One of the dirty little secrets about international terrorism is that it doesn't take much radioactive material to make a dirty bomb.
And thereï¿½s plenty of that material in Georgia ï¿½ the Georgia that used to be part of the Soviet Union.
During a year-long investigation, 60 Minutes Wednesday found that radioactive material just keeps turning up in Georgia ï¿½ on military bases, in the woods, outside apartment buildings.
Itï¿½s not difficult to find, and as Correspondent Dan Rather reports, it's not difficult to transport, either.
Georgia, now an independent country, was known for decades as a lawless, corrupt place. And now, terrorism has become a major challenge for Mikhail Saakashvili, the smart, energetic, new president of the country.
"Terrorism is a valid concern from everybody," says Saakashvili, who was educated in the United States.
Is he concerned about the possibility of terrorists getting hold of some of these radioactive materials? "We still have certain signs that we should be concerned," says Saakashvili. "Because terrorists are getting more sophisticated. And sometimes, they could be more sophisticated than the state."
Listen to Tamaz's story, and you'll realize that in Georgia, terrorists don't have to be very sophisticated to find and transport enough radioactive material to make a dirty bomb. Tamaz has been driving his beat-up taxi in the capital of Tblisi for more than 30 years. Last year, he says two customers told him to drive to the train station. Then, they asked him to make a detour and go up a hill.
Tamaz says he wondered where they were taking him. He was asked to stop and load some very heavy boxes into his trunk. On the way back down the hill, the police pulled him over, but only because the cab was so weighted down in the back.
Tamaz said he got out of the car and showed the officer his license. Then he was asked to open the trunk and says he almost fainted when he saw what was inside.
Pictures taken after Tamaz was stopped showed what was in his trunk: heavy boxes lined with lead and stamped with radiation symbols. Inside were two kinds of radioactive material, Cesium 137 and Strontium 90, and some poisonous gas. There are reports the materials were being transported to the Turkish border.
"Concern is that this stuff might end up in the hands of terrorists," says Gela Bezhuashvili, Georgiaï¿½s national security adviser. "This is a real threat that they, any terrorist group, can find the stuff, take it and then explode it either in Georgia or anywhere else."
Long before Sept. 11, mountainous Georgia was known as a place where terrorists could easily hide. Georgia has a rich, centuries-old culture and heritage, but itï¿½s in a dangerous part of the world. Chechnya is just across the border.
Russia has dumped or left all kinds of dangerous materials in Georgia that are difficult to keep secure. And it's not just radioactive materials. A director of one research facility showed 60 Minutes Wednesday in Tblisi a small room with several refrigerators packed with deadly pathogens and diseases.
One refrigerator has a collection of anthrax; another has plague; another tularemia; and another botulism.
The anthrax, plague and botulism -- and lots of radioactive materials -- were all left behind when the Russians departed in the '90s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russians abandoned the materials at about 150 military bases without telling or warning anybody. And they didn't leave a clean-up fund.
"We didnï¿½t get much cooperation on those issues from the Russians," says Saakashvili. "Unfortunately, old Russian military bases, they left the country without proper agreement on how those things should have been handled. It was rather chaotic process."
In fact, it was so chaotic that no one had any idea what the Russians had dumped there until 1997. Thatï¿½s when a dozen Georgian soldiers accidentally picked up capsules of Cesium 137 at a military base. Most of them received severe radioactive burns.
In 1998 and 1999, radioactive Strontium 90, used by the Russians in an airline navigation system, were found in a remote mountain village. With no biohazard suits available, Georgian authorities did their best to remove the material safely. Then, near an apartment building in Tblisi, more Cesium 137 was found just lying on the ground. In the winter of 2002, more Strontium was removed from a village called Lia. Three woodcutters were severely injured.
Georgia has also been a pipeline for the international transport of dangerous materials. In December 2001, an Armenian man was arrested carrying uranium that apparently had come from a nuclear power plant in Armenia. He told a television reporter that "I wanted to sell each container for $7,000."
During 60 Minutes Wednesday's year-long investigation in Tblisi, they were told someone could buy enough Cesium to make a dirty bomb for $10,000.
Georgiaï¿½s former environmental minister, Nino Chkhobadze, has also heard reports that Cesium is for sale. She says sheï¿½s concerned because it would take only a small amount to make a dirty bomb. She said that most of the radioactive material from Soviet days has been recovered, but she also knows that some is still missing.
"Everything that was recovered can be used to create dirty bombs. Terrorism has no borders and it is practically impossible to fight against it if the country is not organized," says Chkhobadze.
The Georgian government insists it has safely stored all the Cesium itï¿½s found, but 60 Minutes Wednesday learned that security is rather lax. There are 200 canisters stored at one undisclosed facility. The canisters were sealed, but the radiation level was 80 times higher than outside the building.
In front of the building, there was just one guard with an automatic weapon. There were no guards behind the facility; just a wall, a wire fence and no security cameras. Sasha Gurevich, a former Georgian TV journalist, showed 60 Minutes Wednesday that the crumbling wall is not secure enough to keep out intruders.
"I went over the wall, walked up a little hill, looked around. There was no security so I felt safe. Continued going. I saw the facility it is about 150 meters from the wall. I walked right to it," says Gurevich.
"It was about 10 meters away from me. There was no security around. Nobody was walking around. There was only one rusty lock on the gate, and there was a huge sign of radioactivity on the gate turned around came back, crawled through the wall."
"The government tells us that police should be here in case of trespassing within two or three minutes," adds Gurevich. "Nobody is here. I am standing here for the last 10 minutes now. There is no big gate. There is one little gate and one lock on the gate."
Saakashvili said he needs more money to upgrade security at facilities like this one. And the United States is trying to help. American money will pay for a new building to store Russian radioactive material at a military base near Tblisi.
The American military is also trying to help by training the soldiers at an army base near the capital. From what we saw, they need a few more lessons.
U.S. military assistance to Georgia is expected to keep increasing. Georgia, in fact, has been getting so much help from the United States that some hard-line Russians have been calling President Saakashvili an American spy. He says it's nonsense, but when we talked in New York, he did not hide his affection for the United States.
"I sometimes miss the United States. I miss New York. I love New York. And when I come here, it is very, you know, sentimental and nostalgic for me," says Saakashvili, who lived in New York, and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1994. Back then, his plan was to be a big-time lawyer in New York.
How did he get to where he is now? "I had a choice to make, and the choice was to become a lawyer at Manhattan law firm," he says. "But the point was that I came from the country where, at the time, there was still war. It was ravaged by poverty. It was ravaged by despair."
He says corrupt politicians and Mafia-style gangsters ran the country: "They stole Georgiaï¿½s natural riches. They stole our taxes. They stole the foreign assistance that came to Georgia."
Saakashvili decided to return to Georgia, start a reform party, and run against the corrupt regime of former President Eduard Shevardnadze. After a contested election, Saakashvili took over and almost immediately began cracking down on corruption. He fired the hated traffic police, who had hassled and shaken down drivers for years, making more in bribes than wages. And he hired a brand new force.
"We basically manage to crack down on corruption and to basically eliminate the issue of corruption," says Saakashvili. "To tackle the issue of corruption in our security service. And this was very important."
But the president knows itï¿½s only a first step.
"I think our security is much more efficient at this point, but of course, there still could be something out there that's not fully under control," says Saakashvili.
"I think we are getting there, but we are not there yet. Because we need to have much more efficient system that nothing like this could happen."
1. G-7 ready to increase financing of Chernobyl sarcophagus
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The G-7 countries are ready to increase their financial contribution to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which finances work on transforming the existing sarcophagus into a safe and environmentally stable system, an official from the Ukrainian Ministry for Fuel and Energy told Tass on Wednesday.
The director of the ministry department for atomic industry, Nataliya Shumkova, was commenting on the results of an assembly of the fundï¿½s donors, which took place in London on December 9. She said the USA had made a statement on behalf of G-7.
Concrete decision on the allocation of money is expected to be reached at a conference, which is scheduled within January-March 2005. Shumkova said Ukraineï¿½s share in the Chernobyl Shelter Fund would stay at the level of six percent.
Early this year, Ukraine asked for U.S. support as concerns an increase in the payments to the fund. According to early calculations, the cost of the project has grown by 300 million dollars, to 1.059 billion dollars. So far, Ukraineï¿½s share stands at 50 million dollars.
2. NORWAY TO FINANCE ECOLOGICAL AND NUCLEAR SECURITY PROJECTS IN RUSSIA'S POLAR REGION
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In 2005 Norway will allocate about $15 million on the implementation of ecological and nuclear security projects in Russia, Norwegian ambassador to Moscow Oyvind Nordsletten said in a RIA Novosti interview.
According to him, the main part of this sum will be used to finance projects on the utilization of nuclear submarines, on the research of the Andreyeva Bay on the Russian-Norwegian border and on the reconstruction of the depository of radioactive wastes located in this bay.
"Since 1998 Norway has invested $12 million in various projects of infrastructure and research of the Andreyeva Bay pollution. Norway assigns priority to this work," the ambassador said.
Moreover, Norwegian agencies on radiation protection are aimed at further cooperation with Russia at the Kola nuclear power plant.
"The Norwegian leadership believes that cooperation with the Kola nuclear power plant has yielded positive results. Anyway, the dialogue between the Norwegian agencies on radiation protection and the nuclear power plant continues, in particular, in the sphere of control over functioning of the financed security systems. The partners are currently discussing practical plans for the next three years," Mr. Nordsletten noted.
In his words, the cooperation in the spheres of the atomic power plant's security and personnel training began in the early 1990s.
"In addition, Norway and Russia are cooperating in the ecological sphere, especially, in the protection of the marine environment. The importance of this cooperation is growing with the current spread of oil and gas industry northwards," the diplomat stressed.
3. Italy helps Russia dismantle nuclear-powered missile cruiser
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The surface ship formerly known as the Admiral Ushakov, a heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser of the Northern Fleet awaiting disposal moored at the Zvezdochka military shipyard in Severodvinsk, will be dismantled with Italy's help, ITAR-TASS reported on November 4.
Italy has announced it is ready to allocate 60m euros to prepare the cruiser to be dismantled, an ITAR-TASS correspondent was informed at the plant today. "Italy's aid will first and foremost go towards project and documentation development for it to be scrapped, since no technology has to date been developed in Russia to scrap nuclear-powered surface ships. At the second stage of funding, work to ensure that the ship is in a safe state will take place, which means an operation to unload the nuclear fuel from its reactors," the agency's source said. This is covered by the Global Partnership programme, which was adopted in 2002. It provides for the allocation of $20 billion over 10 years for the disposal of surplus arms from the Soviet era.
It was earlier reported that the Russian state budget did not earmarked any money for the cruiserï¿½s dismantling in 2005 and that the cost of dismantlement was $40m where $10m is the price of the dismantlement project development. Italy , however, generously offered 60m euros for this project, which is not the most needed from the environmental point of view (the cruiserï¿½s reactors are relatively new),but more needed for the tight Russian budget.
The Admiral Ushakov, which before May 1992 was known as the Kirov, was built at the Baltiyskiy plant in St Petersburg in 1980 and was the flagship of the Northern Fleet. In the 1990s, it required repairs and did not sail. It has been moored at Zvezdochka for the past three years. This name has now been re-allocated to a navy destroyer. Its propulsion plant consists of two nuclear reactors. A total of four cruisers of this type were built, only one of which - the Petr Velikiy - is still in service.
1. Former Soviet missile factory is rare success story of U.S. defense conversion program
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Of the dozens of defense plants built in Kazakhstan to supply the Soviet military machine, most are struggling to keep their doors open and production lines running.
Not so for the Byelkamit plant, a rare success story in the now-defunct U.S.-financed defense conversion program for the former Soviet Union, which brought together Western companies and former Soviet defense factories to set up civilian production.
That program was launched in 1994 and killed two years later by the U.S. Congress, which branded it a failure after most projects didn't take off.
But supporters of the program say the U.S. government was in too much of a hurry and plants like Byelkamit prove defense conversion can work.
The plants chosen for conversion were expected to become ``efficient and successful in a very short period of time demanded by U.S. political impatience,'' said Laura Holgate, vice president of the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-governmental anti-proliferation organization.
In Soviet times, the Byelkamit plant was secret and was known by the euphemistic acronym Gidromash _ short for Hydraulic Machinery _ which hid its function as a supplier of Oriol airborne anti-submarine missiles, Shkval rapid underwater missiles and cluster bombs.
When orders stopped in 1994, three years after the Soviet collapse, plant manager Pavel Beklemishev, a Russia-trained engineer, and his 1,000 workers were left on their own.
Beklemishev says he held about 300 meetings with potential partners interested in converting his factory, including the Chinese government.
But he went with an American partner, clinching a deal under the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction program. The American government put US$4.2 million (euro3.16 million at current rates) into the project, which involved New-York-based Byelocorp Scientific Inc. and its Italian subsidiary, Supco, in a joint venture to produce equipment for Kazakhstan's fast-growing energy sector.
Beklemishev's first step was to radically cut his staff to 220 people, and put those who remained through retraining.
``It was painful. I was sacking my teachers, friends and my wife,'' he says.
His strategy paid off. Byelkamit is the only enterprise in Central Asia to get a certificate from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to make pressure vessels, used to store oil and gas. In 1996-97, all its output was exported to Western Europe.
In 1997, it got its first contract to make equipment for foreign companies developing the giant Kazakh Tengiz oil field, such as Chevron, and later made storage vessels for companies working on the huge Karachaganak gas field.
``That was a brilliant takeoff,'' says Beklemishev.
Work is in full swing at the factory _ orders now come not only from oil producers, but the construction and food industries.
The plant's infrastructure has been little upgraded since its Soviet days. However, now all the engineers speak English and business correspondence is in English, although it operates without a single foreigner.
Byelocorp and Supco own 37 percent each in Byelkamit. Another 23 percent belongs to the Kazakh government and the rest to workers. The factory is hiring again as production grows; it now has about 500 employees.
Byelkamit was one of four U.S.-sponsored conversion projects launched at the same time in Kazakhstan.
The other three, involving a satellite communications center, a biological weapons factory and a nuclear weapons testing and research facility, were not as successful. Holgate says this was because U.S. government officials in the program didn't have business expertise and former Soviet managers were not prepared to switch to Western business practices.
Frederick Kellett, Byelocorp's vice president, believes that without the private sector _ with its commercial and pragmatic approach _ it will be hard to turn the other former defense facilities into viable businesses.
He notes that current U.S. programs ``fall well short of the financial incentives that are necessary to draw serious interest and commitment from business.''
The U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan said the U.S. government had over the years restructured resources for nonproliferation efforts to meet ``the latest most pressing priorities.''
``Some programs that we thought were less effective were discontinued,'' an embassy spokesperson said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Over the past year, the U.S. government spent US$30 million (euro22.55 million) on various threat reduction projects in Kazakhstan, including providing employment for former weapons scientists and conversion of a former chemical weapons plant, the embassy said.
Looking for its own solution to defense conversion, the Kazakh government last year set up a special company, Kazakhstan Engineering, to try to turn 20 former defense enterprises into competitive businesses. About a quarter of their output is for military purposes, and almost all are struggling to survive.
``They don't have defense orders, but the government is continuing to keep them (factories) on a short leash, not letting them into the market,'' said Beklemishev.
He credits Byelkamit's success to both timely U.S. support and the Kazakh government's willingness to convert its Soviet-built defense plants.
But he says the U.S. government's attitude appears to have changed now.
``We started with (Bill) Clinton's government .... I have a feeling that (President George) Bush administration looks differently at these issues.''
U.S. programs to help Russia protect and destroy its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are far behind schedule, despite President Bush's warning this fall that terrorists getting such weapons is "the biggest threat facing this country."
A half-billion dollars set aside by Congress in the past two years to secure or scrap Russian weapons sits unspent, a USA TODAY review of figures provided by program managers finds. Federal audits released in the past 18 months show hundreds of millions more have gone to ineffective projects.
The delays in safeguarding the stockpiles stem largely from disputes between the United States and Russia over how much access Americans need to inspect Russian weapons sites and verify that U.S. aid is spent properly. The U.S. government also has had trouble reaching binding agreements with Russia on how to manage U.S.-funded storage and disposal facilities ï¿½ and who will be liable if one has an accident.
"The window of cooperation seems to be closing," says Laura Holgate, a former Pentagon and Energy department official now with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a group that supports non-proliferation efforts. "Our No. 1 threat is being held hostage to lesser concerns."
The assistance programs, managed by the departments of Defense and Energy, were set up in 1991 to safeguard and eliminate weapons of mass destruction in former Soviet states. But Russia has grown resistant to efforts it fears could undermine its sovereignty.
"We're seeing an increased emphasis by the Russians on protecting national secrets," says Paul Longsworth of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration.
Vladimir Yermakov, a senior counselor at the Russian Embassy, says some U.S. demands can be excessive. "You provide (assistance) on your terms and we take it on our terms. We are trying to marry the two."
The stakes are high: The U.S.-Russian pact governing the programs expires in June 2006, and the liability and access disputes could scuttle efforts to renew it.
Despite the snags, the Pentagon and the Energy Department say the programs have made progress. For example, 6,472 nuclear warheads have been destroyed, including the entire arsenals that Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan inherited from the Soviets.
But progress is getting more elusive as the agencies turn to remaining stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological materials at Russia's more sensitive defense sites. Some examples:
ï¿½The Energy Department is behind schedule in upgrading protections on 600 tons of nuclear material at 115 Russian sites. At its current rate, the project could miss its 2008 deadline by two years. Longsworth insists that access disputes will be settled, and the department will be able to meet its goal.
ï¿½The Pentagon has been refused access to several Russian labs targeted for security upgrades to protect biological warfare materials. In a statement, the Pentagon said it won't fund the work unless it can verify that U.S. aid "is being used for its intended purposes."
ï¿½Delays in building a U.S.-financed chemical weapons disposal plant in Schuchye, Russia, make it unlikely that the country will meet treaty deadlines for destroying the weapons. Russia failed to meet Pentagon demands this year for a plan for the plant's use.
3. Renewal of deal to help secure Russian arms in doubt
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This was to be the year that Russia began getting tens of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance to build a plant to convert 34 tons of plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.
But not a dime of the $50 million Congress set aside to start construction has been spent.
In 2002, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the project "central to enhancing our national security" in a post-Sept. 11 world. But construction of the plant, a pillar of U.S. efforts to help Russia protect and destroy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, has been stalled for years, largely because of a dispute on how much liability the U.S. government and its workers would bear in any accident.
The dispute is one of several slowing U.S. efforts to help Russia deal with surplus arms. The work is done under Defense and Energy department programs that provide U.S. money to help former Soviet states protect and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.
"We need to get rid of these weapons in Russia ... (and) these problems are frustrating us," says Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
The bilateral agreement authorizing the programs expires in 2006. And disputes on liability and other issues threaten its renewal.
"Without (a new pact), I think all of our programs would have to stop," says Paul Longsworth of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration. "Obviously, we're concerned if we don't get resolution soon."
Destruction moves slowly
More than a decade after the United States set up programs to help former Soviet states protect and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, some goals remain less than half completed. Some of the weaponry destroyed:
Upgrading security for 600 tons of nuclear weapons material at 115 sites:
Goals % of material secured
Initial stopgap security upgrades 46%
Comprehensive security upgrades 26%
(Source: Departments of Defense and Energy)
But renewal talks haven't begun.
The programs were born in 1991, after the Soviet Union's collapse. Several of the emerging states inherited nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the United States feared the arms could reach rogue nations or terrorists.
The programs, spending about $1 billion a year, have destroyed thousands of nuclear warheads, missiles and submarines, and big stocks of chemical and biological agents. But they're controversial.
"On (the U.S.) side, there are people who say the Russians are cheating, they just want the money," says Vladimir Rybachenkov, counselor at the Russian Embassy. "On our side, there are some who say the Americans just want to get their noses into our" military sites.
The Pentagon's inspector general has cited several projects as wasteful. In one case, the Pentagon spent $100 million to build Russia a plant to destroy fuel from nuclear missiles. After it was built, Russia said it was using the fuel for commercial rockets. So the plant is idle.
Russia also has yet to use a high-security nuclear materials storage facility built with about $400 million in U.S. money. At issue is what material it will hold ï¿½ and how the United States can verify that it won't store fuel for new weapons.
The Pentagon now wants binding agreements with Russia on how U.S. assistance will be used. But the pacts can take months to reach.
Other causes for delay:
ï¿½Access. Russia has refused U.S. demands to enter several nuclear, biological and chemical sites where security is in doubt. The resistance is mainly from Russia's internal security force.
The Pentagon refuses assistance unless its program managers can visit a site to verify that money isn't misspent. But Russian officials say some access demands exceed what they allow. "There are technical means to verify (work) ... without what we call 'intrusion,' " Rybachenkov says.
Access snags also have slowed an Energy Department push to upgrade security at Russian sites holding 600 tons of nuclear weapons material. Russian and U.S. officials are in talks on the problem, and the department forecasts increases in its rate of installing safeguards. But even if it moves at unprecedented speed, it will miss a goal for completion in 2008.
ï¿½Funding. Congress has put conditions on the release of money for several projects, especially those aimed at securing Russia's chemical and biological weapons. The conditions require the administration to "certify" that Russia is meeting a host of criteria, such as disclosing data on its chemical and biological stockpiles, or improving its record on human rights.
The rules stymied construction of a Russian plant to destroy thousands of tons of chemical munitions. At Lugar's urging, Congress gave President Bush authority last year to waive certification, but the plant now is years off schedule.
ï¿½Liability. The impasse on the plutonium-conversion program centers on a U.S. insistence that any work agreement include 100% liability protection for its agencies and workers, even for individual acts of sabotage.
That language is in the current agreement on U.S.-Russian cooperation, but the plutonium program isn't covered. And Russia's legislature has passed a law barring similar language if the pact is renewed.
Massachusetts The recent report on global security released by a high-level UN panel identified seven principal threats, from terrorism and poverty to environmental degradation. Among these, though, the panel gives primacy of place to nuclear Armageddon.
The entire nonproliferation regime is now at risk because of withdrawals, a lack of compliance and new international threats, the report notes. It warns that "we are approaching a point at which the erosion of the nonproliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation."
Without naming names, the report points to two countries whose actions threaten to collapse - or explode - the nonproliferation regime.
One of them, Iran, recently agreed to suspend, but not end, its nuclear programs. When this temporary agreement predictably breaks down, as a similar agreement did last year, Iran will resume its rush to complete facilities for enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium. When completed, Iran will have crossed the last policeable line between it and nuclear weapons.
If Iran goes nuclear, Egypt will follow, then Saudi Arabia (more likely buying than making) and possibly Syria. Contemplate the consequences of such a nuclear arms race for Israel's security and the stability of energy supplies.
The other prime offender, North Korea, will soon finish reprocessing the 8,000 spent fuel rods previously frozen and monitored at Yongbyon, yielding enough plutonium for six bombs. North Korea will then be poised to conduct a nuclear test, declare itself nuclear and complete construction of facilities to produce a dozen additional bombs annually.
If North Korea gains forced entry into the nuclear club, Japan and South Korea will not be far behind. Taiwan will certainly explore its nuclear options. Such developments will destabilize Northeast Asia and intensify the risk of one state pre-emptively attacking another. Even more dangerously, North Korea could sell nuclear weapons to eager buyers like Osama bin Laden.
How can this dark future be prevented? The UN panel usefully recommends an extended moratorium on constructing reprocessing and enrichment facilities, a guarantee from Security Council members to defend nonnuclear states if attacked by a nuclear-armed opponent, and faster disarmament by nuclear powers. While these recommendations represent useful steps, their logic alone is unlikely to affect behavior in Iran and North Korea.
The governments of the major powers, beginning with the United States, must address the urgent nuclear danger today. A comprehensive strategy for preventing nuclear terrorism should be organized under a doctrine of Three No's: no loose nukes, no new nascent nukes and no new nuclear-weapons states.
The first requires securing all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material, on the fastest possible timetable. Locking up valuable or dangerous items is something human beings know how to do. The United States and Russia should jointly develop a standard, act at once to secure their own materials and persuade other states' leaders to follow suit.
"No new nascent nukes" means no new national capabilities to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium. The UN panel's recommendation of a fissile cutoff is a start, but it must be coupled with intrusive inspections of suspected nuclear sites and enforcement mechanisms. The crucial challenge to this principle today is Iran. Preventing Iranian completion of its nuclear infrastructure will require a combination of benefits and credible threats to persuade Tehran to accept a grand bargain for denuclearization.
"No new nuclear-weapons states" draws a line under the current eight nuclear powers and says unambiguously: "No more." The immediate test of this principle is North Korea. To prevent the world's most promiscuous supplier of missiles from becoming a Nukes "R" Us for terrorists, a "no new nuclear-weapons states" strategy will require both carrots and sticks, including a credible military threat to Kim Jong Il's nuclear facilities. The great powers share real national interests here, since each fears nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists, whether they are al Qaeda or Chinese separatists.
Responding to the report, Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended that the international community debate these recommendations at the special summit next September. Yet avoiding the cascade about which the panel warns requires urgent actions now.
The Bush administration is beginning a broad review of its Russia policy that could lead to a more confrontational approach toward Moscow over its treatment of neighboring countries and its own citizens, U.S. officials said.
For the past four years, the administration muted its criticism of Russia's approach to democratic values as Washington tried to build a "strategic partnership" with Moscow to fight terrorism and weapons proliferation.
But the Bush team's approach has faced growing doubts, including from some within the administration.
Now in his second term, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has reduced press freedom and cracked down on political opponents at home while working against pro-Western forces in neighboring countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
Questions about U.S. policy have gained a new urgency in the past three weeks, as the United States and Russia have sparred over the presidential election in Ukraine. Washington and the European Union rejected the results as rigged, and after public protests, the matter went to the country's Supreme Court, which overturned the victory of the candidate favored by Moscow.
The outcome appears to suggest that a more aggressive U.S. policy may aid democratic forces throughout the region.
"It is fair to say we are reassessing this relationship as we go into the new term," said a U.S. official who asked to remain unidentified.
He said a key question was whether Moscow, with its deep involvement in the Ukrainian election, had pushed the issue to a "tipping point," leading the administration to consider a more assertive approach.
Last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell sharpened his rhetoric, expressing concern about "developments in Russia ï¿½ affecting freedom of the press and the rule of law."
The official, however, cautioned against predicting the outcome of the policy review, saying arguments could be made that the most effective way to promote democracy in Russia was through a close partnership that could apply "steady, constant, subtle pressure."
The current U.S. policy on Russia has had support from key officials, including national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to take over as secretary of State in January.
Rice, who trained as a Russia specialist, is considered the original advocate of the "realist" approach toward Moscow, which values national interests more than long-standing alliances. She was instrumental in persuading President Bush to adopt that stance early in his first term.
But several officials in Bush's inner circle argue that the U.S. should speak forcefully for democratic values in Russia and the surrounding region.
In recent months, Putin has drawn criticism for instituting sweeping measures consolidating his power, such as curtailing regional elections, restricting press freedoms and limiting individual rights. U.S. officials are also concerned that Putin is covertly reasserting Russia's influence over former Soviet republics.
Within the Bush administration, Daniel Fried, senior director for Europe and Eurasia in the National Security Council, believes that the United States should champion democratic values in the region, analysts said. Fried is considered a leading candidate for the post of assistant secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, and his appointment could be an important signal of the new thinking on policy toward Russia, observers say.
Senior aides to Vice President Dick Cheney, such as foreign policy advisor Victoria Nuland, also favor more stringent advocacy of democratic values in the region, analysts said. It has become increasingly difficult, they said, for the White House to overlook Russia's performance on democratic rights when Bush has put spreading democracy at the top of his agenda.
Michael McFaul, an expert on Russia at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, said the U.S. approach in Ukraine demonstrated a shift from official thinking at the beginning of Bush's first term.
In their handling of the Ukraine election crisis, U.S. officials acted on the view that "if you stick to your guns and provide principled words and assistance to the opposition, you can bring change," he said. "That was not at all the view you heard in these [internal] debates three years ago."
Although Bush did not begin his presidency intending to be an activist in the region, he could end up in that role, McFaul said.
"It will be interesting to see if this kind of thinking reaches in the second term to places where it didn't in the first," he said.
McFaul said the White House was forced to rethink its policy in part because Putin had gone so far in trying to reassert Moscow's influence over Ukraine.
"If Putin was a polite, quasi-autocratic ally in the war on terrorism, nobody would have any wiggle room to reevaluate the policyï¿½. It's been his extreme policy on Ukraine that's made it difficult to keep pretending he's an ally," McFaul said.
The White House may also be rethinking its approach to Russia in part because its alliance with Moscow has been a disappointment to U.S. officials in other departments.
Russia has taken only a minor role in U.S.-led efforts to roll back North Korea's nuclear program and has continued to build a nuclear complex for Iran, despite Washington's concerns.
Moscow also has been less helpful than expected on counterterrorism efforts, and U.S. hopes for joint energy development have been set back by Russia's moves to renationalize part of its energy sector, analysts say.
"While relations between President Bush and President Vladimir Putin have been cordial, expectations of a semi-alliance have not materialized," Stephen Sestanovich, a senior U.S. envoy to the former Soviet states under President Clinton, wrote last month in a report for the Council on Foreign Relations.
An administration official said one major issue that would be considered in the policy review was whether Moscow, frustrated by what it sees as U.S. meddling in its backyard, was itself edging toward a harsher approach toward Washington. He noted that in several appearances over the last few days, Putin, apparently stung by the failure of his ally in Ukraine, had sharply criticized the United States.
Despite signs of a shift in the U.S. approach, many experts hesitate to predict that the Bush administration will adopt a bold new policy that could jeopardize ties with Russia. Moscow still has much to offer as an ally, they note, and, if alienated, can do serious damage to U.S. plans in the Middle East and elsewhere.
James M. Goldgeier, who served on the National Security Council under Clinton, said that although U.S. language had become increasingly blunt, the most forceful criticism of Russia had come from Powell.
The secretary of State has been outspoken for some time while Bush has remained mostly conciliatory, he said, noting that strong language from the president and Rice would be a more important sign of a shift.
The division of labor between Powell and Bush means that "people who want to hear strong statements can hear them," said Goldgeier, now at George Washington University. "And the Russians can console themselves, 'It's only Powell ï¿½ we don't have to worry too much.' "
Iran told nuclear partner Russia on Wednesday it would have to show "readiness" to expand nuclear ties with Tehran to secure a solid share of Iran's atomic market in face of growing competition from Europe.
Moscow has built a $1 billion nuclear reactor in Iran in defiance of strong criticism from the United States, which believes Tehran can use the facility to make atomic bombs.
But Russia's stance on Iran toughened since President Vladimir Putin's re-election in March gave more priority to ties with Washington, with both softening their criticism of each others' military operations in Iraq and Chechnya.
Gholamreza Shafei, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, said further nuclear cooperation with Russia depended "on how much such ties will correspond with our national interests and also how much there is willingness from Russia to cooperate with ... Iran to broaden ties in peaceful nuclear energy use."
In written answers to Reuters questions, he also said: "Our ties with Russia depend on how much the Russian side is effectively ready to cooperate with us."
Russia has enjoyed a near-monopoly status on Iran's nuclear market since the early 1990s when the two agreed to build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant near the port of Bushehr.
Seeking to remove Bushehr as a irritant in relations with the United States, Russia has maintained Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.
But diplomats in Moscow have hinted Iran is unhappy with the way Russia has dragged its feet on Bushehr, delaying construction schedules at times of political sensitivity.
Russia is now worried it might lose a key nuclear market in the Middle East after the European Union's "Big Three" offered last month to help Iran with peaceful atomic technology if it abandons its nuclear fuel production capabilities.
Britain, France and Germany are currently in talks with Iran aimed at brokering a long-term agreement on Tehran's nuclear activities. Iran says its nuclear facilities will only be used to generate electricity, and Russia agrees.
ENEMIES BECOME RIVALS
Shafei's remarks only confirmed Russian worries. But he repeated Moscow would still be able to play a big role in Iran.
"Under such circumstances, the previous enemies of nuclear cooperation between Russia and Iran will turn into 'new rivals' and 'Iran's partners'," he said.
"It's true that under such circumstances Russia will face competitors on the Iranian market but at the same time the Iranian market will stop being closed and limited.
"Russia will be able to play an active role at least in half of this big market, and it will be definitely bigger than the previously narrow market," he said.
Russia's foreign ministry was not available for comment.
A high-ranking Russian official familiar with the Iranian situation said Tehran could be simply trying to use the EU offer as a bargaining chip to get the best deal out of Russia.
"We are ready to expand cooperation with Iran, but it's not easy. Iranians could be difficult too. When European nuclear companies enter the Iranian market, we'll deal with it. But it's too early to talk about this yet," the official said.
Western diplomats in Vienna said leading nuclear firms in the EU would be loathe to offer any nuclear technology to Iran for fear of jeopardising lucrative U.S. business.
1. Fourth Topol-M missile regiment is now complete
(for personal use only)
On December 16, 2004 the Strategic Rocket Forces completed deployment of the fourth regiment of Topol-M (SS-27) missiles, which began a year ago, in December 2003. Four new silo-based Topol-M missiles were deployed in addition to the six deployed in 2003. The regiment is part of the missile division in Tatishchevo, Saratov oblast, which now includes 40 silo-based Topol-M missiles.
The first Topol-M missiles became operational in December 1997 and since then the deployment proceeded at the rate of four to ten missiles a year. Ten more silos at Tatishchevo are prepared for deployment of Topol-M missiles, which are expected to become operational in 2005-2006. In addition to this, in 2006 Russia is expected to begin deployment of the mobile version of the missile system.
2. President Vladimir Putin to chair SC presidium meeting on radiological security
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President Vladimir Putin is to chair a meeting of the Presidium of Russia's State Council (SC) here on Thursday.
The meeting will deal with matters aimed at developing international cooperation in the field of nuclear and radiological security. The main report at the SC Presidium meeting is to be made by Yuri Yevdokimov, Governor of Murmansk Region.
A working group on the development of international cooperation in the field of nuclear and radiological security was set up in June 2003. Apart from regional governors, the group includes representatives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Economic Development and Trade.
3. Putin arrives at Kalininskaya N-station to inspect new reactor
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Russian President Vladimir Putin came for the first time to a nuclear power station ï¿½ Kalininskaya. The new, third power unit was put into operation at the station early on Thursday morning.
The Kalininskaya nuclear power station is situated in the city of Udomlya, Tver Region, some 350 kilometers north of Moscow. Putin inspected the station and then held a visiting session of the Russian State Council presidium on the development of international cooperation in nuclear and radiation security.
The third set of the station has been under construction for around 20 years. Its commissioning was repeatedly put off in the 1990s. Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the so-called post-Chernobyl syndrome emerged when the development of the nuclear power industry virtually ground to a standstill, and construction of new nuclear station was discontinued. Then, this syndrome was overcome, but financial difficulties popped up. Construction of a power unit at a nuclear station is estimated at 1.5-2.5 billion US dollars on the world market.
Two units, which were commissioned in 1984 and 1986, now operates at the Kalininskaya station. Under the project, the station is to consist of four blocks.
Incidentally, the Russian leader visited the turbine hall of the third unit and inspected the control board.
The officer on duty told the president that the present unit capacity is now 180 mW while the design capacity is 1,000 mW.
The control board was manufactured only by Russian producers and with the use of only Russian technologies. The nuclear power station has over 5,000 people on its payroll. The station contributes the main part of revenues to the city and district budgets as well as produces nearly 66 percent of electricity, generated in the Tver Region.
Speaking at the meeting of the State Council presidium on Thursday, the president said that Russia stockpiled over 70 million tonnes of solid radioactive waste. ï¿½The infrastructure of their processing has been insufficiently developed so far,ï¿½ the Russian chief executive emphasized.
ï¿½The volume of processed waste more than doubled as against 2001, but absolute rates of processing are still very low,ï¿½ the head of state emphasized.
2. PUTIN DISCUSSES NUCLEAR POWER ENGINEERING WITH STATE COUNCIL'S PRESIDIUM
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Until 2010, another two power-generating units at nuclear power plants are to have been launched and the service lives of 10 Russian nuclear power plants are going to have been extended, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the session of the presidium of the State Council.
According to Mr. Putin, "stringent safety measures should be taken as far as the whole technological process is concerned". "They should meet the toughest international standards."
"We have got to be consistent in our efforts to minimize the negative impact the nuclear power stations make on the environment, which should be done, among other things, through introducing state-of-the-art nuclear waste disposal technology," the head of state noted.
Mr. Putin stressed that nuclear power and radioactive waste storage facilities should be secured against any criminal activities.
He reminded those present of the fact that there had been over 70 million tons of solid radioactive waste alone in the country, with their disposal infrastructure being inadequate.
"Disposal of spent nuclear reactors on board Spent Russian Navy ships and decontamination of the areas affected by industrial and military activities are on the top of the agenda," the president said. "Resolution of these problems should not be put on the backburner, and we should efficiently use both our own resources and opportunities offered by international cooperation."
Vladimir Putin noted that Russia had maintained continuous close links with international [nuclear power-related] organizations, first of all, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"We are open to large-scale cooperation with foreign partners both on bilateral and multilateral basis," the president said.
The launch of the power-generating unit at the Kalinin nuclear power plant has resulted from concerted efforts by scientific, designer and engineering teams, the president said at the meeting of the State Council's presidium.
"We have made sure for yet another time that the Russian nuclear power engineering is quite capable of further growth. We have gained a wealth of experience and established proven traditions, and Russian nuclear power personnel and technologies are quite competitive," Mr. Putin said. "The non-renewable natural resources are limited. At present, search for and use of novel sources of power are under way throughout the world, with special attention in doing so being given to nuclear power engineering. Hence, Russia has to consolidate its positions in this field as well."
The head of state mentioned that Russia had been proactive abroad. "What has been displayed [at the new power-generating unit of the Kalinin power plant] today is being introduced and operated by our personnel abroad," the Russian president noted.
According to Mr. Putin, the opening of the bridge in St. Petersburg, in which the president had taken part, and the launch of the thirdpower-generating unit at the Kalinin nuclear power plant reaffirm Russia's rather vigorous development in many fields.
"This does not mean that we have done all we can, rather, that Russia has been developing fast of late," Vladimir Putin said.
3. Putin urges to protect atomic energy from criminals
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The atomic energy industry should be absolutely safe in terms of the protection from criminals, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a session of the State Council presidium on Thursday.
ï¿½The first requirement is tough security requirements to the whole technological process. They should correspond to the highest international standards,ï¿½ he emphasized.
ï¿½Meanwhile, atomic energy facilities should be reliably protected from any criminal demonstrations,ï¿½ the president pointed out. ï¿½Finally, we should consistently minimize the negative impact of nuclear productions on environment, particularly introducing modern technologies of the disposal of nuclear materials.ï¿½
Russia has developed and tested an effective system of maintaining nuclear and radiation safety, a report by a Presidium of the Russian State Council working group said. The report has been specially prepared for the council's session on Thursday.
"Since the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," the report said, "which forced the approaches to ensuring safety at nuclear and hazardous radiation enterprises in Russia to be fundamentally revised, no accidents that have threatened the population's safety have taken place."
The working group concluded that the state's functions, provided for by the Nuclear Security Convention, have been fully carried out by the federal agencies that regulate the use of nuclear energy and nuclear safety. The functions and tasks of these agencies are defined at the legislative level.
"Natural (70%) and medical (29%) sources of ionizing irradiation are the leading factors in the irradiation of the population in Russia," the report said.
According to the working group, the contribution of the man-made sources to the population's collective dose of irradiation was at least 1%, including global fallout from past nuclear arms tests and radiation accidents (0.63%), and from enterprises that use sources of ionizing radiation (0.14%).
The report said the achievement of a high level of radiation safety should not be interpreted as a complete solution to the problem or the achievement of total nuclear and radiation safety.
"The crisis that arose in Russia at the beginning of 1990s has caused a number of difficult problems," the working group said, "including a sharp decrease of the state's economic ability to fund the large-scale reduction of nuclear arms and withdrawal of nuclear submarines from the Navy."
According to the group, some of these facilities are currently in a very unsatisfactory state and are a considerable factor in radiation and nuclear risks, especially for several regions in the northwestern and far east and in the Urals and Siberia.
1. Russian-Canadian Global Security Consultations Held
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
Canadian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs James Wright stayed in Moscow on December 14 to attend bilateral inter-MFA consultations on global security with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Kislyak.
Wright was received by Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Both sides gave a positive assessment to the political dialogue between the two countries, and noted the progress in carrying out the accords to expand bilateral cooperation that were reached during the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin to Russia on October 11-13, 2004. The interlocutors also touched on the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, some aspects of OSCE activity as well as the bilateral agenda.
In the course of the consultations Kislyak and Wright thoroughly considered a number of topical questions of international security, the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), arms control and disarmament, and the activities of some international organizations and regimes. They especially noted the importance of consolidating the collective efforts toward searching for answers to the new threats and challenges of our time, of which the danger of a linkage between terrorism and WMD is the main one. It was stated that on most of the issues discussed the positions of Canada and Russia are close or coincide, which provides a favorable basis for interaction between the two countries in the international arena. The sides spoke in favor of building on Russian-Canadian cooperation in a bilateral and a multilateral format in strengthening international security and strategic stability, combating terrorism and settling regional conflicts.
2. United States - Russian Federation Joint Statement
Department of State
(for personal use only)
Delegations of the United States and the Russian Federation met in Washington D.C. on December 9-10, 2004, to continue discussions on matters relating to GPS and GLONASS cooperation.
Both sides reiterated their commitment to continuing these talks and reaffirmed that the United States and the Russian Federation intend to continue to provide the GPS and GLONASS civil signals appropriate for commercial, scientific and safety of life use on a continuous, worldwide basis, free of direct user fees.
The United States and the Russian Federation intend to cooperate, as appropriate, on matters of mutual interest related to civil satellite-based navigation and timing signals and systems, value-added services, and global navigation and timing goods in relevant international organizations and fora.
In particular, both sides intend to work together to the maximum extent practicable to maintain radio frequency compatibility in spectrum use between each other's satellite-based navigation and timing signals.
Both sides will work together to the maximum extent practicable to maintain compatibility and promote interoperability of GPS and GLONASS for civil user benefits worldwide. To this end, both sides intend to establish working groups on matters of development and use of GLONASS and GPS and their respective augmentations.
Both sides will begin preliminary discussions on an agreement for GPS - GLONASS cooperation.
3. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom to Assist in the destruction of Chemical Weapons in the Russian Federation
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The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will provide to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland a grant of 1.5 million Euros to assist in bringing the chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchï¿½ye in the Russian Federation into operation at an early date.
On 8 December, 2004, Mr Maurits Jochems, Director of Security Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Ms Jane Darby, Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy, The Hague, signed on behalf of their Governments a Memorandum of Understanding which then immediately entered into force.
Under the auspices of the 2001 Agreement, reached between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation on the provision of assistance in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) extended by the United Kingdom to the Russian Federation, the Netherlands is providing such assistance in co-operation with the United Kingdom. The grant provided by the Netherlands supports the aims and objectives of the CWC, which foresees the complete destruction of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles by no later than 29 April 2012.
The Memorandum of Understanding underscores the common interest of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to assist the Government of the Russian Federation in meeting its obligations under the CWC. This assistance is also granted in support of the non-proliferation objectives of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and in reaffirmation of the European Unionï¿½s Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The funds granted by the Netherlands will support equipment purchases and infrastructure construction at the chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchï¿½ye in the Russian Federation.
4. Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Following Russia-NATO Council Session
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
Today's session of the Russia-NATO Council (RNC) was this year's last in a series of multilateral meetings in varied formats where discussions centered mostly on the topical questions of how to strengthen cooperation to meet new threats and challenges. This topic also was discussed at the OSCE MC and the Russia-EU summit. It was likewise the key one in the dialogue which took place today at the Russia-NATO Council session and indeed it was such all through the year of work of this important mechanism. We note with satisfaction the substantial progress which was achieved in this format (Russia-NATO Council).
In the last few months alone very important activities to combat terrorism and other security challenges in the Euro-Atlantic space were prepared and carried out. I shall note the successful joint training exercises, such as Kaliningrad 2004, to test and improve the collaboration in eliminating the consequences of a major technogenic catastrophe; Accident 2004, to check the security measures for the storage of nuclear weapons; and the procedural training exercises at NATO headquarters, to test and improve the joint peacekeeping concept.
We note that the principles of equality and mutual consideration of interests that are set into the Russia-NATO Council mechanism have made it possible to progress substantially in the development of the political dialogue and entirely practical measures, which will help enhance security in this region. It is gratifying that the RNC is increasingly becoming the negotiation platform where, based on the principles of equality, mutual consideration of interests and the clear-cut rules for the functioning of these mechanisms, we reach better understanding and bring our approaches closer.
The format of the Council enables to frankly talk about the problems that inevitably linger and always will arise to some degree or other, but it is not easy to talk and find joint solutions. I shall note, in particular, the progress in such an area as mutual trust regarding the NATO enlargement to the east.
We, as you remember, had some concerns over the modernization of the military infrastructure within the territory of the Baltic states after their admission into the Alliance. In this area there are no threats to security, nor are any crises or major conflicts foreseen. Therefore we invited our partners to think of confidence-building measures and those of transparency and the prevention of incidents along the line of contact between the armed forces of Russia and NATO. We are satisfied that NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer sent us an official letter reaffirming all the existing military restraint accords on the non-stationing of any substantial military units or infrastructure on the new members' territory. Mutual inspections are being carried out in accordance with the existing accords, which makes it possible to reduce the level of uncertainty. But we today suggested a number of additional steps which could render this transparency complete. The talk was about the formation of a general picture for monitoring the airspace and joint traffic management in the area of contact between NATO and the Russian Federation. This proposal was taken with interest, so we now have some additional areas of specific work in our common interest. Of course, we stressed that of key importance to a real solution of security problems is the speediest entry of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty into force, which is the material basis of our relations in the area of military security. We are satisfied that the new members of the alliance have today officially reaffirmed that after the adapted Agreement comes into effect they will accede to it.
The priorities of practical cooperation in responding to the new challenges also were discussed at today's meeting.
In this regard, I would like to especially emphasize the Council-endorsed Plan of Action to Combat Terrorism. You have the possibility to acquaint yourselves with it. This is a qualitative spurt; for we are moving from mere declarations to practical solidarity actions, including with the employment of military means, in order to repulse a common threat posed by terrorism. The plan envisages three levels of interaction - to prevent terrorist threats, to fight them directly, and to cooperate in eliminating the consequences of terrorist attacks. The measures set into the Plan bear a comprehensive character and encompass the most diverse fields - exchanges of classified information, training exercises and practice of antiterrorist units, the joint development of explosive substance detectors, the setting up of effective systems of responding to aircraft hijacking and protecting aircraft from MANPADs, and lots of other things. We agreed immediately to start implementing the measures outlined.
There was signed today the Agreement in the form of an exchange of letters determining the legal and organizational parameters for Russia's joining the NATO counter-terrorist operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean. After our experience of interaction in the Balkans this will be a serious new area of practical cooperation between our military - now in the field of jointly combating the challenges of the 21st century.
We also approved a RNC Activity Program for 2005. A solid and voluminous document it is, where a broad range of tasks and measures is outlined which we will have to implement next year in the most promising areas of the partnership - the establishment of theater missile defenses, the nonproliferation of WMDs and their delivery vehicles, crisis settlement, and operational compatibility.
As I said, we agreed to speed up the work on the establishment of a common system for monitoring the airspace and managing air traffic, starting from the Baltic region. This would be a major confidence building measure, as at issue is the actual liquidation of the dividing line between Russia and NATO in the missile defense field. The common monitoring system is useful also in terms of the adoption of measures to fight the menace of air terrorism.
There was a serious, keen discussion of the threat of drugs, which emanates from the territory of Afghanistan. The struggle against it is important both for the process of the rehabilitation of the country itself and for regional security. Especially with the link between drug traffic and terrorism in mind, we suggested developing a program of coordinated measures, in the implementation of which the Government of Afghanistan, the international forces deployed in the country and Afghanistan's neighbors would participate. We particularly stressed the prospects of a format of interaction between NATO, with regard to its role in the multinational force in Afghanistan, and the CSTO, especially as the Secretary General of this Organization had already approached NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer with the proposal to establish contacts between the two organizations. We feel that the field of combating the Afghan threat of drugs is simply an obvious field for joint activities.
At the end of the meeting we adopted a fairly substantive declaration, which along with the statement of the progress made during the existence of the RNC sets out the priorities of our further movement forward, including that in the areas which are reflected in the Counter-Terrorism Action Plan and the Plan of Measures in the work of the Russia-NATO Council for the next year.
At our NATO colleagues' suggestion, an exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine took place. It is gratifying that we found a common denominator, which, first and foremost, consists of the need to avoid any interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country, its laws and Constitution. The necessity is stressed of resolving all the questions that arise by the Ukrainians themselves on the basis of their Constitution and laws. Special emphasis is given to the inadmissibility of any violence, intimidation and incitement. This is particularly important because the incitement, unfortunately, did take place. I hope that it will cease. The keen signal from the Russia-NATO Council reflects our concern over what is happening in Ukraine. Our desire is that it should retain stability. Simultaneously this signal is not an attempt to dictate to the Ukrainian people and authorities what they are to do in this situation. This is their internal matter and that's how Russia has always considered it.
Question: You came from Sofia, where at the OSCE meeting contradictions came to the fore. Here, on the contrary, the confrontational moments receded into the background. It turns out that with the same very people, but in their "NATO look" it is easier for you to negotiate. Although, just a few years ago, Russia did object to the growth of the importance of NATO in the European system of security. Russia was then saying that the OSCE must be central in this area. What has changed in the world, in your opinion?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I think that, in the first place, the state of affairs in our relations with NATO has changed thanks largely to the establishment of the RNC. As I said, its major distinctive feature is the principles of equality and mutual consideration of interests and the clearly applicable rules for implementing these principles in practical activities regarding the joint assessment of problems and threats and the elaboration of mechanisms to respond to these threats and problems and implementing the agreements through the joint mechanisms. The Council works on consensus principles, and this rule is actually being strictly adhered to. No misunderstandings occur just because somebody has misunderstood somebody, and therefore in somebody's final statements something does not sound properly - such misunderstandings do not happen because the principles are being strictly applied.
Unfortunately, in the OSCE, which is indeed called upon to be a pan-European organization of security and economic and humanitarian cooperation, the sphere of security has somehow receded into the background, and we suggested rectifying these twists in Sofia. In particular, carrying out work within the OSCE to compare the military doctrines. This would be a very serious job, taking into account the changes that are occurring in Europe, both after the NATO enlargement and in the context of the reconfiguration of the US military presence abroad. That is, it is a real concrete matter which would help everybody understand each other better, would help everybody see for themselves that the military plans which the various participants of the pan-European process have are not directed against anyone from this region, but against common threats. But, regrettably, this our proposal was blocked because of an artificial linkage to something which has no bearing on the tasks of pan-European security.
And one more shortcoming of the OSCE - there are no comprehensible generally adopted rules or actions there. Hence the risk arises, and with some people the temptation also to manipulate things on behalf of the OSCE and to make all kinds of statements with reference to it, which do not reflect the common stand of the Organization. And it is just this kind of, I would say, incomprehensibility or looseness of the OSCE that, of course, does not allow it to play the role which is designated for it. We submitted proposals concerning its reform by proceeding exactly from a desire to correct these shortcomings and, among other things, to so do that it would have the rules understandable to all, the same criteria for the assessment of all the questions which the Organization is designed to deal with, and the uniform agreed mechanisms for joint work which would be approved by all and adopted on the basis of the same very consensus which lies at the base of its activities. I do not think that here, in Brussels, within the RNC, joint accords come to the fore, and confrontation recedes into the background. Actually there was no confrontation here. It is an entirely businesslike mechanism. Even though it does consider political questions as initially agreed by the sides, it is not politicized. Herein lie its advantage and merit.
Question: Yesterday you with the NATO partners agreed the Joint Statement, which says that the confrontation which had been observed in the last few weeks has disappeared. But do there remain any differences between Moscow and Western capitals as to how to resolve the crisis situation in Ukraine?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: As I said, there was no confrontation here. As to Ukraine, I expressed satisfaction that we had agreed not to interfere in its internal affairs. We had heard the statements by some Western representatives that, for example, Ukraine should be with the West. I leave this statement on their conscience, but I regard that it is provocative and instigatory. We are convinced that Ukraine alone will be able to select its foreign policy priorities and, based on the exercise of its sovereign rights, develop its international relations. In the geopolitical sense Ukraine cannot be with the West or East alone, it lies in Europe on the border with NATO and the EU and the CIS, including Russia and other countries. To try to instigate it to think that its choice has to be made in favor of one of these sides - I consider this incorrect and wrong for the tasks of stability, cooperation and partnership in this entire geopolitical space, which is not limited to the Euro-Atlantic, but also includes the Eurasian. Probably it is necessary to move to a more global understanding of our common tasks.
Question: You said exactly about excitement. I want to recall that in your Joint Statement the talk was about territorial integrity and democracy in Ukraine, which is vital for the security and stability of the entire world space. What assessment can you give to the actions of Mr. Yuri Luzhkov, who recently was at the congress in Severodonetsk, the plan of which was to create a new state on the territory of Ukraine and its practical division? In regard to the remarks of Luzhkov, some representatives of the Parliament of Ukraine would like to declare him persona non grata. How do you assess this step for the further mutual development of relations?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I assess the situation as an internal matter of Ukraine. You mentioned yourself that there are procedures which can be applied in such instances. The leaders of Russia's and Ukraine's regions regularly visit each other. We have the closest regional ties. There is nothing surprising about those trips. No one built any dividing wall between Russia and Ukraine.
As to the measure which you spoke about, I do not remember that it was proclaiming as its aim the creation of an independent state. I read or heard nothing of this kind. I remember only that this conference, at which the questions of how to live further were discussed, had been preceded by a whole series of crude violations of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine in the course of the picketing of government buildings and by statements that all these demonstrations would not cease until the opposition candidate entered the presidential palace. But we regard all that is happening in the region as subject to consideration by the Ukrainian authorities on the basis of the Constitution of Ukraine and its laws.
Question: How practically do you understand the new initiative concerning monitoring of the airspace? Does this imply that Russia has a right, for example, to monitor the airspace of the Baltic states? Will you tie this initiative to your promise that a Treaty on the borders with the Baltic states will be signed soon?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We do not tie this initiative to anything. It will not be discussed at our bilateral meetings, because this proposal was made at the RNC and, by the way, was supported by the Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Artis Pabriks. I have already said that the talk is not about somebody flying into somebody else's airspace, but about a joint system of Russia and NATO to monitor the airspace, about forming its general picture and about joint air traffic management. This is not only a very important confidence building measure, but also a practical step to avoid any possible incidents which might for technical or weather conditions become a cause for unnecessary complications. I repeat it, Latvian Foreign Minister Pabriks said today that he considers this idea interesting.
Question: You are saying it is not our business to impose on Ukraine any specific direction in which it should move, but we have heard the statements of representatives of Western countries who were saying Ukraine is an integral part of the West, thus trying to influence the political situation in Ukraine.
Should we allow a considerable involvement of the mission of OSCE observers and the representatives of the EU and other European structures? Yesterday US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he heard that the Ukrainian and Russian foreign affairs agencies had spoken in favor of the people of Ukraine deciding their future themselves.
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Of course, it is the people themselves who should decide the future of Ukraine. I can subscribe to this statement. As to the observers and mediators, everything that is done at the invitation of the Ukrainian government is its independent decision. Such is their choice as regards drawing external participation into some or other processes.
Question: The US State Department has said that the Russian Federation was rendering financial support to one of the presidential candidates of Ukraine, thus trying to influence the outcome of the elections. Does this correspond to reality or can you refute this? Are there any evidences of the instances of influence by Western countries on the outcome of the elections? How do you feel about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Ukraine is a sovereign state and it has a full right to select its foreign policy priorities and partners.
I did not hear a statement of the US State Department about some aspects of the financing of the election campaign in Ukraine, but I did read a variety of speculations on this topic in the press, just as some reports that Washington had discussed whether the fact that US budget funds went to support the activities of the Freedom House organization was likewise interference in the election campaign in Ukraine, because it had financed the election campaign, as reported in US publications. Probably such reports are quite a few. I repeat it, in each country there should be its own rules, on the basis of which an election campaign is to be conducted, including regulation of its financial aspects. These rules ought to be observed in each particular country. And one shouldn't make any generalizations on the basis of newspaper publications.
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