The Russian Business Consulting Agency, with reference to Deutsche Welle, which in turn refers to a U.S. State Department official, reports that the George W. Bush Administration has removed its objections to the hypothetical possibility of Russia joining NATO.
According to information from Washington, the U.S. Administration considers that the doors to NATO should remain open.
The State Department official went on record as saying that NATO membership was possible for any European country that is prepared and agrees to take upon itself the responsibility and duties stemming from membership in the alliance, and that Russia was no exception.
President Bush seems to have made it clearly understood that the USA backs Russia's aspirations to become closer to Europe, according to the official from State, who reaffirmed that the previous U.S. administrations had strongly objected to even a theoretical possibility of Russia acquiring NATO membership.
The first thing that comes to mind after that report is that someone misunderstood someone. Either the official from State failed to understand the question that was asked on this account, or that those who had asked the question did not quite correctly interpret his answer.
Second: certain circles in the USA have decided to feel out Moscow's reaction to such a decision that Washington has allegedly made - a decision that in the final count could turn out to be a well-cooked canard.
Third: it is nothing but a provocation.
That such a sensation is highly doubtful is also supported by the fact that the reports of the sources do not give the name of the official spokesman of the State Department, even though his name is known - Richard Boucher. Although, of course, the journalists could have given the name of some other official from Foggy Bottom. These are the thoughts that come to one's mind.
But then there is yet one more assumption - the fourth: but why not? Just quite recently, in Ljubljana, it was no coincidence that President Vladimir Putin read out a "secret" and very old document revealing an historic fact: the USSR, in its time, was refused membership in NATO. And the American president was really surprised - he seemed to not be in the know about that.
George Bush was surprised and left home to think it over. Meanwhile, he instructed his assistants to study the matter and find out how bad or useful it may be for U.S. national interests to block the road to NATO for Russia, considering that Washington plans to launch an NMD program and to keep expanding NATO eastwards, also by including the Baltic states in it, causing Moscow's angry protests. An answer to the question could be like this: it is not advisable to let Russia into NATO, but shutting the door to it would be of little use. It is better just to say "yes," winning a little more fame for the present Administration, while dragging the process out as long as possible. At the same time, using the euphoria evoked by that permission, perfect relations with Russia may be established. A good start has already been made in Ljubljana. Then an understanding may be reached on the 1972 ABM Treaty with no harm to the interests of the present Administration, and definitely to get from Moscow a "go ahead" for NATO expansion.
If that is so, it would be pretty nice for Moscow, because any uttered "yes" is positive in itself. And even if all this is a strategic ploy masterminded by the U.S., Moscow would respond positively. Moreover, Moscow will have to spread this positive aspect further to the East, to countries like China and India, which is just as good for the U.S. Then, even without Russia's joining NATO, Moscow and Washington would have, after the U.S. consent, to respond by changing their views on cooperation and on the security system. The inertia of the American "yes" for Russia's entry into NATO is sure to have far-reaching consequences, about which Washington perhaps does not even suspect.
Already now, life gives good examples of that - in Brussels Russian and NATO generals start discussing the idea of a European missile defense system suggested by Vladimir Putin. Russians are already going to outline cooperation in this area, and call NATO generals their "colleagues."
The situation may be assessed simply enough - all will stand to gain from Washington's opening the door to NATO for Moscow. One initiative in Moscow gave rise to another one in Washington, setting off entirely new processes. A hope that they would be positive does exist. Pity if all this will turn out to be just a canard. return to menu
2.Bring Mother Russia into the Fold
James Chace and Charles Kupchan
Los Angeles Times
July 1, 2001
(for personal use only)
Now that they have taken a measure of each other, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin should work toward this goal: Russia's entry into NATO. Not only would this bold step blunt the growing rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, but it also would achieve three strategic objectives:
* It would elevate to a top U.S. priority the ultimate prize of the end of the Cold War: the inclusion of Russia in a democratic, peaceful Europe. Rather than array their formidable power against Russia, America and its allies should reach out to their defeated adversary to ensure that a pacified and democratized Russia is integrated into Europe. NATO bound Germany to the West after World War II. It should now do the same for Russia.
* Working toward Russian membership would make it easier for the alliance to admit all aspirants, including the Baltic countries and Ukraine. They would be joining with rather than against a Russia that has come to see NATO not as a threat but as key to its own security. In contrast, if NATO excludes Russia while opening its doors to the countries of Central Europe, it would be signaling Russians that they are not welcome in the West. The security of Central Europe will be better served by pulling Russia westward than by risking Russia's isolation and alienation.
* A strategic partnership with Moscow would facilitate Bush's efforts to sharply reduce nuclear arsenals--the United States still has a total of 7,000 warheads and Russia about 6,000--and to build a limited missile defense against rogue states. A few days after his meeting with Bush in Slovenia, Putin warned that if the United States were to deploy missile defenses unilaterally, "the nuclear arsenal of Russia will be augmented multifold," potentially resulting "in a hectic, uncontrolled arms race." If Bush is to persuade Moscow to modify the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty and join the United States in building a missile defense system, he first will have to persuade Putin that he is serious about making Russia an ally.
In light of the fragile state of Russia's democratic reforms and economy, it is too soon to admit Russia to NATO in the second wave of enlargement, scheduled to begin next year. But even as the alliance proceeds with a small second round, perhaps restricted to Slovenia and Slovakia, NATO should invite Russia to enter into formal negotiations for membership. Russian reform may well fail in the interim, foreclosing the option of joining NATO. But at least the West will have made a sincere effort to expose Russia to the pacifying effects of military and political integration. The risks are low; Russia will have a say in NATO only as its reforms substantially advance. But the payoffs of success, Russia's integration into an undivided Europe, would be huge.
Should Russia ultimately join NATO, the alliance would function quite differently. With a host of new members from Central and Eastern Europe, it would serve as a more informal and flexible vehicle for coordinating military activities and preserving peace rather than on territorial defense. But this broader NATO is a must if Bush is to follow through on his promises "to put talk of East and West behind us" and construct a Europe "whole and free." return to menu
B. National Missile Defense
1. Moscow Summit Targets NMD
July 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW, Russia -- France and Russia -- two of the most vocal opponents to a U.S. missile defence system -- are discussing their opposition to the system.
The National Missile Defense system, heavily backed by President George W. Bush, would be able to shoot down incoming nuclear missiles.
But many world leaders have criticized Washington's ambition -- including President Vladimir Putin who has warned it would mean ripping up the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and risked a new arms race.
He said that if the U.S. was to press ahead with development other nations would feel free to build up their arsenal of weapons.
French President Jacques Chirac has previously warned that U.S. plans are greatly reminiscent of the Cold War attitude.
But Washington insists the missile defence system would be to protect against what it refers to as "rogue nations" such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq -- but not its former Cold War rivals.
France and Russia -- as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- also discussed sanctions against Iraq and planned changes to the embargo regime.
The U.N. is to discuss this week extending the oil-for-food programme but could instead adopt a U.S. backed British plan for 'smart' sanctions. which would intend to target military sales while allowing more goods to be legally sold to Iraq.
Russia has opposed 'smart' sanctions and has put forward its own proposals for suspending sanctions of Baghdad allows U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country.
It is Chirac's first visit to Russia since Putin was elected March 2000. They held informal talks on Sunday in St. Petersburg, touching on topics as diverse as the war in Chechnya and the plight of native peoples in Siberia.
Chirac is due to meet French and Russian business leaders and students at Moscow University on Tuesday. He is also expected to meet with former President Boris Yeltsin. return to menu
2. Rumsfeld Disavows ABM Treaty as Cornerstone of Strategic Stability
Jacquelyn S. Porth
US Department of State Washington File
June 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told members of the House Armed Services Committee June 28 that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty "is not, and to my knowledge, never was the centerpiece or cornerstone of strategic stability."
The ABM was an agreement between the then-Soviet Union and the United States, he said, and given the overwhelming strategic capabilities of these two nations "it had a value and it created a more stable situation between those two countries for a period, and it still does today."
But now the problem is that the Soviet Union no longer exists, the secretary said, and Russia "is not our enemy and we do not go to bed worrying about the problem of a strategic nuclear exchange with Russia." With the U.S.-Russian Cold War long over, "We need to get over it, it seems to me," he said.
Rumsfeld's response came after Representative Thomas Allen (Democrat, Maine) questioned what he perceives as a rush by the Bush administration to abrogate the ABM Treaty -- an arms control regime that he said has helped keep the peace for decades. Allen also criticized "the rush to deploy a national missile defense that is untested, hugely expensive, and may never work."
Rumsfeld said the argument that missile defenses are untested is without merit. "The reality is that that is exactly what we're doing. No one is deploying something that has not been tested."
In a later exchange with Representative John Spratt (Democrat, South Carolina) Rumsfeld said he didn't think spending 2% or 2.5% of the defense budget on missile defense was excessive. But Spratt insisted that the $3billion that is being added to the fiscal year 2002 defense budget for missile defense would go a long way toward recapitalization the Navy's dwindling shipbuilding budget.
"It does not sound to me that, if you recognize the power of weapons of mass destruction and the pervasiveness of proliferation, that investing something like two percent of the defense budget in defense against those kinds of threats is excessive," Rumsfeld answered.
In response to Allen's criticism, the secretary said, "the reality is that we're spending something like $11 billion-plus on terrorism issues for the United States government, and we're spending a much smaller amount on missile defense. So it's difficult to say what's too much or what's too little." The United States has interests in defending more than the territory of the continental U.S., he reminded the congressman. "We have deployed forces overseas, we have allies in NATO, we have allies in Asia; and the ability to threaten them affects us quite directly."
Rumsfeld dismissed allegations that the Bush administration is engaged in scare tactics regarding the threat from weapons of mass destruction. Countries like Iran "have very active germ warfare programs," he said, and are working with the Russians to develop nuclear capabilities. North Korea is close to having a ballistic missile with an intercontinental range. "And we know they have nuclear materials capable of developing some handful of nuclear weapons," he added.
The secretary said it would be an enormous mistake not to pay attention to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them. A ballistic missile does not have to have an intercontinental (ICBM) range to be a threat, Rumsfeld pointed out, because it "can be put into a boat, a ship or a transport erector launcher" and fired if necessary through an opened canopy.
Without identifying the country, Rumsfeld said this has been done already by one of the countries that have this capability today. He reminded committee members that weapons of mass destruction do not have to have an ICBM range to be deadly.
Rumsfeld was also asked by Representative Ellen Tauscher (Democrat, California) whether the Pentagon's decision to cut 50 multi-warhead MX Peacekeeper missiles was budget or strategy driven. The secretary said he had encountered the reality that there was no money available to continue the program and none to terminate it.
The Air Force review of the MX program found that the missiles were not needed, he said, "And the work I've done with respect to the total nuclear offensive force persuaded me it was not needed. And since we had no money to do anything with it, it seemed appropriate" to end the program.
Rumsfeld said he is going to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha in a few days to understand more about implications of the congressionally-mandated Nuclear Posture Review that is under way.
The United States has 7,500 offensive nuclear weapons, he said. "We don't need that many. The Peacekeeper will not make even the beginning of a dent in that total figure," he added. No decision has been made yet as to the disposition of the MX warheads, according to the secretary.
1. Giving Europe's Leaders Something to Think About
July 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
I cannot recall when a president left on a foreign trip amid such a cacophony of low expectations as that which preceded President Bush's European tour. Yet its result is likely to mark a turning point in the Allied debate on such key issues as missile defense, the environment and America's relations with Vladimir Putin's Russia.
The level of expectations for the trip was defined by a White House briefer as an effort to disabuse Europe's leaders of the image of the president as "a shallow, arrogant, gun-toting . . . Texan buffoon." Paradoxically, these alleged European perceptions enabled the new president to emphasize his distinctive qualities. Since no one expected the traditional diplomatic style, Bush was free to indulge his instinct of getting directly to the point. This, in turn, brought out the truth that, on the core disputes of the Atlantic disagreements -- missile defense and the environment -- Europe and America were divided not by the personality of the new president but by differences in political philosophy.
The new president's intellectual convictions were shaped by the conservative side of the American political spectrum, and he was elected by espousing its principles. In foreign policy, this translated into a firm commitment to the nation's security -- of which missile defense has emerged as a central focus -- the nurturing of established links with traditional allies and a definition of the national interest that stops short of universal interventionism while utterly rejecting isolationism. This has been interpreted by some as a move toward the center; hence the internal pressures from the party's right wing, insisting on the verities of the campaigning period.
By contrast, the majority of European governments the president encountered on his European trip are center-left. As these European governments have also moved, albeit from the opposite pole, toward the center and market-oriented policies in domestic affairs, they are under pressure from their left wings to maintain familiar leftist principles, at least in foreign policy. These include opposition to any modification in the established nuclear equations (except to reduce them), suspicion of American military expenditures and purposes, the erosion of European security budgets and emphasis on the so-called "soft" issues, such as the environment.
The formative political experience of the European leaders was in the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1970s and the anti-missile demonstrations of the 1980s; that of the American administration, in the Reagan-era rejection of those attitudes. Clashing perceptions were therefore inevitable.
As it turned out, the caricature of the American president in the European media and by some European leaders facilitated a positive outcome of the presidential trip. For, with the president holding fast to his fundamental views on missile defense but inviting consultation on their application, the European leaders were obliged either to initiate a philosophical challenge -- risking the entire relationship -- or to accept the principle while retaining the option of modifying its application. President Bush faced a comparable challenge with respect to European attitudes toward the environment and made a comparable adaptation. The outcome was to preserve the option of what each side considered essential while setting the stage for consultation to define its implementation.
On missile defense, European leaders face contradictory domestic pressures: to oppose it as either unworkable or as working so well as to destroy the strategic balance, and in any event as being too expensive. They now realize that the Bush administration, while prepared to consult in great detail, will not equate consultation with a veto. No president can take the responsibility, in a world of proliferating nuclear and missile technology, for leaving the American people vulnerable to attacks for which a demonstrated and growing capacity exists -- not when he has available an emerging technology that shows promise in protecting against at least the lower end of these dangers. Thus the real choice of Allied leaders was between a national American missile defense and one that includes Allied territories. Future consultation will have to focus on such issues as appropriate technology, levels compatible with stability and the form for expressing any agreement reached.
Similarly, there are no advocates in the Bush administration or in Congress for ratifying the Kyoto protocol -- even among those who thought the Bush administration's rejection of it was too peremptory and undertaken with too little regard for the sensitivities of our allies. The president's posture in Europe conveyed an American willingness to consider some joint responses to the issue of global warming. But it could not be based on the Kyoto protocol, which the U.S. Senate has indicated by a vote of 95 to nothing it would never ratify and which only one European government has ratified.
Finally, the successful meeting between Putin and Bush, which made clear that Russia is receptive to a substantive dialogue, including on the subject of missile defense, has helped transform the atmosphere.
All this should turn the transatlantic debate toward concrete issues rather than preconceptions driven by domestic politics. Still, the new atmosphere leaves a range of issues to be resolved. For example, against what specific danger is the proposed missile defense to be directed? In my view, the emphasis on so-called rogue states is a mistake. It confuses the issue by an abstract exercise of dividing the world between countries defined as evil and other nuclear countries, including Russia, somehow defined as irrelevant to the nuclear threat. Such an exercise would involve us in a never-never land of kaleidoscopic changes in definition. A serious defense system must seek to provide protection against attacks from any direction; the meaningful subject of the debate should be the scope of the threat against which protection is sought rather than its origin.
As for the dangers of triggering an arms race, no foreseeable missile defense can afford protection against an all-out Russian attack. Thus, of all the nuclear weapons states, Russia is the least affected by a missile defense system -- even if its capacity for lower-level blackmail will be reduced. Missile defense is unlikely to spur an arms race with Russia -- though it may alter the composition of Russia's missile forces.
The country most affected by an American missile defense program is China. Even a modest American anti-missile program will have an immediate impact on the small Chinese strike force. Though I reject the proposition that China is an inevitable strategic adversary, an increase in the Chinese strategic program is to be expected -- probably in any event. Once a dialogue with China develops, its limits might become an important subject. As for the so-called rogue states, they are already at the limit of their capabilities independent of an American or Allied missile defense.
The issue of preventing an arms race can be addressed most immediately by the significant reduction of strategic offensive arsenals. Some administration sources have spoken of a reduction to 1,000-1,500 warheads -- a cut of more than 50 percent from START II levels. A significant reduction can be undertaken unilaterally if necessary and is largely independent of the level of missile defense, since none foreseeable could defeat an attack of such magnitude. Once a decision has been reached on technology, the level of protection and against what scale of attack, attention must be paid to the international framework for implementation; whether as unilateral American decisions, agreements with NATO allies or agreements, bilateral or multilateral, with other nuclear powers. Unilateral American decisions should be a last resort; the most powerful nuclear country should not adopt unilateralism until the possibilities of agreement have been fully explored. And our NATO allies should be given every opportunity to participate in a common program.
It is clearly impossible to create the technology for the necessary missile defense under the existing ABM treaty. Whether the treaty can be amended to make it compatible with the requirements of missile defense deserves consideration, though care must be taken lest amendment talks become a means to postpone deployment into the indefinite future or create by implication a Russian veto over the ultimate deployment.
Within these limits, the building of missile defense should proceed side by side with explorations of what international agreement can embody a new global strategic design. But this should be freed to the greatest extent possible from the nit-picking detail that blighted previous arms control negotiations. The preconditions for such a dialogue were created in the Bush-Putin meeting.
A comparable pragmatism governed Bush's approach to the environment. But having made the point that the Kyoto protocol as it stands is unacceptable, room must be left for common action on global warming by the states that most contribute to dangerous emissions. The issue has become politicized, especially in Europe, where it is being used to play up to the green constituencies. Science, not emotions, should guide the appropriate response. Why not form two study groups with short deadlines: an American group, to relate environmental concerns to economic growth; and an Atlantic group, to decide what programs are able to achieve a genuine amelioration that can in fact be implemented?
The dialogue between presidents Bush and Putin has done much to remove from the Allied agenda the contention over how to deal with Russia. Until the meeting in Slovenia, too many European leaders saw their roles as mediators and facilitators of a Russo-American dialogue. The encounter of the two presidents has made evident that such a role is unnecessary -- even if some exuberant American statements concluding the conference and afterward overshot the mark. Instead, the NATO allies need to ask themselves whether to conduct their relationship with Russia competitively or as a common project.
This is all the more important because the fundamental challenge of Putin's Russia will not be missile defense but rather how to encourage the emerging Russia into the global and European system and how to discourage it from returning to the historic Russian policy of absorbing neighbors or turning them into satellites. In this process, the future genuine independence of such countries as Georgia, Azerbaijan and, above all, Ukraine is crucial. Russia must be brought to understand that its actions to date in these countries give rise to serious concern.
A good start toward a new approach to all these issues was made by the president's trip -- especially in his seminal speech in Warsaw, which raised the challenge of the expansion of NATO including the Baltic states. The agenda is clear; giving it meaning is the next task. return to menu
2. Will Bush and Putin Still Be Friends?
July 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
LONDON, England -- The G8 summit and its aftermath should answer some key questions about the relationship between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Not only will they meet as summit participants, but they will have another getting-to-know-you session together before they both leave Italy.
The two seemed to get on well when they met for the first time in Ljubljana, Slovenia on June 16. Bush spoke of his respect for Putin as an "honest, straightforward" man who loved his family and his country. He invited Russia's leader to his Texas ranch. He even claimed in their two hours together to have gained a "sense of his soul."
The normally reserved Putin responded to such chumminess by saying that he had invited Bush not just to Russia but to his home and that they were "all geared up to work in the future constructively, pragmatically and to establish a very good, predictable relationship."
Bush announced that the U.S. Treasury and Commerce secretaries would go to Moscow to discuss plans for boosting U.S. investment in Russia. While not hiding his worries about the ABM Treaty, Putin was comparatively muted about Bush's missile defence plan, merely declaring that "we have to sit down and have a good think."
But no sooner was Bush back in Washington than Putin, who tends to avoid confrontation in personal meetings, gave an interview to U.S. journalists which included stark warnings of a new arms race if Bush went ahead with his plans.
Possibly angered by comments by a senior U.S. official that America would go ahead on missile defence with or without Russian approval, Putin declared: "We offer our co-operation. We offer to work jointly. If there is no need that such joint work is needed, well, suit yourself."
He saw no immediate threat from the missile shield, whose technology is yet unproven, but warned: "We will reinforce our capability, mounting multiple warheads on our missiles. That will cost us a meagre sum. The nuclear arsenal of Russia will be augmented multifold."
The Pentagon may shrug aside such noises. But it was not the kind of language other European leaders wanted to hear. They have already expressed their fears that U.S. abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty could set off an expensive and unpredictable arms race.
President Jacques Chirac of France has echoed Putin's insistence that the ABM Treaty, which Bush says he will scrap to pursue missile defence, is a cornerstone of international security.
And while European leaders have welcomed the new thrust from Bush and his aides offering "consultation" with Russia and others on missile defence, they have noted too there is no suggestion from Washington that it is prepared to compromise on the outcome.
They have not forgotten that in Okinawa, Japan, last year, Putin arrived at his first G8 determined to make the most of the issue of what Europe calls "Son of Star Wars" and that he succeeded brilliantly in stirring up tensions between the U.S. and its European allies. Since then, they have seen the U.S. and Russia on different sides in the struggle over sanctions against Iraq.
The Bush-Putin meeting in Slovenia last month had to produce good public relations, especially after Bush had gone out of his way to insist all across Europe that Russia was not his enemy, and it duly did.
But the other leaders will be watching warily in Genoa to see what the mood is when Bush and Putin get together for a second time, with the initial pleasantries out of the way.
They want to know if this is a friendship which promises to last and to provide the "regular, detailed and serious consultations" that Bush spoke about in Ljubljana -- or whether it is one that will founder in the first squall. return to menu
3. Putin Congratulates Bush on July 4th
Los Angeles Times
July 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW--Expressing optimism about U.S.-Russia relations despite numerous disputes, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated President Bush on Independence Day.
"With optimism I look to the future of Russian-American relations," Putin said in a statement released Wednesday by the Kremlin press service. "Together we have laid a positive foundation for a new stage in bilateral cooperation."
"I'm convinced that the upcoming intensive, concrete dialogue between us will bring a real contribution to the strengthening of international security and strategic stability," the statement said.
Putin and Bush met for the first time last month in Slovenia in a brief summit that broke the ice but made no breakthroughs in disputes that have soured relations in recent years.
Russia strongly opposes U.S. proposals to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to build a national missile defense, saying it would prompt a new arms race -one Moscow could ill-afford. Russia is also angry at NATO expansion toward its borders. Washington, meanwhile, has protested Russia's military cooperation with Iran and the Kremlin's war with separatists in Chechnya. return to menu
D. Nuclear Waste
1. Russia Will Not Import Nuclear Wastes
July 5, 2001
(for personal use only)
Nuclear wastes have never been imported to Russia nor will they ever be, this being banned by law. The new bills, which have passed through both houses of Parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council, are related solely to the importation and recycling of irradiated fuel assemblies, otherwise called INF (irradiated nuclear fuel), Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev told a press conference at the Russian Kurchatov Institute Scientific Center.
In his words, a package of relevant bills has been sent to the Presidential Administration and, as is assumed, Vladimir Putin will sign them within two weeks.
He believes the President will simultaneously create a special commission due to monitor importation of INF to Russia and the spending of money earned as a result. The body will be made up of legislators, scientists, and representatives of environmental unions. All funds to be yielded by the INF importation should be entered separately in the national budget and controlled by the Treasury and the Audit Chamber.
It will be recalled that two of the three so-called "nuclear" bills - "On Environmental Protection" and "On the Use of Atomic Energy" - were not discussed by the upper house of Parliament, since they contained only insignificant amendments by comparison with the laws currently in effect.
The third bill, "On Special Ecological Programs," which is about ecological rehabilitation of contaminated territories, was approved by the upper house almost unanimously.
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroyev is of the view that the senators have displayed an approach worthy of statesmen, because "the laws on importing depleted nuclear fuel are necessary for Russia itself."
Alexander Rumyantsev commented on statements by German and U.S. spokesmen to the effect that they would not allow irradiated nuclear fuel exports to leave their countries for Russia by describing them purely political.
"I am calm about it. This hi-tech market is also highly competitive. Currently there are only three countries - France, Britain, and Russia - which have a perfect command of the relevant technology," he said.
In his opinion, that certain nations demonstrate an intention to ban importation to Russia of their INF is a sign that Russia has taken the correct position in this sphere.
According to approximate calculations, the INF stockpile worldwide comes up to 200,000 tons. Given a favorable economic and political situation, Russia might aspire to sign contracts for the recycling of 10% of this amount over 10 years at the cost of $20 billion.
He stressed that 97% of irradiated nuclear fuel could be used again after recycling. The remaining 3% were likely to be treated to yield in future precious metals, specifically palladium, and only 0.75% would be wasted.
To quote Rumyantsev, Russia already has facilities for the preliminary storage of 4,000 tons of INF. An investment of $250-300 million will make it possible to expand the holding capacity of so-called "dry" storage facilities to 9,000 tons. As is expected, first depleted fuel elements may be delivered to Russia only several years later. The passage of the laws is just the beginning of this process. return to menu
2. Russia to Get First Waste Nuclear Fuel in a Few Years
July 4, 2001
(for personal use only)
The first containers with wasted nuclear fuel will arrive in Russia in several years, Alexander Rumyantsev, Russian Nuclear Energy Minister, told reporters Tuesday at the Russian scientific nuclear center Kurchatov Institute. The minister said that as early as this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin may ink laws, which the lower parliamentary chamber has approved, permitting imports of waste nuclear fuel for processing.
Russia, which has pace-setting world-class technologies, will process waste nuclear fuel and return it as fuel elements for further use at foreign nuclear electricity facilities, said Rumyantsev. According to him, the world market of processing waste nuclear fuel now constitutes up to 200,000 tonnes and Russia has every opportunity to seize one tenth of this market in ten years to come. Receipts will be enough for not only processing domestic stockpiles of waste nuclear fuel but also for bankrolling environmental programmes of cleaning contaminated territories in Russia.
Now Russia can store 4,000 tonnes of waste nuclear fuel but the volume can be increased two-fold if its nuclear sector "gets up to 300 million dollars in investments," said the nuclear energy minister. As to assistance to other countries in construction of nuclear power stations, Rumyantsev said that Russia is building nuclear power facilities in China and India. "We've also been proposed to complete the Khmelnitski and Rovno facilities in Ukraine," reported the minister. return to menu
3. Russia's Nuclear-Waste Gambit
Christian Science Monitor
July 3, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW -- The thicket of nettles is chest high as Vladimir Katzenbogen and Nikolai Popov force their way through, searching with Geiger counters and a gamma-ray detector for radioactive hotspots. The brush thickens, then opens up to the bank of a muddy stream beside an abandoned factory in northwest Moscow. The crackling of the detector leads the two-man patrol to a hole where, at some point in Russia's less-than-careful nuclear past, radioactive material was dumped.
"People are usually joyful when they see us, to know that this control is going on so they can live safely," says Mr. Katzenbogen, who works for Radon, the government's radiation-control arm.
Two weeks ago, a Radon patrol seized more than 50 pounds of contaminated berries from a market - a common occurrence. In Moscow alone in the past five years, Radon has disposed of some 450 tons of potentially dangerous material - from soil at construction sites to market mushrooms - as limits on acceptable levels of radioactive contamination have steadily strengthened.
But while the patrols demonstrate a measure of success in Russia's efforts to clean up its nuclear act, they are dwarfed by the magnitude of the problem resulting from past failures to safely manage spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. Which is why many people at home and abroad are skeptical of a government plan - awaiting President Vladimir Putin's signature - to import 20,000 tons of nuclear waste over 10 years, earning a projected $21 billion.
"I don't think you'll find any place else in the world where spent nuclear fuel is stored in such bad conditions," says Thomas Nilsen, who studies Russia for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, in Oslo. "The first priority should be to secure spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste already existing in Russia. You don't do that by importing more."
Moscow's nuclear track record includes the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and last year's sinking of the Kursk submarine, with two nuclear-powered engines on board. Decades of improper storage of nuclear waste have left environmental devastation from Murmansk across Siberia to the Kamchatka Peninsula nine time zones away.
Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, or Minatom, is pushing the waste-import plan as a means of rescuing the industry. Proceeds also are meant to be used for a cleanup of waste sites, and may avert a disaster for the "100 old nuclear submarines" that are "becoming rusty and that one beautiful morning might just sink," says Minatom spokesman Vitaly Nasonov.
Current nuclear-waste storage facilities are virtually full, however, the only working processing plant is nearly a quarter-century old, and after decades of neglect, transport infrastructure - by which radioactive material would be moved - is collapsing.
"It's a calculated risk," says John Reppert, head of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. "It is something they are clearly technically able to handle," he says. "But it is not something they have traditionally handled well or they wouldn't have that mess to clean up." And while Russia's vast unused spaces mean a wide margin for error, Mr. Reppert adds: "If they are going to create the world's largest and least-safe nuclear-waste dump, then it will be a long-term consequence for the rest of the world."
Critics, such as Bellona's Mr. Nilsen, also are concerned that the money will be misspent. "We are suspicious that most of the income from spent nuclear fuel will end up inside Moscow's ring road, and not in Siberia where the money is needed for environmental clean-up," he says.
There is one encouraging example. Reppert says that Russian experts have adhered strictly to tough fiscal and radiological standards when using official American funds - some of which he helped account for - to deal with weapons-grade nuclear material. The US is spending $874 million on such nonproliferation projects this year, though not all are deemed so successful. President Bush's 2002 budget slashes this spending by 10 percent.
The key to the large, new program is likely to be transparency, says Reppert. But unlike the built-in oversight tied to US donations, there may be few checks on how new funds are used.
Already, the plans are taking an unusual political path. The measure was due before the Federation Council, Russia's upper house, on Friday. But two days earlier, council chairman Yegor Stroyev quietly signed off on the plan, sending it directly to the president.
The plan is far from popular. A poll commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace - echoed by other surveys - found that nearly 80 percent of Russians want Mr. Putin to block nuclear imports.
Yuri Schekochikhin, an opposition lawmaker in the Duma, or lower house, says he has seen the contents of one Berents Sea nuclear-waste facility washing out from a cracked concrete housing. The spillover, he says, sent a Geiger counter "off the scale."
"Russia is not ready to handle this dangerous cargo," he says.
Russia's scientific community appears divided. "Mass imports of spent nuclear fuel mean unavoidable catastrophic consequences for the ecology that will threaten the lives of Russia for centuries to come," nine members of the Russian Academy of Sciences warned in an open letter last month. Another letter - signed by three Nobel prize-winning Russian scientists - urged Putin to approve the bill, saying: "Nuclear fuel is not waste," will create jobs, and prove a future energy boon.
The example of Moscow's radiation-control teams should be taken into account, says Radon first deputy director Vladimir Safronov. Teams still find vials of highly radioactive radium paint - once used for luminescent clock faces, instrument dials, and even fishing lures. Rules first imposed in the 1960s and '70s, have only grown tougher . In 1998, acceptable contamination levels for food were slashed by a factor of 10. Eight tons of produce were destroyed that year. Mr. Safronov is "absolutely sure" that there are enough nuclear specialists to ensure the safety of the waste-import plan, but he is concerned that few young scientists are training for the future.
Radiation specialist Katzenbogen is not convinced. "Our generation will bring this material into the country, the next will process it, and the third will pay for all the mistakes," he says. "Everyone was sure that Chernobyl could never happen, and it did." return to menu
4. Russia Moves Closer to Spent Nuclear Fuel Imports
July 2, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW - Plans to open Russia to imports of spent nuclear fuel got the go-ahead from the upper house of parliament on Friday, paving the way for President Vladimir Putin to enact the bill criticised by environmentalists.
The Federation Council was not required by law to vote on any of three bills forming the package, but the chamber's head Yegor Stroyev said Putin wanted to know its opinion on one bill dealing with the clean-up of contaminated areas.
If the Council declines to debate a bill already passed by the State Duma lower house, Putin has the right to sign it into law anyway. But RIA news agency quoted Stroyev as saying Putin had told him he would only sign the bills once the upper house expressed its opinion on that particular document.
The bills, championed by the Atomic Energy Ministry which says Russia could earn $20 billion over 10 years, have sparked angry protests from ecologists and liberal politicians who fear the imports could turn the country into a nuclear dump.
Environmentalists demonstrated on Red Square this week accusing the Federation Council of shirking its responsibility by declining to debate the bills.
The chamber voted 92 to 17 in favour of the one bill it did debate, Interfax news agency said.
Under the law, cashapped Russia would be able to accept money to store other countries' spent nuclear reactor fuel until 2021, when proceeds from the trade would be sufficient to allow Russia to build new plants to reprocess the spent fuel.
Critics say the ministry may never win contracts to give it enough cash for the task and suspect it might leave the spent fuel in the ground indefinitely, or start importing nuclear waste that cannot be reprocessed or reused.
Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev argues the project will help his underfunded industry avoid decline and will boost hi-tech research in Russia.
The State Duma passed the bills earlier this month despite fierce opposition from liberal politicians such as head of Yabloko party Grigory Yavlinsky who suggested postponing the vote and holding a referendum.
Deep in the Bush administration's energy plan is a reference to an alternative approach to disposing of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. "Reprocessing," the plan asserts, could help alleviate one of the major drawbacks to nuclear energy.
This statement has set off alarm bells among those concerned about nuclear proliferation. That's because reprocessing reactor waste can create plutonium, the raw material for nuclear weapons.
"We're not sure what mischief the new administration is up to here, and who's pushing it," said Paul Levanthal, president of the anti-reprocessing Nuclear Control Institute. "Whatever the U.S. does on something like this really resonates throughout the rest of the world."
If the United States embraces the reprocessing of nuclear waste -- something it has refused to do for the last 24 years -- it could lead to the proliferation of technologies that produce plutonium, and boost the amount of plutonium available around the world. That, critics say, could make it much more likely that weapons-grade plutonium could fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. Administration officials argue that they are sensitive to concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation, and have no immediate plans to change long-standing U.S. policies. Their intentions, they say, are merely to solve the problem of nuclear waste, which is accumulating across the country.
The energy plan said that the administration "will continue to discourage the accumulation of separated plutonium worldwide," and administration sources said that meant the United States would maintain a national moratorium on traditional reprocessing, which extracts plutonium from spent fuel. But at the same time, the plan encouraged research into another kind of reprocessing, which makes fuel that must be burned in "fast reactors" potentially capable of creating, or "breeding," more plutonium than they use. That's what has critics most concerned.
"It sets off a lot of alarm bells," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank specializing in strategies to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.
"The very strange thing is that the question seems to have been opened very casually by the Cheney plan," added Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, another reprocessing opponent. "The true consequences of this have to be debated, even if you like nuclear power."
An administration source, who asked not to be quoted by name, said, "Not too much should be drawn from this," because the Cheney report "in and of itself is not a change in policy.
"We did not say we wanted to proceed with construction of this [fast] reactor," the source continued. "We want this research to go forward, but that's a far cry from saying it will reach fruition. It would be a long way away."
No government agency or business has ever recycled nuclear waste for commercial use on U.S. soil, a policy begun when President Jimmy Carter renounced reprocessing and plutonium breeder research in a secret 1977 executive order. The order, Presidential Directive 8, was declassified in 1994 and survives today as President Bill Clinton's Presidential Decision Directive 13. For reprocessing research to resume, the directive would have to be either rescinded or reinterpreted. The Bush administration has not yet decided how to proceed.
Currently only France, the United Kingdom and Russia reprocess spent fuel, and only France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany burn the resulting finished plutonium oxide in nuclear plants. The limited market is due in part to proliferation concerns. Germany, whose coalition government includes the Greens party, formally agreed early this month to phase out nuclear power altogether, and reprocessing has only limited public support in several other nations.
But the main reason is expense. Makhijani estimated that France, the world leader in recycling, could produce a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of recycled fuel for about $6,000, while a kilo of enriched uranium fuel like that used in U.S. reactors costs about $1,200. The chief consequence of reprocessing's poor economics is that over the years the world has accumulated about 210 tons of commercial -- and weapons-usable -- plutonium that does not have a market.
"You can't give it away," said Thomas Cochran, who heads the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a reprocessing opponent. "And if that's the case, how economic is it to reprocess?"
In traditional reprocessing, spent fuel is dissolved in acid, separating the uranium, plutonium and other fission products. The uranium can be re-enriched and recycled. The fission products are encased in glass and stored. The plutonium is recombined with uranium 238, made into rods and put into reactors. The fuel is called "mixed oxide," or "mox," and essentially substitutes plutonium 239 for the fissile uranium 235 in first-generation fuel. Clinton's Presidential Decision Directive 13 continues the 24-year moratorium on a domestic mox reprocessing cycle because of the proliferation risks associated with isolating plutonium 239. Administration sources said the Cheney plan endorses this view.
Independently of the energy plan, however, the Bush administration intends to move forward on a Clinton initiative to enlist Russia in a joint program to each convert 34 tons of surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons into mox. If the deal is closed, the United States would make its mox at an Energy Department facility in South Carolina, and Duke Power, a commercial utility, would burn it in two reactors in the Charlotte, N.C., and area. The Energy Department will reimburse Duke for plant modifications and sell them mox at a subsidized price below what Duke would have to pay for enriched uranium fuel.
Although "this program is not intended to create a plutonium economy," an Energy Department official said, it remains somewhat controversial because it requires the United States and its allies to build Russia its first mox plant, and puts Russia in the plutonium recycling business.
"The mox plant is the very first piece of infrastructure that both U.S. and Russia are missing for a plutonium economy," Makhijani said. "It is a pretty big camel's nose issue."
Still, burning weapons-grade plutonium is a policy with many advocates: "What is the philosophical question here?" asked James Lake, immediate past president of the American Nuclear Society, which supports reprocessing research. "My feeling is that burning up weapons is a good thing to do for world peace."
The search for a proliferation-resistant alternative to mox has led several nations to consider a recycling technique called "pyroprocessing," mentioned favorably in the Cheney plan as a way to "reduce waste streams and enhance proliferation resistance." In pyroprocessing, spent fuel is recovered as a metal, dissolved in a metallic salt and passed through an electric current. Lightweight fission products remain in solution, while the uranium goes to one electrode and plutonium and heavy metal byproducts go to another, where they are formed subsequently into fuel rods. Because the plutonium is never isolated, it is always radioactive, dangerous and "less and less attractive" to thieves, Lake said. "In theory, you can recycle tens of times, so that the technology becomes almost renewable."
But for pyroprocessing to work even once, utilities would have to abandon today's nuclear plants in favor of "fast" reactors that allow neutrons to move about freely in the core. Fast neutrons are the best way to maintain a chain reaction among impure plutonium fuel rods. The trouble with fast reactors, however, is that when the core is surrounded with a blanket of uranium 238, the neutrons will combine with it to create more plutonium 239 than the reactor is using. For a rogue state, a fast breeder of this type can become a virtual plutonium factory.
Advocates point out, however, that even if the Bush administration embraces the technology, it will take decades to mature, allowing plenty of time to work out the kinks. "What we do is store [spent] fuel for 20 to 30 years while we develop an entirely different infrastructure to use the technology," Lake said. return to menu
6. Russia Has Standby Capacity for 4,000 Tonnes of Wasted Nuclear Fuel
June 29, 2001
(for personal use only)
Russia now has a reserve of stand-by capacities for 4,000 tonnes of wasted nuclear fuel, Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev told a session of the Federation Council on Friday.
Answering the questions, Rumyantsev said that Russia could receive wasted nuclear fuel at a price of 800-1,500 dollars per kilogramme. Getting 250 million dollars, Russia will be able to extend its reserve capacities.
The minister said that Russia would not dump prices, adding that "it is dumping which competitors fear most from Russia." These competitors have paid for the Greenpeace actions against the bills on wasted nuclear fuel, said Rumyantsev. return to menu
E. Russian Nuclear Forces
1. Putin Offers to Slash Warheads if U.S. Adheres to ABM Treaty
Los Angeles Times
July 3, 2001
(for personal use only)
MOSCOW--President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday reiterated an offer to eliminate at least three-quarters of Russia's 6,000 nuclear warheads. But he said his proposal for dramatic arms cuts depends on the United States' not unilaterally withdrawing from the 29-year-old Antiballistic Missile Treaty because of President Bush's plan for a U.S. national missile defense system.
Putin made the remarks after meeting with visiting French President Jacques Chirac. In their talks, Putin sought to enlist France and other European nations to rally around the 1972 ABM treaty, which Bush sees as an outdated obstacle to his missile defense project.
"Russia welcomes the reciprocal readiness of the United States of America to reduce strategic offensive weapons," Putin said. "We are ready for a further verifiable reduction of strategic weapons to the level of 1,500 warheads or even less. I would like to stress, a verifiable reduction."
He made a similar offer to President Clinton in November, tying reductions in Russia's nuclear arsenal to continued adherence to the ABM treaty and saying the reduction could be achieved by 2008. Any Russian reduction would be "closely linked to maintaining the ABM treaty," Putin said Monday, sitting beside Chirac in one of the Kremlin's most prestigious reception salons, St. Vladimir's Hall. Russia asserts that the ABM treaty is the cornerstone of global security--enshrining the arrangement by which, if either Russia or the United States dared to start a nuclear war, it would face certain retaliation and be destroyed. If the United States abrogates the treaty and builds missile defenses unilaterally, Russia argues, it could also set off a renewed arms race as countries look for ways to overcome the U.S. defense advantage.
France has been cool to Bush's missile defense plans. After their meeting, Putin and Chirac issued a joint statement saying their nations have a duty to help maintain the world's nuclear balance. The statement also urged the convening of an international conference on nuclear proliferation issues.
Besides the carrot of sharp arms reduction if Washington adheres to the ABM treaty, Russia has been signaling a stick: It says that if the United States violates the ABM treaty, Russia might begin deploying multiple warhead systems on its nuclear rockets. Multiple warheads were reduced by the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, and were to be banned altogether under START II, a 1993 pact that was ratified by Russia only last year. Now Russia argues that those treaties will be meaningless if the ABM treaty falls by the wayside. Russian officials from Putin on down have been saying that multiple warheads would be the easiest, and cheapest, way for Russia to thwart any U.S. missile defense program. Putin said it would take "50, if not 100, years" for the United States to construct a defense against such a weapon.
The head of Russia's strategic missile forces, Nikolai Solovtsov, was quoted as saying that Russia's newest missile, known in the United States as the SS-27, can carry as many as three warheads and is "ready for duty." To underscore its seriousness, Russia last week test-fired an older missile, the SS-19, which officials said was capable of carrying six warheads. Authorities said they were pleased with the test, which took place at the Russian space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The missile's builder was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying the SS-19 would be ideal for "the country's strategic tasks in contemporary conditions."
Some U.S. experts believe that the deployment of multiple warheads alone would not significantly undermine U.S. security. Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey wrote last week that even if Russia used multiple warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, it could not stop America from answering a first strike because the United States has much improved the dependability of submarine-based nuclear weapons. return to menu
2. Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Took Notice of Putin's Words
June 28, 2001
(for personal use only)
After its protracted war against the U.S National Missile Defense plans Moscow has finally decided to get down to real actions. The Russian army has shown what the President really meant when he spoke about a "cheap and effective reply" to the U.S military build-up.
The Russian Strategic Rocket Forces drilled the tactics of piercing a potential enemy's anti-ballistic "shield" on Wednesday, June 27.
The Russian Defense Ministry has refused to reveal any details of yesterday's tests. According to the ministry, the first RS-18 inter-continental ballistic missile was launched from the Baikonur space launch site in Kazakhstan at 8:55 am Moscow time. The RS-18 missile corresponds to the Western SS-19 Stiletto class missile. The RS-18's warhead covered more than 7,000 kilometers and landed at the Kura training ground on the Kamchatka peninsula.
All attempts to gain more information have failed. "We have been forbidden to comment on this launch," the Defense Ministry said. However, well-informed sources have privately confessed to Vremya Novostei that the news blackout was caused by the unwillingness to reveal that unconventional tasks were solved during the tests.
Designer Gerbert Yefremov has said that the RS-18 has better piercing abilities than the Topol-M missile. Unlike Topol-M, whose warhead weighs one odd tons, the combat load of the new missile is estimated at 4.5 tons. The RS-18 missile can carry six 750-kiloton warheads equipped with individual homing systems.
The only missile that could really match the RS-18 is the famous heavy SS-18 Satan missile, which carries ten warheads weighing almost nine tons. However, Russia isn't making any bets on Satan missiles. The Yuzhmash plant in Ukraine produces those missiles and Moscow cannot afford to be dependent even on its closest neighbors, at least in such vital issues.
In all probability, a series of Russian "anti-ABM" tests will not be confined to the RS-18 launch. The Topol and Topol-M MIRV-type missiles will be tested next. So far, the missiles, which are being used by the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, have been equipped with only one warhead. return to menu