1. Terrorists Wield Bold Weapon: Threat Of Nuclear Warfare
San Jose Mercury News
October 14, 2001
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON -- The canister found buried under leaves and snow in aMoscow park was not very big, but its contents sent a chilling signalabout how easy it might be to spread nuclear terror.
Inside was a small amount of cesium-137, a radioactive isotope used incancer research and radiation therapy. Television reporters were told ofthe canister's location in 1995 by the commander of rebel forces in thebreakaway region of Chechnya. He later threatened to blow up 167 poundsof such material to contaminate a large area of Russia.
While the possibility of terrorists using chemical or biological weaponshas received extensive attention recently in light of the recent anthraxscare, experts said nuclear terrorism could be just as likely -- andmore dangerous.
"If terrorists can acquire the nuclear material, then the delivery anduse and consequences would be relatively more predictable and relativelyeasy compared to chemical and biological," said Bruce Blair, directorof the Center for Defense Information.
Many of those experts caution that the possibility of nuclear terrorismremains extremely low. But after the boldness and complexity of theSept. 11 attacks, they warn that nuclear weapons, radioactive materialand nuclear power plants hold too much destructive ability and symbolismto be ignored as potential weapons.
"Suddenly nuclear-related terrorism became a vivid and a very realthreat," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., as she convened acongressional hearing earlier this month on safeguards against nuclearterrorism.
Terrorists likely would not be able to acquire, build or detonate asophisticated, high-yield nuclear device, such as a thermonuclearwarhead from a missile, according to experts on terrorism and nuclearproliferation. But there are several ways that terrorists could obtainand potentially use nuclear or radioactive material.
Crude, low-yield bombs
Smaller battlefield nuclear weapons -- some believed to be no largerthan a suitcase -- could be stolen or bought on the black market fromRussia. The collapse of the Soviet Union has reduced the securitysurrounding the world's second-largest nuclear arsenal. The potentialinstability of Pakistan's government raises questions about the securityof that nation's small nuclear arsenal and weapons-quality fissilematerial as well.
Terrorist organizations like Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network couldconstruct a crude, low-yield nuclear bomb if it acquired enough fissilenuclear material, some experts maintain. There is evidence that binLaden's organization has attempted to acquire uranium and other nuclearmaterial on several occasions in recent years.
The 103 nuclear power plants across the United States also make primetargets for attacks by terrorists using bombs or hijacked airliners.Such an attack could lead to a devastating nuclear meltdown spreading atoxic radioactive cloud. Since Sept. 11, security has been dramaticallyincreased at plants nationwide.
And the easiest means to spread radioactive terror, experts said, wouldbe to do what Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev threatened to do sixyears ago build a so-called "dirty bomb" containing nuclear waste orother radioactive material surrounded by traditional explosives.
In a worst-case scenario, such a bomb would spread enough radiation tocause hundreds of deaths and significantly increase instances of cancerfor thousands of other people. At the least, it would spread enoughlow-level radiation to make part of a city or a symbolic locationuninhabitable without protective gear for months or longer because ofthe contamination.
"Imagine if they did it in the middle of New York City. It would makethat whole area unusable until they decontaminated it, which could takeyears," said Gary Ackerman, an expert on terrorism and weapons of massdestruction at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the MontereyInstitute of International Studies.
"Imagine the psychological impact of that," he said. "There are twothings that people fear: getting sick and getting irradiated. They'reinvisible."
Along with the damage and panic, a nuclear or radiological attack wouldhave great symbolism for bin Laden.
In the video released last Sunday, bin Laden referred to the nuclearattacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II as an exampleof the hypocrisy of the United States.
Islam's `nuclear bomb'
In 1998, bin Laden issued a statement titled "The Nuclear Bomb ofIslam." It said that "it is the duty of Muslims to prepare as muchforce as possible to terrorize the enemies of God."
U.S. officials have publicly warned about terrorists' use of nuclearweapons for several years. In 1996, then director of the CentralIntelligence Agency, John Deutch, warned a congressional committee thatalthough there was no evidence that any terrorist group had obtainednuclear materials, "we are concerned because only a small amount ofmaterial is necessary to terrorize populated areas."
Experts differ on the likelihood of terrorists building or acquiringnuclear weapons. Some dismiss it as improbable. Others say it would notbe so difficult.
"Nations have difficulty doing it; nobody expects terrorist groupsto," said Milton Leitenberg, a senior fellow at the Center forInternational and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. Iraqspent from $40 billion to $50 billion over 15 years and was unable toacquire enough weapons-quality plutonium or highly enriched uranium toconstruct a nuclear bomb before the Persian Gulf War in 1991, he said.
But David Albright, who helped inspect Iraq's nuclear program in 1996,said terrorists would have an easier task.
Iraq spent most of its time and money trying to make its own plutoniumand uranium. Terrorists could try to steal it or buy it, most likelyfrom former states of the Soviet Union, said Albright, a physicist whois president of the Institute for Science and International Security inWashington.
In addition, Iraq was trying to build a sophisticated implosion type ofnuclear weapon, which requires setting off a series of highly explosivecharges inside the bomb at precise intervals to create the nuclearexplosion. Terrorists likely would try for a much simpler "gun-type"device. It would produce a much smaller explosion but still wouldapproximate the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
"They aren't stupid people, and they recruit scientists," Albrightsaid. "They probably are capable of making a crude gun-type device andprobably have a research facility in Afghanistan working on it."
Russia poses the best potential targets for terrorists to steal oracquire either nuclear weapons or the fissile material required to makethem. The United States has spent about $5 billion since the end of theCold War to help dismantle thousands of Russian nuclear weapons andbetter secure existing weapons and weapons-grade material.
Estimates vary widely about how much weapons-grade material there isthroughout the former Soviet Union -- as much as 1,000 metric tons ofenriched uranium and 200 metric tons of plutonium.
"The Russians don't know how much plutonium they have, let alone whereit is. That's a matter of some concern," said Gary Milhollin, directorof the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.
Pakistan's arsenal is less of a concern because of its small size andindications that the weapons are stored in pieces in separate, highlyguarded locations, said Gaurav Kampani, a research associate at theCenter for Nonproliferation Studies who has studied the Pakistaninuclear program.
Threat to U.S. plants
Of bigger concern is the security of U.S. nuclear power plants. TheNuclear Regulatory Commission has told all plants to go to their highestlevel of security. National Guard troops have been sent to protectnuclear power plants in New Jersey, while California has dispatchedCalifornia Highway Patrol officers to guard its two nuclear powerplants, Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, and San Onofre, south ofLos Angeles.
On Thursday, the commission shut down its Web site to review the type ofmaterial available. The site had included thousands of pages of detailedinformation about the nation's nuclear power plants, including the exactlatitude and longitude of each facility.
"We realize that nuclear plants are a very symbolic potential targetfor terrorists," said NRC spokesman Victor Dricks.
But the biggest threat is the one that experts said would be thesimplest: a dirty bomb containing radioactive material. The types ofradioactive materials are numerous, ranging from isotopes used byhospitals to nuclear waste produced at power plants.
"These things don't require technical proficiency since you don't haveto make anything," Leitenberg said. "You just have to get your handson something, wrap high explosives around it and blow it up." return to menu
2. Bin Laden's Nuclear Plot: Al-Qaeda's Men Held Secret Meetings To Build 'Dirty Bomb'
Adam Nathan and David Leppard
October 14, 2001
(for personal use only)
EVIDENCE has emerged of a plan by Osama Bin Laden to manufacture a"dirty bomb" that could spray nuclear material over highly populatedareas.
British intelligence services are investigating claims by a Bulgarianbusinessman that he was approached earlier this year by a middleman forBin Laden seeking to obtain highly radioactive material.
The pair discussed setting up an environmental company as a front to buynuclear waste that could be combined with conventional explosives tocreate a "dirty bomb".
It is believed to be at least the fourth attempt by Bin Laden to obtainnuclear material. The Saudi terrorist has publicly vowed to gain weaponsof mass destruction.
The latest approach was made in April after Ivan Ivanov, a Bulgarianbusinessman with long-standing ties to a Middle Eastern contractingfirm, was invited to Pakistan.
On his arrival in Peshawar, Ivanov, a former Bulgarian intelligenceofficer, said it became clear his hosts were enthusiastic supporters ofBin Laden. They apparently saw his political links in eastern Europe asa "useful asset".
Speaking in a cafe on the outskirts of Sofia last week, Ivanov recalledhow the men took him to see Bin Laden, who was speaking at a religiousfestival on April 10 on the outskirts of Peshawar.
At the time Bin Laden was wanted for his alleged involvement in thebombing in 1998 of two American embassies in Africa, in which more than200 people had been killed. Yet Ivanov claimed uniformed Pakistanisoldiers armed with M-16 machine guns had provided security.
A day later, Ivanov said he was taken on a rough mountainous bus ridealong Pakistan's remote border with China. There he was led to a secretlocation, where he was introduced to Bin Laden as "our partner fromEurope".
When Ivanov discreetly checked his Magellan 310 global positioningsystem, it showed the meeting had actually taken place in China. Westernintelligence sources described the meeting near the Pakistani border as"credible".
Ivanov then travelled with his new business associates to a large villain Rawalpindi. The next day he was approached by a Pakistani scientistwho described himself as chemical engineer.
The scientist, who was highly educated and spoke almost fluent English,said he was interested in obtaining spent nuclear fuel rods from theKozlodui nuclear electricity plant in Bulgaria.
"He wanted a legitimate way of buying nuclear waste from the powerplant," said Ivanov. "He was ready to give me money in advance to findlocal companies to help him to export this material."
Ivanov was offered $200,000 (£137,000) to help set up an environmentalfirm to buy nuclear waste, and asked if he would run the company. Hedeclined the offer and, on his return home, informed officials inBulgaria of the meeting.
British authorities in Pakistan later discovered the 49-year-oldscientist had been issued with two six-month visas to visit Britain inthe last two years. They are now investigating his links with the BinLaden network.
Although his trips to Britain remain a mystery, intelligence officialsbelieve the scientist may have met sympathisers at British universitiesor tried to set up front companies similar to the one planned inBulgaria.
Ivanov's account of the Bin Laden plot has been backed by VelizarShalamanov, the former Bulgarian deputy defence minister, who last weeksaid Ivanov had worked for the government.
A British diplomatic source in Pakistan said: "This appears to be asophisticated plot using a scientist and a credible front company, andthat is a concern."
Although British intelligence believes Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network mayhave some crude chemical weapons such as cyanide, there is no evidenceto suggest he has obtained any nuclear material.
In September 1998 Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, alleged to be a high-level aideto Bin Laden, was arrested in Germany after trying to buy low- gradenuclear reactor fuel.
Jamal al-Fadl, a former Bin Laden aide, told the FBI he had witnessedAl-Qaeda members trying to buy enriched uranium in the mid-1990s,according to court documents. He also claimed to have been to Sudan,where an associate of an army officer tried to sell him uranium for £1m.
Bin Laden has never made any secret of his interest in acquiring nuclearweapons. In an interview in January 1999, he said: "It would be a sinfor Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent theinfidels from inflicting harm on Muslims." return to menu
3. Belarus Concerned About Safety At Lithuanian Nuclear Plant
BBC Monitoring Service
October 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report by Belarusian news agency Belapan
Minsk, 11 October: In the wake of the terrorist acts committed in theUSA on 11 September, theRepublic of Belarus, which has suffered all the aftermath of theChernobyl nuclear power plant disaster [in 1986], has expressed itsconcerns about the efficiency of protection and defence at the Ignalinanuclear power plant, which is located very close to the Belarusian stateborder, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka told aregular briefing held at the ministry today.
The press secretary said that there was an active debate in Lithuaniaabout the need to strengthen the protection and defence of the Ignalinanuclear power plant, noting that, despite statements issued byLithuanian officials about the operation of the current air controlsystem, the issue had not been actually settled. According to the presssecretary, as of today, a number of questions remain unsettled betweenBelarus and Lithuania:
concerning the order of crossing the state border by foreign aircraft;
concerning establishing the order of mutual use of airspace by stateaircraft;
concerning the organization and implementation of exchange ofair-defence-related information on aircraft flight over the border areaand during the crossing of the state border.
"Considering this and taking into account the fact that an accident atthe Ignalina power plant could pose a real threat to the Republic ofBelarus, the Belarusian side believes that Lithuania should take a moreresponsible and constructive approach in creating an efficacious systemof control over airspace and in cooperating with its neighbours in thearea of safety and defence at the Ignalina nuclear power plant," thepress secretary stated.
Text of report by Ukrainian Novyy Kanal television on 10 October
The director-general of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, VitaliyTolstonohov, said today that should any plane appear in the sky abovethe Chernobyl area without warning, this will be regarded as a terroristact. Closed airspace has now been extended far beyond the 30-km zonearound the Chernobyl plant. The closed plant will finally be put out ofoperation no sooner than the end of 2007. Thousands of units of nuclearfuel elements will have been stored there by that time. The plant chiefmade the following statement in order to calm the general public.
[Tolstonohov] The flights of any aircraft over the Chernobyl plant zoneare prohibited, and I think that the air defence forces will havesufficient time to see to it that this plane is downed. Any unexpectedpenetration will be regarded as a terrorist act.
Source: Novyy Kanal television, Kiev, in Ukrainian 1600 gmt 10 Oct 01 return to menu
B. US-Russia Relations
1. A Turning Point in U.S.-Russian Relations?
October 15, 2001
(for personal use only)
Russians were horrified by the events of Sept. 11, a reaction that wasreflected in President Vladimir Putin's initial emotional response onthe day of the attack -- "Americans, we are with you." As a people alltoo familiar with the trauma of foreign invasion, Russians immediatelygrasped the symbolic and substantive impact of the attack on "unbombedAmerica." The UnitedStates had sat safely behind its ocean defenses for two centuries, andhad not seen foreign military action on its homeland since 1812. Thatsense of invulnerability was rudely punctured on Sept. 11.
Putin's unprecedented cooperation in U.S. efforts to crack down onIslamic terrorism may well be predicated on the assumption that theUnited States is fundamentally weakened by the eventsof Sept. 11, and thus willing to forge a new partnership with Russia onequal terms. Many Russians now see the ruins of the World Trade Centeras symbolizing the ruins of the United States' self-image as the world'ssole superpower. This is an erroneous assumption, and could mean thatMoscow is headed for profound disillusionment in the not-too-distantfuture.
Putin's initiatives drew criticism, some of it public, fromconservatives in the Russian military establishment. In particular, hiswillingness to accept a U.S. military presence in Central Asia was astartling turnaround from Russian policies of the previous decade (ifnot previous century), which had been devoted to keeping foreign powersout of the region. Putin's actions were greeted with enthusiasm amongliberals and centrists in the foreign policy elite, who see Sept. 11 asan opening to put Russia's relations with the West back on a soundfooting, a second chance to seize the missed opportunities of 1988-92.
The Russian establishment (both liberals and conservatives) stillresents the fact that Mikhail Gorbachev's willingness to dismantle theSoviet empire was not rewarded by the United States. Russia was denieddebt relief and was shut out from a leading role in internationalsecurity institutions, a rejection symbolized by the enlargement ofNATO. Hence, the 1990s were what former Security Council secretaryAndrei Kokoshin has called a "wasted decade" in U.S.-Russian relations,which reached their nadir with the bombing of Belgrade in 1999.
These views were expressed in a conference on relations between Russiaand the West that took place in Moscow last weekend, sponsored by theEbert Foundation and the German Marshall Center, and which was addressedby State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Lukin and Duma defense committeechairman Alexei Arbatov. The Russian participants in the conferenceconcurred in the belief that Sept. 11 was a turning point in worldhistory, one that will oblige the United States to abandon itsunilateralist ways. Alexander Konovalov, of the Institute for StrategicAnalysis, argued that the terrorists' ability to turn civilian airlinersinto weapons of mass destruction showed the United States the futilityof spending $300 billion a year on conventional and nuclear weapons, andthe irrelevance of the petty maneuverings that have characterizedU.S.-Russian relations over the past decade.
Having accepted Sept. 11 as a watershed, there is discussion in Moscowabout the concessions that Russia can expect from the United States asthe price for the new partnership. The shopping list includes: an end tocriticism of the war in Chechnya; cancellation of Soviet-era debts;abandonment of national missile defense; an end to NATO expansion;lifting sanctions on Iraq; U.S. help in the event of future terroristattacks on Russia; and more. (Fortunately, last weekend the Russiansoccer team qualified for the World Cup finals, or one suspects thatalso might have been on the list.)
If Russia really believes that the September bombings will lead theUnited States to abandon unilateralism, it is headed for a rudeawakening. The attack has served to steel U.S. resolve, unifying thecountry behind the president and legitimizing whatever action is deemednecessary to punish the terrorists. Previously, U.S. military actionoverseas was based on ambiguous and contested norms of humanitarianintervention. Now, it is rooted in the more substantial grounds ofself-defense and revenge. Domestic political constraints were always themain factor limiting U.S. foreign policy unilateralism, and they havenow been eased. Rather than signaling the end of a Cold War mentality ofconfrontation, the September bombings are likely to forge a new postureof suspicion towards the outside world. One indicator of this is thefact that the U.S. defense budget is to be boosted by $60 billion peryear. Many Americans believe that the reason the United States wastargeted on Sept. 11 is precisely because it is the world's solesuperpower, a position it is not yet ready to yield.
Russian optimism also rests on a misunderstanding of the nature of theanti-terrorist coalition. The United States has put together atemporary, tactical alliance in order to facilitate military strikesagainst Afghanistan. Its life span is likely to be measured in weeksrather than years. Concessions made in the creation of this alliance aregranted only in order to pursue the task at hand. And some of theconcessions made to other participants (such as Pakistan) work directlyagainst Russian interests.
Searching for historical analogies provides a useful perspective on thepresent situation. The past century has included a number of eventsafter which people felt that the world would never be the same again.The initial reaction in the United States was to talk about Sept. 11 asa second Pearl Harbor. Some see an affinity with the Chernobyl accidentin 1986 -- an event which indelibly shifted the public's sense ofsecurity, in that case in the context of nuclear power. Others drawstill more disturbing parallels with terrorist actions of the past thattriggered major international upheavals -- such as the assassination ofAustrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, or the burning of theReichstag in 1934.
Perhaps a more relevant historical analogy is the anti-Hitler coalitionof 1941-45. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin went into the alliance withtheir eyes wide open. They had no illusions that they had common goalsfor the post-war order, but they needed each others' help to defeatHitler. They constantly bickered over the terms of the relationship, andthe alliance broke up very quickly after the defeat of the Axis powers.With only one month elapsed since the September bombings, it is simplytoo soon to say whether it will really represent a watershed ininternational relations, or merely the brutal illumination of theexisting structure of international power.
Peter Rutland is a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut andan associate of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at HarvardUniversity. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. return to menu
2. Ice Thaws Between Russia, US
October 15, 2001
(for personal use only)
With the horrific terrorists attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequentinternational moves against terrorism comes the opportunity to create anew global paradigm for the post post-Cold War world, built upon acommon goal of ridding the world of international terrorism It is a goalthat most nations, regardless of political system or religious belief(including Islam), can embrace equally, even if a common definition ofwhat constitutes "international terrorism" may prove elusive.
Once before, from 1990 to 1991, there was an opportunity to create "anew world order" as a diverse group of nations came together to repelthe Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. But, as the Iraqi occupation ended, so tooended this first attempt by Washington to develop a more broad-basedglobal security framework.
The Russians, no longer enemies of the US, were still not true friends.In fact, before Sept. 11, growing differences between Moscow andWashington seemed to far exceed common interests or objectives. Thedifferences, already festering during Bill Clinton's administration,seemed exacerbated with the advent of the George W. Bush administration,despite some apparent positive personal chemistry between presidentsBush and Putin. In short, prospects for cooperation on strategic issuesseemed increasingly slim.
All this changed on Sept 11. The terrorist attacks created a newstrategic rationale for cooperation, generating an opportunity for afundamentally changed relationship between Washington and Moscow (and,for that matter, with Beijing and other Asian nations as well). Apositive outcome is by no means assured. It will require careful,skilled management and a genuine desire to transform internationalpolitics. But, the opportunity and incentive are now there and the firststeps have already been taken.
Russian president Putin was the first foreign leader to call presidentBush on Sept. 11 to express outrage over the attack and pledge hissupport.
Russian actions went beyond mere atmospherics. Immediately after theattack, US military forces worldwide were placed on high alert. Duringthe Cold War, this would have automatically prompted Moscow to respondin kind. Even in the post-Cold War world, a decision by Russia toincrease its own military alert status would not have been consideredout of the ordinary.
What was truly extraordinary was Putin's order for Russian troops tostand down so as not to add to international tensions, a decision hepersonally relayed to Bush. As Bush later observed, "it was a momentwhere it clearly said to me that [president Putin] understands the ColdWar is over." To demonstrate that he also understood, Bush added Putinto the list of close allies he called immediately before the initiationof military operations against Afghanistan -- an equally extraordinaryevent.
As part of Russia's contribution to the war front, Putin agreed to shareintelligence with Washington and to open Russian airspace to UShumanitarian and support flights; he even raised the prospect of Russiansearch and rescue support for US combat operations, while increasingMoscow's support to anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Mostsignificantly, after some initial hedging Putin gave the green light tothe former Soviet Central Asian Republics to allow US military forces tostage out of bases there. Much has been written about Chinese concernsabout a possible US military presence in Central Asia, but the regionremains first and foremost in the Russian sphere of influence.
Russian acceptance (much less active support) of a US military presencein its "near abroad" would have been unthinkable on Sept. 10.
It behooves Washington, however, to ensure Moscow (no less than Beijing)that it does not seek long-term military presence in this region. Accessrights and staging bases in Central Asia may be critical to conductingsustained combat operations against terrorist camps (and the Talibanleadership) in Afghanistan. Establishing permanent US military bases inthe region makes little sense, however, and runs the risk of underminingthe chances of genuine long-term cooperation between Washington andMoscow.
Even with this new-found spirit of cooperation, contentious issuesremain. While Washington may be more understanding and tolerant ofMoscow's efforts to quell its own terrorist threat (emanating fromChechnya), criticism over human rights and other perceived Russianinfringements on civil liberties is sure to continue. And then there'smissile defense.
Predictably, opponents of missile defense were quick, in the wake ofSept. 11, to point out that such defenses were useless against the morelikely threats the US faces today. Equally predictably, proponentsargued that terrorists willing to conduct such a heinous act wouldcertainly not hesitate to fire a missile at a US city, were they to gettheir hands on one.
Regardless of which argument one favors, in times of crisis Washingtonpoliticians and defense planners normally err on the side of being more,not less, cautious. It appears inevitable, therefore, that some form ofmissile defense will remain a key component of Washington's overallhomeland defense plan.
However, the debate over how comprehensive an umbrella will be built islikely to be affected. Both the shock to the economy caused by theterrorist assault and the massive costs involved in developing acomprehensive homeland defense system provide additional incentive fordeveloping a more modest, limited system. Even before Sept. 11, itappeared that the seeds had been sown for some type of compromisebetween Washington and Moscow. After all, the size and sophistication ofMoscow's nuclear arsenal gives it a great deal of flexibility.
Moscow can easily live with a limited MD system aimed only at deterringattack from rogue states or responding to accidental or unauthorizedlaunches. Meanwhile, Washington may also see the wisdom in delaying itsdecision to scrap the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty or become willingonce again to enter into negotiations on its amendment.
Both President Bush and President Putin seem serious about wanting toredefine US-Russia relations in order to finally put Cold War habits andconstraints behind them. The war on terrorism presents them with agolden opportunity to do just that -- if the Cold Warriors in both campscan be held in check.
Ralph A. Cossa is president of the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-basednon-profit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategicand International Studies in Washington. return to menu
3. Risks and Opportunities: Russian Foreign Policy in the Wake of Black Tuesday
Carnegie Moscow Center
October 8, 2001
(for personal use only)
It has become almost a truism that the events of Black Tuesday signalnot only a turning-point in global security perceptions but also acrossroads for Russian foreign policy. However, while most observersagree that Moscow now faces a radically altered set of externalcircumstances, there is little consensus as to the exact nature of thechallenges before it. Laudable intentions to participate in a grandcoalition against international terrorism were a welcome first responsebut, at the risk of sounding cynical, they were also the only plausiblereaction to the terrible tragedies in the United States. In the firstflush of shock and outrage, it was predictable that feelings of sympathyand solidarity would prevail. Whatever the differences of outlook, nocountry aspiring to be 'civilized' would have wished to be seen on theoutside in this particular fight.
The real test lies ahead of us. What happens when, as is inevitable,some of the initial shock wears off? When governments move fromdeclarations of fine sentiment to the specifics and modalities of policyaction? When the pursuit of broad-ranging objectives runs up against theproblem of competing strategic, political and economic interests? It iscertainly true, as Boris Nemtsov has emphasized, that Moscow now has a'fantastic opportunity' to redefine its strategic approach to the world,and to reverse the steady marginalization from global affairs of the1990s. But it is an open question whether, let alone how, it will seizethis chance. In assessing the prospects here, three aspects of foreignand security policy are of particular interest: (i) threat analysis;(ii) geopolitics and issues of self-perception; and (iii) geographicorientation and the management of priorities.
Russian political figures have repeatedly stressed the commonality ofperception that international terrorism is the number one scourgeconfronting the world today. In practice, things are not so simple.Washington and Moscow drew very different conclusions from Black Tuesdayin relation to their existing threat assessments. Both felt vindicated.For the Americans it highlighted the threat of 'rogue' state andnon-state actors, in the process reinforcing the case for a tougherapproach on WMD proliferation and for the eventual establishment of aballistic missile defense (BMD) system. By contrast, the Putinadministration argued both that the West had underestimated theinternational terrorism dimension of the ongoing Chechen conflict, andthat the United States had erred in focusing on a notional long-termmenace - rogue missile attack - instead of the immediate dangerconfronting it. This divergence of view could generate problems down theroad. While a desire for consensus and more pressing priorities arelikely to take precedence in the short term, there is plenty of scopefor divisions to re-open, particularly in Russian-American relations.Cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism may disguiselong-standing differences in security perceptions, but it does notremove them. It would be foolish indeed for Moscow to assume that BMDand other contentious issues such as NATO enlargement are off theagenda.
Maintaining and expanding the new 'partnership' between Russia and theWest is also complicated by the uncertain identity of internationalterrorism, particularly in relation to so-called state sponsors ofterrorism. It is one thing to take military action against thepolitically 'soft' (if militarily tough) target of the Taliban regime;it is quite another to strike against countries with a more ambiguousstatus, many of whom enjoy good relations with Moscow. In particularIraq, with its unapologetically supportive attitude towards terroristgroups and its determination to expand WMD capabilities, represents anobvious source of friction in Russian-American relations. How will theKremlin react in the event the United States launches a major actionagainst Baghdad? What will weigh more heavily, solidarity in thestruggle against terrorism and its patrons or Moscow's political andeconomic interests in the region? The Putin administration will look tosolve this conundrum by attempting to rein in Saddam Hussein. Buthistory does not inspire confidence in the prospects of success -witness the failure of Russian mediation efforts prior to OperationsDesert Storm and Desert Fox.
Geopolitics and Self-perception
The case of Iraq is just one example of a wider tension between the'normalization' of Russian foreign policy and a predominantlygeopolitical mindset. Early official reaction points already to somedifficulties, the most significant of which relates to the terms underwhich Russia would integrate more closely with global, or ratherWestern-dominated, structures. When Putin calls for Russia to have areal say in international decision-making, it is unlikely that he meansa voice on a par with, say, Germany. While he abhors marginalization,neither is he prepared to countenance inclusion on terms that fail toaccord Russia a 'special' place. Thus, membership of NATO is anunrealistic goal for the time being not because it would extend thealliance's activity into deepest North Asia, but because Russia demandsthe same privileges and status enjoyed by the United States. It is notyet willing to accept group rules and conventions as a second-rankpower, tacitly acknowledging American leadership on the Europeancontinent and globally. Today's geopolitics may be more implicit, butthe striking resemblance between Putin's position on inclusiveness andYeltsin's demands for an 'equal voice' in international affairs revealsan enduring attachment to considerations of derzhavnost ('greatpower-ness') and prestige.
In this connection, one disturbing aspect of establishment responses tothe present crisis is the over-estimation of Russia's importance andpossibilities. There is a widespread belief that Russia, if not the mostimportant player for the United States, now ranks very highly inWashington's policy horizon. This is a mistake that has potentiallygrave implications. It fuels an ill-founded confidence that Moscow candictate the conditions of integration or rapprochement with the West:determine the pace and modalities of NATO enlargement, revive the OSCEand 'consensual' European security structures, obtain cancellation ofits Soviet-era debt obligations, stymie American missile defense plans,and so on. In reality, Russia's importance to the United States, thoughincreased, remains secondary. Moscow's 'green light' to the CentralAsian republics to open up their territory for logistical purposes, farfrom emphasizing Russia's significance, paradoxically highlighted thelimitations of its clout in the region. As more insightful observershave noted, it was very much a case of making a virtue out of anecessity; to have acted otherwise would only have excluded it from thedecision-making - in form and substance - that it so craves.Consequently, a major challenge for Putin in the coming months will beto play for maximum gains, without at the same time losing perspectiveand policy flexibility. Far from demanding some kind of 'grand bargain'or quid pro quo, Russia will need to be careful that it does not believetoo much in its own publicity and overplay a still modest hand. Itscurrent international credit is by no means inexhaustible, and will becontingent on the extent to which it can persuade others thatpositive-sum views of international security have supplanted itstraditional zero-sum calculus. Only in this way can it strengthen thecase for closer integration with the West as a trusted and 'equal'partner, and obtain, in time, concrete security and economicconcessions.
Geographic Orientation and the Management of Priorities
The critical test of the realism of the Putin administration and ofRussia's willingness to reconceptualize its world-view will be in itsforeign policy orientation and handling of priorities. Over the past 18months, the Kremlin has pursued an eclectic approach towards the outsideworld: European in dealings with Europe, Eurasian in the Asia-Pacific,pro-integration with the CIS, globalist in a multilateral context. Atthe same time, there has been much talk of the Americacentrism of theYeltsin era giving way to the 'Europeanization' of Russian foreignpolicy. The events of Black Tuesday will help clarify some of theseissues.
Although Putin's recent visits to Berlin and Brussels might suggest thatEurope remains the major priority area for Russia, the reality is thatwe are due for an extended period of America-centrism. Indeed, evenbefore Black Tuesday, there were indications that the so-called Europeanemphasis in Moscow was principally a response to American foreign policyretrenchment over the same period - the 'dead' months of the Clintonadministration, the prolonged electionhiatus, the bedding-down of the Bush administration. It was alwaysprobable, once Washington began to devote more attention tointernational affairs, that Russia would in turn 're-Americanize' itsforeign policy focus. On every issue of priority interest to the Putinadministration - international terrorism, BMD and the consequences for'strategic stability', Russia-NATO relations and alliance enlargement,economic globalization - the United States is and will remain by far themost important external actor. The latest events have only accentuatedan innate America-centrism evident from the time of the Bush-Putinsummit in Slovenia in June.
On a larger scale, there will be a return to a more overtWestern-centrism away from the 'multi-vector' globalism of the recentpast. This is not to say that relations with China, India and theIslamic world will become unimportant, but that their relativesignificance will decline. In speaking of an international coalitionagainst terrorism, it is clear there will be major and minor players.The United States will be the most important, the major Western Europeannations - Germany, Britain and France - in the second rank, whileothers, although useful, will perform circumscribed or peripheral rolesonly. Atavistic prejudices and suspicions will reinforce this tilt tothe West. Although Putin has been careful to distinguish between Islamqua religion and Islamic extremism - just as Primakov was wont to dounder Yeltsin - relations with the Islamic world are likely to besubject to very careful review. Similarly, there is a big question markover the future of relations with Beijing. Nemtsov's identification of atriple threat facing an encircled Russia - debt obligations to the West,the Taliban in the South, and the Chinese to the East - may not yet bepart of official orthodoxy. But there is ample potential for theRussia-China 'strategic partnership' to lose its sparkle as Moscowseeks, inter alia, to make deals over strategic disarmament (mostnotably BMD), cooperation with NATO, and entry into Western institutionssuch as the WTO.
At the same time, there is a world of difference betweenWestern-centrism and a pro-Western or a 'normal' (Western-style) foreignpolicy. The first has arguably been in place for over 300 years, whilethe second is still stuck in a sickly infancy. Following Black Tuesday,vapid statements such as Russia does not have 'permanent friends orenemies, only permanent interests', or that it seeks to have goodrelations with all countries, will no longer do. Eurasianist andmultipolar mythology, tactical pseudo-cleverness and nationalamour-propre have reached their "use by" date. Now more than ever,Moscow must make appropriate strategic choices, emphasize certaindomestic and foreign priorities at the expense of others, and pursue aconsistent foreign policy line even in the face of inevitable setbacksand disappointments.
In the end, there is no alternative to integration with the West, notbecause of the latter's alleged civilizational 'superiority' (as claimedby Italian premier Berlusconi), but because such cooperation isessential in meeting the primary security, political and economicchallenges facing Russia in the new millennium. The way forward will belong and hard, and there will be times when the West either acts or isseen to act unreasonably. Both Russia and the West will need toavoid a repeat of the unfortunate experience of the Yeltsin years, withits vicious cycle of excessive expectations and culture of mutualdisappointment. There will be a need to do the routine things well.Patient and unspectacular action, not grandiose 'historic'pronouncements, is the key to success in the struggle against terrorism,in creating a more secure global environment, and developing closerpolitical and economic integration. Putin's early moves augur well. Butit is the ability (or otherwise) to sustain this momentum that willdetermine whether the tragic events in America represent merely atransitory opportunity for Russian foreign policy or the catalyst of itstransformation. return to menu
C. Russia-Iran Cooperation
1. Bushehr Completion May Be Delayed If War Spreads
RFE/RL Iran Report
October 15, 2001
(for personal use only)
Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Aleksandr Rumyantsev told ITAR-TASS on9 October that "if the hostilities [in Afghanistan] broaden and endangerhuman lives," Moscow may have to recall the more than 1,000 Russianspecialists working on the Bushehr nuclear facility and askfor a delay in the contract. Russian nuclear facilities are very safe,according to Rumyantsev: "They will survive even if a plane drops onthem." If there are no delays, the reactor for the firstblock will be delivered in November, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 October,and all the hardware will be in place at the beginning of 2002.Construction should be completed in 2003, and another 18 months will berequired for loading fuel and conducting tests. return to menu
D. Nuclear Waste
1. Nuclear Waste in The City's Backyard
October 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
Asked at a news conference last week about Moscow's most dangerousenvironmental hot spots, City Hall's ecological department head didn'thesitate. "Kurchatov Institute," Leonid Bochin replied.
Founded in 1943, the research institute has long been a cradle oflearning for military and civil nuclear engineers, and played a crucialrole in the development of the first Soviet nuclear bombs.
Over the decades, however, the institute has accumulated an alarmingquantity of radioactive waste on its territory -- located in a leafyresidential district just 15 kilometers northwest of the Kremlin,between the Shchukinskaya and Oktyabrskoye Pole metro stations.
Environmentalists say a leak from the waste depositories would turn thecity into a lifeless desert. Institute officials admit Stalin-eranuclear waste remains buried in an unsatisfactory way.
"The institute started building up nuclear waste in temporarydepositories in the early 1950s," said Maxim Shingarkin, a nuclearexpert at Greenpeace in Moscow. "During the arms race it amassedthousands of tons of radioactive materials."
The waste depositories at the institute -- which still runs six of itsnine nuclear reactors -- contain spent nuclear fuel, water used as acooling agent and worn reactor parts. Shingarkin cited a letter theinstitute's head Yevgeny Velikhov sent to President Vladimir Putin lastsummer, requesting funds to help the institute remove its radioactivewaste.
According to the letter, a copy of which Greenpeace obtained throughinformal channels, the institute keeps 2,000 tons of solid and liquidwaste with a radioactivity potential of 100,000 curies. Moreover, 900nuclear reactor fuel assemblies carrying more than 3 million curies areburied on the territory.
"Imagine this pollution oozes into the nearby Moscow River, whichspreads it over the whole city," said Shingarkin. "Or a terrorist attackor an ordinary fire that could lift millions of curies into Moscow'satmosphere."
Shingarkin said that according to state medical standards, inhabitantsmust be evacuated if radioactive pollution reaches 10 curies a squarekilometer.
Kurchatov Institute spokesman Andrei Gagarinsky confirmed that theletter was sent and also confirmed Greenpeace's description of itscontent, but downplayed the pollution dangers.
"Our depositories are safe and we regularly take waste to the Mayaknuclear processing plant in Chelyabinsk," he said in a recent telephoneinterview.
The waste depositories' safety is a point of contention between thenuclear scientists and environmentalists, said Vladimir Slivyak, head ofthe Ecodefense environmentalist group.
"There are no 100 percent-safe depositories," Slivyak said. "And thisspecifically concerns the ones of the Kurchatov Institute, in which theStalin-era technical design is obsolete and doesn't meet modernrequirements."
Gagarinsky said the radioactive legacy of Soviet nuclear science was acause of anxiety for institute officials. He said new waste is stored inspecialized depositories that are safe, but assembly parts of the firstStalin-era nuclear reactors were simply placed in iron barrels that werethen filled with concrete and buried near the institute. In a soil layerrich with underground water, these untreated deposits contain more than100,000 curies, Gagarinsky said.
"In the post-war period, the main priority was to make the most rapidadvances in the military program," he said. "Ecological issues meantmuch less."
A glance at Kurchatov's exterior is enough to see the institute's glorydays are past. A brick wall encircling the perimeter has collapsed andhas been replaced by a wooden fence. Buildings and steel constructionsbehind the fence look time-worn and weather-beaten. No police guardswere seen Thursday.
Inhabitants of surrounding buildings expressed a strange mix of prideand impending doom.
"We've been living here since 1945 and my husband worked in theinstitute for 40 years," said an elderly lady who gave only her firstname, Asya. "Today, nothing can scare us off the institute."
Natasha, 20, the mother of a toddler playing in a sandbox by theinstitute fence, sounded fatalistic when asked what it was like livingnear active nuclear reactors and radioactive waste depositories. "Do wehave any alternative?" she sighed. "What reassures us is the radiationmeters on the institute's gates."
The gates to the institute carry an indicator panel showing theradiation level in the surrounding atmosphere. On Thursday at noon itshowed 10 micro-roentgens per hour -- half the background radiationlevel accepted by Russian medical standards.
Gagarinsky said there are two other depositories of industrial nuclearwaste in the city: the Polymetal Plant and the Institute of IndustrialTechnologies, both on Kashirskoye Shosse in the south.
In November 2000, City Hall approved a program for public radioactivesafety over 2001-03 with a budget of almost 7.5 billion rubles ($250million), to be spent mainly on the removal of radioactive waste fromthe city's territory.
However, Gagarinsky said funding was insufficient to remove thereactors' remnants, which are gradually decaying.
"All we can do now is monitor the situation and draw plans for thefuture," he said, adding that radiation levels in soil samples takenfrom near the buried reactor parts was "close to normal" and withinaccepted limits.
The city's nuclear safety watchdog, Radon, which is responsible for theprogram's implementation, blames the institute administration'spassivity for delays in waste removal.
"The intensity of removal work depends totally on the institute's will,"said Oleg Polsky, deputy head of Radon, in a telephone interview Monday."The city has enough money for them."
He added that the pace of waste removal at the Kurchatov Institute mustbe stepped up to prevent further accumulation of radioactive waste.
In April 1998, The Moscow Times reported the institute had stoppedsending waste to Mayak for lack of funds, and more waste wasaccumulating at the institute. City Hall had ordered officials toinvestigate relocating the institute out of city limits. The plans seemto have been shelved: the city's plan for 2001-03 says nothing aboutmoving the institute.
According to the city's radiation public safety program, there are 20enterprises in Moscow that can be considered extremely dangerous interms of radiation. Eleven nuclear reactors were in use in Moscow latelast year. At more than 1,000 Moscow-based enterprises, there is a totalof 150,000 devices emitting ionizing radiation, of which 124,000 arebeyond their recommended life span. Each year Moscow authoritiesregister 50 to 80 new instances of radiation pollution in the city.Having revealed these facts, the program deems the city's radiationsituation "satisfactory." Environmentalists, however, cast doubts onthis evaluation and on the program's effectiveness.
"Evaluating radiation safety in the city, Moscow authorities consideronly already existing sources of pollution and refuse to acknowledgepotential ones that can go off any time," said Shingarkin of Greenpeace."If one takes them into consideration, Moscow will find itself among themost dangerous cities in the world." return to menu
2. Russian Minister Denies Talks Held On Importing Spent Nuclear Fuel
BBC Monitoring Service
October 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report in English by Russian news agency Interfax
Moscow, 11 October: The press service of the Russian Ministry of AtomicEnergy has denied reports about the final phase of negotiations onimports of spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
"The Ministry of Atomic Energy has not held any negotiations withforeign partners about imports of spent nuclear fuel," a press releaseof the ministry says.
"The ministry has not authorized any Russian or foreign organizations tohold such negotiations," it notes.
"It will take several years for signing contracts on imports of spentnuclear fuel to Russia," Minister of Atomic Energy Aleksandr Rumyantsevsaid at a press conference several days ago.
West European and Pacific countries may be the first possible partnersof Russia in spent nuclear fuel imports, the minister said.
Source: Interfax news agency, Moscow, in English 1025 gmt 11 Oct 01 return to menu
3. Russia Acts To Make Uranium Waste Secure In Kyrgyzstan
BBC Monitoring Service
October 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report by Kyrgyz news agency Kabar
Bishkek, 11 October: The Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry has respondedurgently to Kyrgyzstan's request for reclamation work to be carried outat uranium dumps in the south of the republic. The uranium waste islocated over an area of 20 square kilometres in n area prone to floodsand landslides on the bank of the Maylisu river, near houses andproduction facilities. That is why the ministry reacted so rapidly andprepared a feasibility study for the full reclamation of the Kadzhi-Sayburial ground. A meeting of the Kyrgyz-Russian intergovernmentalcommission has approved the project. Russian experts are continuing toinvestigate other tailing dumps as well.
Source: Kabar news agency, Bishkek, in Russian 0930 gmt 11 Oct 01 return to menu
E. Russian Nuclear Power Industry
1. Kazakh Nuclear Industry Head Sacked
BBC Monitoring Service
October 12, 2001
(for personal use only)
Text of report by Kazakhstan Today news agency web site
The Kazakh government has signed a resolution relieving MukhtarDzhakishev of the post of chairman of the Kazatomprom [Kazakh nuclearindustry] National Atomic Company [NAC] closed joint-stock company, theKazatomprom NAC told the Kazakhstan Today news agency on 12 October.
This resolution says that the Kazakh Energy and Natural ResourcesMinistry together with the State Property and Privatization Committee ofthe Kazakh Finance Ministry are to ensure the relieving of MukhtarDzhakishev of his position and to appoint Askar Kasabekov, who iscurrently vice-president of the company, to that position.
Source: Kazakhstan Today news agency web site, Almaty, in Russian 0943gmt 12 Oct 01 return to menu
2. Nuclear Heat And Power Plants Projected For Russia's North
October 11, 2001
(for personal use only)
It is planned to build nuclear heat and power facilities in 33 populatedplaces in Russia's Northern regions. The project will materialise before2010. This was said on Thursday by Bulat Nigmatulin, Russian firstdeputy minister for nuclear power. He spoke in Moscow at aninternational conference on problems of developing small nuclear powerengineering.
Nigmatulin stressed that the development of this kind of power is theonly efficient and profitable decision for regions in the Extreme North."We plan to build there small nuclear power plants of different types --floating or in the form of small reactors carried aboard nuclearsubmarines or iceboats", said Nigmatulin. Such facilities are trulysafe, he said. "The Kursk nuclear submarine provides a proof. Wreckedand greatly damaged in its forward compartment, the submarine preservedits nuclear reactor in serviceable condition and radioactivity around itdid not exceed the norm", he said. The conference was attended byspecialists from the Ministry for Nuclear Power, Rosenergoatom concern,Russian Nuclear Society, OAO Small Power Engineering company, industrialand research organisations of Russia, Japan, France and the UnitedStates. return to menu
F. Links of Interest
U.S. Debate on Nonproliferation Assistance to RussiaMonterrey Institute for International Studies Center forNonproliferation Studies