1. Bush, Putin Seen Headed for Trouble Over Missiles
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
January 8, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- A dispute over short-range nuclear weapons is the latest sign of trouble looming between the two new administrations in Moscow and Washington.
The Kremlin is angrily denying U.S. allegations that it has moved tactical nuclear missiles onto its military bases in Kaliningrad, a key Russian outpost on the edge of central Europe, within range of targets in Poland and the Baltic states.
The Pentagon, refusing to back down from its charges, says the move is just the latest example of a "disturbing trend" of sabre-rattling by the Russian military.
The dispute could foreshadow fresh tensions between the two nuclear superpowers and their new presidents: Vladimir Putin, who was officially inaugurated in May, and George W. Bush, who will be sworn in to office on Jan. 20.
Mr. Putin has been increasingly assertive on the world stage. He has courted the leaders of foreign regimes on the U.S. black list, and allowed his military to simulate combat with American targets. He also has approved a military doctrine that identifies Washington as a possible threat, and defied U.S. demands to outlaw weapons sales to Iran.
Still, the Russian leader is putting a good face on maintaining good relations with Washington and is reportedly hoping to visit the United States this spring for a summit with Mr. Bush.
"My analysis of modern history shows that when Republicans were heading the U.S. administration, even U.S.-Soviet relations were not harmed," Mr. Putin told Russian journalists recently. "We have always been able to find a common language with the Republicans."
At the same time, he emphasized that Moscow cannot return to the optimistic days of the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"Ten years ago we decided, for some reason, that everyone heartily loves us," Mr. Putin said. But this turned out to be wrong. We have to . . . clearly understand our national interests, spell them out and fight for them."
Mr. Bush, meanwhile, has appointed a cabinet filled with right-wing hawks who advocate a tougher line on Russia. Several of his cabinet nominees and senior advisers vigorously support a proposed nuclear-missile defence shield, despite Moscow's fierce opposition, and their rhetoric often sharply criticizes Russia.
"Moscow is determined to assert itself in the world and often does so in ways that are at once haphazard and threatening to American interests," Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, wrote in a recent article.
Portraying Russia as a threat to the independence of its smaller neighbours, Ms. Rice wants Washington to strengthen those states to protect them from Moscow's interference. She has condemned the outgoing Clinton administration for its "romantic" policy toward Moscow. And she has criticized Russia for its corruption, its war against Chechnya, its links to U.S. enemies and the aggressiveness of its military.
"The Russian military has been uncharacteristically blunt and vocal in asserting its duty to defend the integrity of the Russian Federation -- an unwelcome development . . .," she wrote in the article published in a Chicago newspaper.
Mr. Bush has been highly critical of Russia. During the election campaign, he demanded a halt of all loans to Moscow as long as it is waging war in Chechnya. He denounced Russian corruption and accused former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of stealing money from Western loans to Russia. When Mr. Chernomyrdin demanded an apology, he refused.
If the Bush cabinet continues this tough stand, it will further complicate an already fragile relationship.
Washington is already worried by Russia's moves toward closer political links with Iran, Iraq, Libya and Cuba. It has criticized Moscow for using coercive pressure tactics against pro-Western neighbours such as Georgia. It has warned that the Kremlin jeopardized press freedom by arresting the media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky. And it condemned the espionage conviction of American businessman Edmond Pope, whom Mr. Putin later pardoned.
The United States has also threatened to impose sanctions on Moscow for abandoning its agreement to stop selling battlefield weapons to Iran. Washington said it was "particularly disturbed" by reports that the Kremlin is ready to sell missiles, helicopters and fighter jets to Iran. These sales would "pose a serious threat" to security interests of the United States and its allies, a State Department spokesman said.
Russia has its own long list of bitter grievances, a list that seems to be lengthening.
Tensions have been rising because of the U.S.-led expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, both of which triggered anger among Russians.
Some Russian officials also blamed a U.S. or British submarine for the explosion that destroyed the Kursk nuclear submarine in August, killing 118 crew members.
Along with the dustup over whether nuclear weapons had been shifted to Kaliningrad, another arms-control dispute is simmering. Last week, Russia accused Washington of violating the START-1 treaty by destroying only the first stage of its MX intercontinental ballistic missiles, preserving the second and third stages for possible future use as medium-range missiles.
But the Kremlin's biggest complaint today is the U.S. plan for a missile defence shield, which would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
President Bill Clinton delayed a decision on the missile shield last year, but Mr. Bush's cabinet lineup suggests that his campaign pledge to bring in a "robust" missile-defence system will be kept.
Indeed, Donald Rumsfeld, the designated secretary of defence, wrote an influential 1998 report that urged deployment of the missile shield, despite Russian concerns. And in nominating Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush made a special point of praising his views on the $60-billion (U.S.) antimissile plan. Many analysts see his appointment as proof that the plan is a virtual certainty, no matter how much Russia and other countries object. return to menu
2. Russian Nukes in Kaliningrad Puts Baltics' NATO Bid Back on Front Burner
January 8, 2001
(for personal use only)
RIGA, Jan 8 (AFP) - The reported deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad puts the issue of NATO enlargement into the three Baltic states back on the front burner, analysts said Monday, bolstering their case for membership at the cost of regional security.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's struggle for independence in the late 1980s helped trigger the collapse of the Soviet Union, and their current search for security by joining NATO threatens to return the European continent back to confrontation.
Russia has vociferously opposed the membership of the Baltic states in NATO, which would result in its Kaliningrad wedged sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania becoming surrounded by NATO members.
But Baltic defense ministers said Sunday reports that Russia has moved tactical nuclear missiles into Kaliningrad would not block their bids to join NATO.
"All of this noise doesn't help, but I don't think such an event could block NATO enlargement," Lithuanian Defence Minister Antanas Linkevicius was quoted as saying by PAP news agency.
The three ministers were in Krakow in southern Poland to meet their Polish counterpart for a series of meetings on the Baltic states joining NATO, and which were dominated by discussion of a report in the US newspaper Washington Times last week which quoted US intelligence services as saying Russia had moved short-range nuclear weapons into the enclave last June.
Russian President Vladimir Putin flatly denied the reports on Saturday, saying such allegations were "absurd", Interfax news agency reported, but top Russian military officials and lawmakers called last year for restationing of nuclear weapons in the region in response to NATO enlargement.
But others in the Baltics believe that, if verified, Russia having moved nuclear weapons into the region wedged between Poland and Lithuania will bolster their case for membership.
"In the end it could leave the impression among Western policymakers that will decide about NATO expansion that the Baltic states have no basis to trust Russia," Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis told AFP. "Russia is once again showing these policymakers their security policy is unpredictable or deceptive."
One of the counterarguments to their membership in NATO the Baltics have had to grapple with is that Russia now represents less of a threat, and their future membership in the European Union should provide sufficient "soft" security guarantees.
The three Baltic states hope to receive invitations to join NATO when the military alliance next considers expanding at a summit in Prague in 2002.
"If the report is confirmed it without a doubt reduces security in the region," said Maris Riekstins, state secretary at the Latvian foreign minister. "However this is the decisive year for policymakers ahead of the Prague summit in 2002. This year decisionmakers must in their minds come to a clear decision about whom to admit in 2002. In any case the decision won't rest so much on budgetary factors as political factors."
But deployment of nuclear weapons in the Baltics would be a double-edged sword, according to Harri Tiido, deputy under-secretary of the Estonian foreign ministry.
"It's an argument that both sides can exploit: those who say the Baltic should be admitted to NATO much more speedily now, and those who say the Baltics should stay out forever," he said.
NATO countries have repeatedly said Moscow does not have a veto over enlargement, but British officials reportedly told former Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis last year some members did not want to confront Russia over including the Baltic states.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski Sunday renewed Polish calls for Russia to allow international inspections in Kaliningrad to verify reports that Moscow had moved nuclear weapons into the enclave. return to menu
3. Putin Dismisses U.S. Reports That Russia Shipped Nuclear Weapons for Baltic Fleet
Patrick E. Tyler
The New York Times
January 7, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, Jan. 6 - President Vladimir V. Putin today described as "rubbish" American intelligence reports that the Russian military had moved tactical nuclear weapons into a storage depot that serves the Baltic Fleet in Kaliningrad.
Taking a walk around Red Square this evening with the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, Mr. Putin was asked about the reports, which were emanating this week from Washington, and, speaking in German, he responded, "That's rubbish."
The mysterious movement of an undetermined number of tactical nuclear weapons - those fired on short-range missiles on land or at sea - was initially reported by The Washington Times and was subsequently confirmed by Clinton administration officials.
Those officials said they had registered no protest with Moscow, though a State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said the issue was one "we want to discuss with them.
"It's something that we follow carefully," he added.
American officials said the storage of tactical weapons in Kaliningrad did not violate any agreements with Russia, and Pentagon officials said they were unsure of the military significance of the movement. Russia had pledged to keep the Baltic Sea region free of nuclear weapons, and so the reports seemed to undermine the Kremlin's credibility.
Kaliningrad, which before World War II was the Prussian university town of Königsberg, lies on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania on a sliver of land not connected to the rest of Russia.
The commander of the Baltic Sea fleet, Adm. Vladimir Yegorov, recently ran successfully for governor of Kaliningrad with Mr. Putin's support.
The new governor, who for the moment retains his post as fleet commander, called the American reports "a New Year's joke" and said the Baltic region would remain a nuclear-free zone. "Nobody has ever disturbed and nobody is going to disturb this state of affairs," he added.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko, said on Russian television today that "none of the Baltic Fleet's naval, air force or land facilities located in the Kaliningrad region has ever had any tactical nuclear weapons."
That statement was certainly questionable, as the Baltic Fleet comprised a number of surface warships and submarines that were deployed with nuclear weapons during the cold war.
However, in a nonbinding set of agreements with the Bush administration in 1991, Russia is believed to have withdrawn tactical nuclear weapons from all of its warships, including those in the Baltic Fleet.
Still, any change in the status of Russian armed forces attracts attention, as did training exercises for Russian strategic bombers this winter, and the naval exercises last summer in which the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank. return to menu
B. Plutonium Disposition
1. Burning of plutonium called safest option - Using fuel here beats stockpiling weapons in Russia: Physicists
Peter Calamai, Science Reporter
The Toronto Star
January 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
OTTAWA - It's safer to burn weapons-grade plutonium as fuel in Canadian reactors than leave the nuclear warheads stockpiled inside Russia, concludes a scientific report being published today.
The report, from the professional group representing physicists nationally, says the reactor fuel proposal carries negligible risk to the safety, health and security of either the Canadian public or nuclear workers.
[`We believe the safety of Canadians is maximized by getting rid of that weapons plutonium. The risk of leaving it in weapons form far outweighs the risk of burning it in a Canadian reactor.' - Bill Buyers, Canadian Association of Physicists]
"We believe the safety of Canadians is maximized by getting rid of that weapons plutonium. The risk of leaving it in weapons form far outweighs the risk of burning it in a Canadian reactor," said Bill Buyers, chief author of the report for the Canadian Association of Physicists.
Buyers said theft of the plutonium metal removed from warheads by terrorists or by a rogue state was a constant threat in Russia, with its crumbling infrastructure and security forces who are often not paid.
The 23-page report, to be formally released here today, is the first independent scientific assessment of the controversial federal government proposal to burn plutonium in Canadian reactors by combining it with natural uranium in MOX (mixed oxide) fuel bundles.
The original proposal also extended to surplus plutonium from U.S. nuclear warheads but American authorities said late last year they had the capacity to burn the weapons plutonium in their own reactors.
Tests of a small amount of MOX fuel from Russia are already underway in a federal research reactor at Chalk River, Ont., after widespread protests at Ontario border cities this summer failed to block the importing of the bundles.
Previous studies of the risks in the proposal have come from either Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the federal agency promoting nuclear power, or from activist groups with a strong anti-nuclear stance.
"The issue is whether Canada can contribute to nuclear disarmament and the furthering of world peace," said Gordon Drake, president of the physicists group and head of the physics department at the University of Windsor. "We didn't think it should be shot down by arguments not well grounded in fact."
Drake said many association members were troubled by exaggerated claims by nuclear opponents about the supposed dangers from plutonium. The members strongly endorsed a summary of the report at the association's annual meeting last year.
That summary noted "the chemical and radiological toxicity of plutonium has been frequently overstated in the popular press and existing safety procedures for transportation appear to be entirely adequate."
The report cites a 1995 study of plutonium dangers by a U.S. federal government nuclear research facility, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.
Taking direct aim at published claims that a single speck of plutonium powder can cause lung cancer if inhaled, the Livermore study calculated the actual increased risk of cancer in that case as 0.00017 per cent.
The physicists report also found that the CANDU reactor using natural uranium and heavy water can burn plutonium more efficiently than the different reactor designs common in Europe or the U.S.
But the study concluded as well that sealing the warhead plutonium inside glass coffins was just as feasible and safe a means of disposal that would not involve Canada in any way.
Russian authorities oppose the glass coffin disposal because they want to be paid for the energy content of about 50 tonnes of plutonium metal that is being stripped from missile warheads.
Diluted and combined with uranium in MOX fuel, Russia's plutonium would produce as much electricity as generated by all of Canada's nuclear power stations over 2* years, according to the report.
Full scale MOX shipments to Canada would likely not start before the end of the decade, after construction of a Russian plant to make the special fuel bundles.
Using two of the eight giant 900 megawatt reactors at the Bruce nuclear power station on Lake Huron, it would still take between 15 and 25 years to burn the Russian plutonium, the report estimates. return to menu
C. Loose Nukes
1. Three Arrested for Stealing Radioactive Metals in Chernobyl
January 6, 2001
(for personal use only)
KIEV, Jan 6, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Three men were arrested after attempting to steal radioactive metals from a restricted zone of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, Ukranian police said Friday.
The three men stole the metal from an impounded train that had served in clean-up operations following the April 1986 disaster that followed an explosion in Chernobyl's fourth reactor.
Police said the metals contained radioactive levels far in excess of safety norms.
The burglars hoped to sell the materials for around 2,200 dollars (2,300 euros) to rail firms.
They face up to five years in jail for possession of radioactive materials, police said. return to menu
D. Russian-Iranian Relations 1. Security Official Complains U.S. Evaluates Moscow by Russia's Policy in Iran
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline
January 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
Writing in the January 2001 "Yadernyi kontrol," Yevgenii Zvedre, a senior official in the Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament department, complained that "the Iranian issue has become a prism through which the American leadership views practically the whole complex of Russian-American relations." He said that this approach appears to reflect a desire on the part of Washington "to cast a shadow on Russia's fulfillment of its international obligations on missile non-proliferation, [and] put in doubt the effectiveness of the work of its export control system." return to menu
2. Russian Minister Counters US Arguments Over Ties with Iran
January 6, 2001
(for personal use only)
Vienna, 6 January: Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeniy Adamov has said that "claims and concerns" expressed by the United States in connection with the development of Russian-Iranian nuclear energy cooperation are politically motivated.
They are nothing more than a pretext certain forces in Washington are looking for in order to put pressure on Russia, he told a news conference in Vienna on Saturday after his talks with US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
Adamov noted that there are no objective reasons to be worried about Russian-Iranian cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, and specialists understand this. However, this understanding disappears at the political level. The problem will cease to exist as soon as the desire to look for new pretexts for putting pressure on Russia vanishes.
"After all, Russia has as many opportunities to find similar reasons for concern, for example about US cooperation with Israel or Pakistan. But we simply do not look for these pretexts," the minister said.
Sooner or later, the situation will normalize because Russia and the USA pursue the same goals in the development of the nuclear power industry and the strengthening of the nonproliferation regime, he said. return to menu
E. New Nonproliferation Initiatives 1. Turner, Nunn Unveil 'Nuclear Threat Initiative'
The Washington Post
January 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
CNN founder Ted Turner and former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) yesterday formally unveiled plans for a Washington-based nonprofit organization that will focus on safeguarding nuclear weapons and fissile materials in the former Soviet Union.
Turner, a media billionaire and philanthropist who has already pledged to donate $1 billion to the United Nations, said he would give $250 million to the so-called Nuclear Threat Initiative over the next five years because nuclear weapons represent "the greatest threat humanity faces" in the short term.
"Despite the fact that we are no longer enemies, the U.S. and Russia still maintain nearly 3,000 nuclear weapons each on high alert," Turner said at the National Press Club. "An accidental exchange is not out of the question. In many ways, the threat has become more complex and dangerous."
While noting that he personally favors the "complete elimination of all weapons of mass destruction," Turner said the Nuclear Threat Initiative would pursue "pragmatic and effective steps" to reduce the threat.
Turner and Nunn will be co-chairmen of the organization. Its 11-member board of directors includes two senators, Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). "I'm just one voice in deciding how the money is distributed," Turner said.
Nunn, who will also serve as the organization's chief executive, ran down a long list of possible projects for the new group, from funding nongovernmental organizations to aiding the families of underpaid Russian scientists who formerly produced nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
One immediate focus, Nunn said, would be to help consolidate fissile materials in the former Soviet Union so that they can be properly safeguarded. "There is tremendous vulnerability to theft and terrorism and illegal sales," Nunn said, adding that Russian scientists "are in great demand by terrorist groups, but don't know how to feed their families."
Nunn said the organization also could serve as a venture capital fund in the former Soviet Union while contributing several million dollars a year to accelerating U.S. programs for converting weapons-grade uranium and plutonium to commercial uses.
"There is a gap between the threat and the response, and we're going to try to help . . . as much as we possibly can," said Nunn, who served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee before retiring in 1996. "Fifty million dollars a year sounds like an awful lot of money, but in the sea of challenges out there in this arena, this is small potatoes. But I think we can come in where there are niches, and we can be a catalyst."
Nunn said the U.S. government clearly can do better on nonproliferation issues, and he challenged President-elect Bush to reexamine America's entire nuclear posture, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in 1999.
Nunn said the United States has done more than any other government to help safeguard nuclear weapons and fissile materials in the former Soviet Union, calling on America's NATO allies and Japan to do far more.
Nunn said two foreign experts in the field have agreed to join the Nuclear Threat Initiative's board -- former Swedish ambassador Rolf Ekeus, who headed the U.N. Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 to 1997, and Andrei Kokoshin, Russia's former first deputy defense minister who now serves in the Russian parliament.
Another board member, former deputy secretary of energy Charles Curtis, will serve as the organization's chief operating officer. return to menu
2. Ted Turner, Sam Nunn Launch Charitable Effort to Fight Nuclear Threat
The Washington File
January 9, 2001
(for personal use only)
Washington -- CNN founder Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn have announced establishment of a new charitable organization dedicated to reducing the global threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
Outlining the new venture at a joint news conference at the National Press Club January 8, Nunn, who will co-chair the venture with Turner, said the billionaire businessman-philanthropist has pledged at least $250 million dollars in funding over the next five years.
Turner said the organization would be international in scope, serving as both a catalyst for action and a sponsor of pilot projects that could be replicated on a larger scale. He termed the effort "urgent," given the continued risk of a nuclear exchange through accident or miscalculation, compounded by "serious concerns about the security of (stockpiled) weapons and bomb-making materials."
The project grows out of a recently completed study directed by Nunn and Charles Curtis, a former U.S. deputy secretary of energy, which assessed the impact that a well-funded private organization could have on reducing the risk of use of weapons of mass destruction and stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons, materials and know-how.
Nunn, who served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was a prime author of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program -- the so-called Nunn-Lugar legislation -- which provides incentives for Russia and the other former Soviet republics to dismantle and safely handle their nuclear arsenals.
He remains widely respected as an expert in nonproliferation and military matters in general; indeed there was speculation that the Georgia Democrat was being considered for the post of defense secretary in the incoming Republican administration of President-elect George W. Bush.
Both Curtis and Senator Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana), the other prime author of Nunn-Lugar, will join Turner and Nunn on the board of trustees of the new Nuclear Threat Initiative -- a board that already has two non-U.S. members and which the organizers say will be expanded to include more.
The two are Ambassador Rolf Ekeus of Sweden, former head of the UN Special Commission on Iraq, who now serves as board chairman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and Andrei Kokoshin of Russia, a current member of the State Duma who formerly served as secretary of the Security Council of Russia.
Other U.S. members of the high-powered board are Senator Pete Domenici (Republican, New Mexico), who worked with Nunn and Lugar on their nonproliferation efforts; former Secretary of Defense William Perry; Susan Eisenhower, a specialist in U.S.-Soviet and later U.S.-Russian relations; retired Air Force General Eugene Habiger, who was responsible for U.S. air force and navy nuclear forces as commander in chief of the United States Strategic Command and now serves as the Energy Department's director of security and emergency operations, and Jessica Matthews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Turner said that while he, personally, favors "complete elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as quickly as possible," this would not be the charge taken on by Nunn as chief executive officer of the new group.
"Instead, his purpose will be devoted to a more limited objective: to take the pragmatic and effective steps to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction as comprehensively and as urgently as is feasible.
"For that undertaking, there should be the broadest possible support," Turner continued. "We do not need to develop consensus on weapons elimination to develop a common purpose to make step-by-step progress to diminish the threat of weapons of mass destruction."
The media executive -- now vice chairman of Time Warner Inc. -- appealed for more media interest in the issue of nuclear weapons safety. "The general American public, at least, is wildly underinformed as to what these dangers are....This is the greatest threat that humanity faces in the short term," he said.
Asked how the new group's efforts might resonate with the Congress, Nunn commented that "there are a lot of people who have keen feelings about this subject who aren't mobilized." And frequently the best way to win over legislators on an issue is to "educate their constituents," he said.
Nunn stressed the need for international action and cited, as an important area of concern, the problem of alleged Russian redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons. "I have no idea about the accuracy of that, but I'd like very much to enlist the Europeans in trying to get involved in leadership in this arena," he said.
More generally, he said, "I'd like the NATO allies, I'd like the Japanese to say, 'We're going to step up to the plate.'"
The former senator sought to outline what paths the new group's efforts will take:
"In the United States, we will work to generate greater public support, understanding and governmental attention to the subject of threat reduction, and to bring greater resources to bear both domestically and internationally to meet these challenges.
"In Russia and the former Soviet states, the initiative will concentrate on projects to improve the safety, security, accountability and transparency of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) weapons, materials and know-how.
"In the regional arena, we will help build international awareness about the dangers posed by WMD, by strengthening international NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and by promoting international dialogue on ways to reduce WMD dangers," he said.
A key concern, Nunn said, will be dealing with the problem of experts in Russia and elsewhere "who know how to make the weapons...who are in great demand by terrorist groups (and) who don't know how to feed their families."
When a reporter asked how the new effort squares with the incoming Bush administration's plans for a National Missile Defense, Nunn said his "personal view" is that "I would hope the new administration would approach this subject as a technology, not a theology." return to menu