweapons and seeking links with  Iran. Other reports suggest an attemptedpurchase of nuclear material in the Ukraine and in the former Soviet CentralAsian republics.

Similarly, Aum Shinrikyo, known for its attack with sarin nerve gason the Tokyo subway in 1995, has also been aggressive in its pursuit ofa several nuclear ventures, including attempts to acquire nuclear technologyand material from the former Soviet Union and seeking to meet with Russianofficials to buy a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, well-funded and well-organized terrorist groups could offeran attractive lure to former weapons scientists who are underpaid and lookingfor new opportunities. To counter this possibility, there are initiativesin the nuclear cities and elsewhere to match former-Soviet scientists withproductive commercial activities. The International Science and TechnologyCenter in Moscow and the Science and Technology Center in Kiev, Ukraine,with funding from the United States and other countries, are employingthousands of former Soviet weapons experts in civilian work, although oftenfor only a fraction of full time.

Domestically, the concern over nuclear terrorism cannot be discounted,either. In mid-1998, Mr. Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive62, expressing his concern over the growing lethality and technologicalsophistication of terrorist weapons and their potential for disruptingour society and its critical infrastructures. The fiscal year 2000 domesticcounter-terrorism budget includes $1.5 billion for defense against chemical,biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Dealing with the threat ofterrorism via weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear terrorism,on all fronts is a necessity for our national security. Our vulnerabilitieswere revealed by the chance arrest of a bin Laden-follower, Ahmed Ressam,crossing the Canadian border into the state of Washington in December witha carload of high-efficiency conventional explosives. What is more frighteningis that a crude nuclear or biological device could be delivered in thesame way.

In sum, several lessons should be learned if the international communityis to avert the danger of nuclear terrorism. First, the possible leakageof nuclear weapons and materials from the former Soviet Union must be confronted,internally, with improved protection, control and  accounting and,at border crossings, with more sophisticated detection equipment and training.

Second, continued and expanded bilateral efforts for disposal and safeguardingof nuclear material —plutonium and highly enriched uranium — in the formerSoviet Union and the United States must proceed on a high priority.

Third, industrial countries must be encouraged to contribute additionalfunds to encourage the science and technology centers in Moscow and Kiev.

Fourth, planning should go forward on the organization of a multinationalsummit to create a strategy to counter mass destruction terrorism, to tightencontrols on nuclear and dual-use transfers and black markets, and to advancemore effective arms-control initiatives and emergency-management efforts.

Yonah Alexander is the director of the International Center for CounterTerrorism Studies, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Milton Hoenigis a nuclear physicist based in Washington.
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C. Nuclear Cities Initiative

1.
Severodvinsk To Become Closed City
        Bellona
        May 24, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Military News Agency reports that Anatoly Efremov, governor of ArkhangelskCounty, signed a letter to the Russian Government regarding assigning Severodvinskthe status of a closed city.  This decision is being approved by allrespective governmental agencies and has economical grounds. Two biggestshipyards, Sevmash and Zvezdochka, engaged into decommissioning and repairof nuclear powered submarines are situated in the city. Direct financingfrom Moscow and tax exemptions for closed cities are believed to improvethe situation in Severodvinsk and attract foreign investors.
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2.
Putin Promises Foreign Investors He'll Establish Rule Of Law
        RFE/RL
        June 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Addressing a gathering of members of Italy's business community in Milanon 6 June, President Putin said that his government's chief priority isto "create equal and stable conditions for all kinds of businesses" andthat foreign entrepreneurs have often asked him when a single uniform legalspace in Russia will be created, according to Interfax. Putin also spokeabout the need to create an effective structure of state power in Russiaand achieve universal compliance with the law throughout the country'svast territory. Another priority for his government, Putin told the audience,is to restructure Russia's banking system.
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D. ABM, Missile Defense

1.
U.S.-Russia Missile Accords to Strengthen Strategic Stability
        Susan Ellis
        Department of State
        June 6, 2000
        (for personal use only)

Washington -- A senior Defense Department official told reporters June6 that the shared Early Warning agreement signed by President Clinton andRussian President Vladimir Putin at their recent Moscow Summit meeting"is a step to strengthen strategic stability by further reducing (the)risk that an accident could result in a ballistic missile launch."

Two Memoranda of Understanding (MOAs) are involved, the official said,one of which was concluded the week before the Summit. "This is the MOAdealing with the Joint Data Exchange Center and the provision on how earlywarning information will be provided to this Joint Data Exchange Center,"he said. The second MOA addresses "a complementary part of Shared EarlyWarning, which is the intent of the United States and Russia to try towork out the arrangements of a pre-launch notification regime that couldthen be opened up very broadly to whatever countries wanted to participate."

Speaking on background at a special Pentagon briefing about the MoscowSummit, the official said that the MOA on Shared Early Warning and theData Exchange Center basically provides for the two countries to provideeach other "with near real-time, continuous flow of information from earlywarning sensors."

Launch time, launch point, rough direction of launch, impact point andtime would be revealed as derived from these sensors, he said, adding thatthis information would be piped in by each side to the Joint Data ExchangeCenter, which will be located at a designated site in Moscow.

"The two sides would take their own data and display it on a desktopcomputer-generated display on a screen on which both sides could monitoreach other's information," he said.

The idea is to permit both countries' personnel in the center to consultamong themselves and with others in their respective governments to helpresolve any ambiguities, the official said.

He added that the Y2K Center for Strategic Stability in Colorado Springs,Colorado, successfully monitored "with good Russian cooperation" worldwidelaunches during the millennium rollover period. It set a precedent, hesaid, for the current activity.

The joint center is estimated to open in about a year, after which therewill be a three-month training period. The center will operate seven daysa week, 24 hours a day, and continue for an indefinite period of time."The president termed it as 'permanent,' which is a first," the officialsaid.

Approximately 16 U.S. military personnel will be permanently assignedto the center, including a colonel in command, he said. Two-person teamswill work around the clock, with a couple of support people. The Russiansare to provide the security and support, such as utilities, as well asa kitchen with cooks.

The official said that the United States and Russia will equally sharethe $7 million cost of purchasing the land associated with the facility,an old school, and of renovating the building to make it appropriate fora joint military operation. In-kind payments are acceptable, he said, addingthat, for example, "the Russians could provide the building and the land,and we would provide the renovation of it."

He estimated that an additional $700,000 worth of equipment will beput into the facility by the United States.

Asked if information eventually can be shared with the Russians on possiblemissile launches from rogue nations, the official said, "That will be donein what we call our Phase 3 of Shared Early Warning Implementation.

"Launches greater than 500 kilometers in range -- of a ballistic missilefor example -- that (are) in the direction of either party (and) that couldbe misinterpreted by Early Warning Systems, will be reported to each other."

Asked if joint monitoring might not solve the dilemma of an accidentalnuclear war, the official said that knowing and sharing cannot solve theproblem, but that both Russia and the United States agree "that both sidesshould have decent early warning capability." He said the parties are notas concerned "about intentional launches" as they are about "misinterpretingevents."
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2.
Putin Missile Plan Covers All Europe
        David Sands
        Washington Times
        June 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

U.S. officials scrambled yesterday to analyze a  shock proposalby Russian President Vladimir Putin for a pan-European missile-defenseshield to complement the one being discussed for the United States.

Mr. Putin outlined the idea —which goes far beyond anything the UnitedStates has ever suggested —to a startled audience in Italy on Monday, justone day after he stiff-armed President Clinton's missile-defense proposalsat a Moscow summit.

Russia, the European Union and NATO should cooperate on a continentwideshield that would protect the great land mass from Lisbon to Vladivostok,Mr. Putin said at the end of a brief visit to Italy.

Russia, China and a number of NATO allies have expressed fears thata U.S. national missile-defense (NMD) system targeting potential threatsfrom "rogue nations" such as North Korea or Iraq could evolve into a shieldthat would leave America invulnerable to nuclear attack.

That, they say, would undermine the idea of deterrence and "mutual assureddestruction" that the U.S.-Soviet 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treatywas supposed to enshrine.

Mr. Putin's sketchy alternative "would avoid all the problems linkedto the balance of force," he said in Rome.

"It would permit in an absolute manner a 100 percent guarantee of thesecurity of every European country, with the obvious involvement of ourAmerican partners."

With details of Mr. Putin's idea still unknown, U.S. policy-makers andprivate analysts were divided over whether it was a genuine change of heartor an attempt by Moscow to fan fears abroad about the U.S. defense idea.

"We are looking to find out more details about whether this representsanything new or is just what he said to [Mr. Clinton] over the weekend,"said White House spokesman P.J. Crowley yesterday.

The confusion — and Mr. Putin's deliberate vagueness over the futureof the ABM treaty — may be intentional.

Russia's evolving national strategy "seeks to restrain the United States,to encourage a multipolar world," according to Robert Pfaltzgraff, a professorat Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and head ofthe Cambridge, Mass.-based Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.

"Whatever else the ongoing ABM debate does for Russia, it does servethe purpose well in emphasizing the differences between Europe and theUnited States," Mr. Pfaltzgraff said yesterday.

Joseph Cirincione, a nonproliferation expert and a senior associateat the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Mr. Putin "clearlyhas an interest in seeming to appear more reasonable to the Europeans onthis issue than the Americans."

"It seems as if he's taken a page from the Clinton playbook and concludedyou can't beat something with nothing," Mr. Cirincione said. "By soundingreasonable, he may calculate he can make it diplomatically impossible forPresident Clinton or even his successor to go ahead with a U.S. plan withoutRussian approval or participation."

Mr. Putin may also have been seeking to score diplomatic points by showcasingthe multilateral spirit of his missile-defense proposal at a time whenmany in Europe have criticized what they see as a U.S. propensity to goit alone.

Clinton administration officials had counted it a small victory thatMr. Putin in Moscow had not rejected their argument that the threat ofa missile launch by states such as North Korea might require changes tothe ABM pact.

"It's certainly a step forward to say there is a missile threat, whichthe president of Russia now recognizes," said Defense Secretary WilliamS. Cohen, who will travel to Moscow soon for further talks on security.

In exchange, Mr. Clinton in Moscow explicitly acknowledged that theABM treaty was a "cornerstone" of the international arms-control regime,a position consistently argued by Moscow and consistently rejected by congressionalsupporters of the NMD idea in the United States.

Despite private doubts, Western officials were careful yesterday notto reject Mr. Putin's idea out of hand.

"Because the statement was very broad, we cannot make any detailed comment,"said deputy NATO spokesman Mark Laity, speaking to reporters in Brussels.

"But we welcome the cooperative spirit that [Mr. Putin] has shown withregard to international arms control and the international threat of weaponsof mass destruction."
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3.
NATO Cautiously Welcomes Putin's ABM Proposal
        RFE/RL
        June 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

A NATO spokesman said on 6 June that President Putin's proposal fora joint European anti-missile defense system is a sign that Moscow is willingto cooperate with the international community "both on arms control andthe threat posed by weapons of mass destruction." But the spokesman notedthat the alliance could not comment further until Russia offered more details.Putin had proposed the previous day in Rome that Russia, Europe, and NATOset up such a system, with the support of the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"6 June 2000). U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said Putin's proposaland his recognition of a missile threat were "a step forward" but the proposalitself was "quite vague." Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini was quotedby the ANSA news agency as saying Rome "can only look with favor" on theproposal, while a French Foreign Ministry spokesman was more guarded inhis response, saying France would study Putin's proposal and consider itsimplications.
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E. Arms Control-General

1.
Arms Control Reverts to a Waiting Game
        David Hoffman
        Washington Post
        June 6, 2000
        (for personal use only)

MOSCOW, June 5 –– The summit meeting between President Clinton and RussianPresident Vladimir Putin, which ended today, starkly demonstrated how thereduction of nuclear arsenals--an overriding goal in two decades of ColdWar confrontation--has fallen from grace.

Clinton, in the twilight of his term, said that any cuts in the numberof long-range nuclear weapons would have to be coupled with resolving thestubborn dispute over missile defenses. It was the latest in a long seriesof roadblocks to further progress toward reducing strategic stockpiles.Clinton may be the first U.S. president in a quarter-century to leave officewithout signing a major nuclear arms reduction treaty.

With Russia wounded and struggling to maintain its global status, andthe United States feeling  economically robust and militarily superior,Clinton and Putin appeared to be talking past each other.

"Both sides hoped for some kind of miracle, which did not happen," saidValery Solovei, an analyst with the Gorbachev Foundation. "They talkedto each other but didn't hear what the other side is saying."

"I think that the problem is that nobody really knows how to go on witharms control," said Ivan  Safranchuk, an analyst at the PIR Center,a research organization that focuses on nuclear weapons and proliferationissues. "In the past, everything was two super-huge arsenals. No one coulddoubt that these were much bigger than anyone could need in a conflict.And it was relatively easy to reduce the surplus. You reduce 5,000; wereduce 5,000. Both parties do not need those thousands.

"Now it is very different," Safranchuk said. "We will not have morethan 1,500 warheads, more likely 1,000 deployed. The Americans can, withoutany problem, remain at 5,000 or 6,000 deployed. . . . There is no parityin our positions; there is no equality in technical, economic, financialand all other capabilities. The logic of the disarmament process must change,but it remains the same."

Before Clinton came to Moscow for the fifth and last time, there wasspeculation about a "grand bargain" in which the United States would tradeoff new, deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals sought by Russia in exchange forMoscow's acquiescence to a limited national missile defense plan beingconsidered by Clinton.

What actually occurred at the summit seems to have been not a bargain,but a stall. The critical moment came at a news conference in the Kremlin'selegant St. George's Hall, when a Russian journalist asked Clinton a straightforwardquestion: What was his view of a Russian proposal to slash the number ofnuclear warheads to 1,500 on each side as part of a future third StrategicArms Reduction Treaty (START III)? Previously, the warhead levels projectedby Clinton and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin for such a treatywere 2,000 to 2,500 each. The Pentagon does not want to go lower, but economicproblems probably will force Russia to fall well below 1,000 warheads.

In his response, Clinton showed little enthusiasm for the "grand bargain"and seemed ninterested in endorsing the lower levels without first resolvingthe missile defense issue. He said that lower levels "would require usto change our strategic plan," without saying whether he would considerit.

Then he said: "We believe it would be much better, if we were goingto do that, if we could also know that we were defending ourselves againsta new threat, which we believe is real. . . . I am eager to go below STARTII, but also want to try to solve the new threat, as well."

Slashing nuclear arsenals deeper than START II has been an ostensiblegoal of both the United States and Russia since the treaty was signed inJanuary 1993. But the cuts have been repeatedly put off by delays in ratificationby the Senate and the Russian State Duma. In Russia, the delays were spurredby anger over NATO expansion, the bombing of Iraq and the U.S.-led airoffensive against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war. Although the Duma finallyratified it in April, START II has still not entered into force becausethe Senate has held up key protocols.

Now, the summit has made clear that there is a new bump in the road--theU.S.-Russian dispute over missile defenses and its effect on the 1972 Anti-BallisticMissile Treaty.

At the summit, "neither side was ready for what we would call real accomplishment,"said Pavel Podvig, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control, Energy andEnvironmental Studies here. "To begin with, the United States wasn't reallyserious about this 'grand bargain' type of thing." Clinton's answer tothe question about 1,500 warheads "shows that the United States wasn'treally interested."

But, Podvig added, "Russia wasn't too pushy." In fact, in his remarksat the Kremlin news conference, Putin did not make a single appeal forRussia's demand for lower levels of strategic weapons. "We didn't reallyplay this card," Podvig said. "Russia wasn't sending all those signalsabout being really interested in deeper cuts--1,500 warheads or somethinglike that."

Putin's performance has puzzled some analysts. The Russian governmenthad been stoutly  resisting any changes in the 1972 ABM treaty, butthen Putin acknowledged, in a joint statement with Clinton, that changeswere possible. Likewise, the Russian military has been broadcasting anunwavering message for months that the threats of missile attack from hostilestates was exaggerated. Then, at the summit, Putin shifted and acknowledgedthat such threats may exist.

Finally, after Russian officials had held out for months against missiledefenses, Putin seemed to join in supporting them. First, he suggesteda joint U.S.-Russia theater defense system, which, while he did not preciselydescribe it, would be on a smaller scale than the concept being consideredby Clinton. The Putin proposal was brushed aside Sunday by Clinton, whosaid the
necessary technology would take too long to develop.

Then, on a visit to Italy today, Putin picked up an idea advanced earlierby several Russian lawmakers and called for setting up "an anti-ballisticmissile defense system for Europe."

Safranchuk suggested that Russia may, too, be stalling for time. "Thereis a lot of hope here in Moscow that the Americans will change their mindand forget about national missile defense as too costly and nonefficient,"he said. Meanwhile, he added, "it is very good for Russia. We can maneuverfor a good compromise. It is too early to make a deal with Clinton. Itis not clear whether his successor will be Gore or Bush, but it doesn'tmake any sense right now to help Clinton."
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2.
Deadly Germs From Cold War
        David Hoffman
        Washington Post
        June 7, 2000
        (for personal use only)

OBOLENSK, Russia –– On the third floor of the State Research Centerfor Applied Microbiology here, the sign warns: "Particularly hazardousinfections."

Behind the door is a storehouse of some of the most lethal substancesever created, samples of germs and other pathogens developed for use inSoviet biological weapons. In an archive of freezers and test tubes, thethird floor includes a repository for genetically engineered versions ofanthrax and plague, as well as the lesser-known diseases tularemia andglanders.

The archive is one of the Cold War's most terrifying legacies. In thelaboratories of Building No. 1, Soviet scientists worked in extreme secrecyfor 20 years trying to build ever more deadly biological weapons, evenafter Moscow signed a treaty promising not to develop or stockpile them.

Now, slowly, Russia is opening the door to this and some other darkcorners of the once hidden Soviet bio-weapons complex. Recently, for thefirst time, a sample anthrax strain was sent to the United States for analysis,the beginning of what U.S. officials hope will be a broader exchange.

As more is learned, the West is responding by pressing Moscow to tightensecurity to help keep bio-weapons out of the wrong hands. The United Stateshas agreed to provide nearly $1 million for extra guards, video camerasand other protection for what had been a surprisingly lightly guarded compound.

Journalists were taken on a limited tour of Building No. 1 late lastmonth. Here, according to Ken Alibek, a bio-weapons expert who defectedto the United States in 1992, the Soviet Union carried out some of themost ambitious biological weapons research ever attempted.

As with many Soviet-era scientific facilities, it has a decaying outwardappearance. Buildings are crumbling, weeds sprouting and air locks on thefourth and fifth floors looked unused. Only the third floor of BuildingNo. 1 is now devoted to the most dangerous substances, but in earlier days,five of the nine floors were used for research on bio-weapons. From a glassed-incorridor atop the building it is possible to view the whole sprawling complex,including a 40-bed special isolation hospital built in case of accidentalcontamination.

In the Soviet era, Obolensk had 4,000 workers and was known as PostBox V-8724, hidden in a remote, wooded area south of Moscow. Its locationwas concealed, as were those of many of the most sensitive Soviet nuclearweapons facilities. It was not on any map. Today, scientists here carryout civilian biotechnology projects; they are trying to fight drug-resistanttuberculosis and preparing to manufacture high-grade insulin, which isstill in short supply in Russia.

The institute opened recently for an unprecedented three-day internationalconference for about 200 microbiology experts from Russia, the United Statesand Europe. The theme of the conference was biological and ecological safety,and it was held in the same auditorium where Soviet scientists once discussedhow to create the most devastating biological weapons ever conceived.

"Scientists today are the people who must create the system of resistanceto biological weapons and to biological terrorism," institute directorNikolai Urakov said in an interview. Tall, with a head of white hair anda shoulders-back military posture, Urakov knows whereof he speaks. Accordingto Alibek, Urakov, who holds the rank of general, won a Soviet prize fordevelopment of a "Q fever" weapon. Q fever is a rare disease contractedfrom animals that can cause pneumonia and other disorders in humans. Later,Urakov also oversaw a project, code-named "Bonfire," that involved geneticallyengineering new versions of such diseases as plague.

The KGB was especially interested in a new class of weapons that coulddamage the human nervous system and alter moods, Alibek recalled in hismemoir, "Biohazard." "Victims would appear to have died of natural causes,"Alibek wrote. "What intelligence service would not be interested in a productcapable of killing without a trace?"

In 1979, a Soviet biological weapons accident at a top-secret militarylaboratory in Yekaterinburg--called Sverdlovsk in the Soviet era--is believedto have caused the world's most serious known outbreak of human inhalationanthrax; the official death toll was 66.

The bio-weapons effort is not just history. Many of the pathogen samplesremain in storage, and in recent years there has been growing apprehensionin the West about the possibility they could be stolen and used by terrorists.The laboratory here had just a single guard at the front door and anotherat the gate of the fenced compound in which it is located. It is not nearlyas heavily guarded as Russian nuclear facilities, which typically haveguard patrols, dogs, surveillance cameras and other perimeter controls.

The Cold War made controlling nuclear weapons a priority. Today, theyare limited by treaties, and millions are spent to tighten security onnuclear materials. Likewise, the United States is helping Russia prepareto destroy some of its aging chemical weapons stocks. But biological weaponshave been a far more elusive target for disarmament than nuclear weapons.There is a fine line between research to create offensive biological weaponsand research to defend against them; as a result, work on offensive weaponscan be concealed under the cover of research to develop vaccines.

Moreover, until the last few years, the Soviet biological weapons complexwas a mystery. From defectors and other sources, it was known the weaponseffort was concealed under a structure known as Biopreparat, created in1973 to provide civilian cover for advanced research on biological weapons.

Biopreparat had laboratories and production facilities spread acrossthe Soviet Union. Samples of the deadly pathogens that were developed arestill stored in freezers and test tubes from Obolensk to Kazakhstan. (TheU.S. government said it stopped its biological weapons program in 1969.The Soviet Union signed the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 but almostimmediately set about violating it.)

In 1997, representatives of the Iranian biological weapons program madean attempt to obtain technology, pathogens and expertise from the institutehere and from another bio-weapons laboratory, Vector, in the Novosibirskregion, which worked on viral weapons. Andrew Weber, special adviser forthreat reduction policy in the U.S. Office of the Defense Secretary, saidthat the Russian labs refused the Iranian overtures and that the UnitedStates "dramatically" increased their funding and began cooperating withthem more closely.

Meanwhile, money from the Russian government has dwindled. Urakov saidhe is pleading with Moscow for about $3 million a year to keep the laboratoryfunctioning. Along with new grants just announced, the total Western assistanceto scientists, and for improved security at Obolensk, will come to about$4.5 million a year.

Earlier attempts at using diplomacy to curb the possibility of biologicalweapons proliferation ran into a dead end. A joint U.S.-British-Russianeffort was frustrated by disagreements over mutual inspections; some Russianmilitary microbiology labs are still off-limits.

But at Obolensk, the West is making headway, sending in scientists forcooperative research. "They are making a change--cultural, scientific andeconomic--and it is a huge transformation," said Randall Beatty, deputyexecutive director of the International Science and Technology Center,a joint U.S., European and Japanese project to help Russian weapons scientistswork on civilian projects.

The project is devoting about $50 million this year to biotechnologylaboratories. As dozens of U.S. scientists have come to Obolensk, and Russiansto the United States, a window has opened on the true scope of the colossalSoviet biological weapons effort.

At Obolensk, the Westerners found the largest set of anthrax and tulameriasamples in the world. Elsewhere, Western scientists have discovered thatthe Soviet Union had a separate biological weapons program--outside ofBiopreparat--designed to create agents that would kill livestock and cropson a mass scale. Little is known about it, but one official said that theSoviet efforts were "weaponized," meaning that not only did they experimentwith such pathogens, but tested them and developed ways of delivering them.Research institutes developed weapons that would, for example, spread footand mouth disease or African swine fever; the testing ground was in Kazakhstan,a Soviet republic at the time.

"There is a collection of highly dangerous pathogens all over the formerSoviet Union," said one official involved, "and we are just in the processof getting a handle on what's out there."
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