1. Defense Minister Says Russian Nukes in Good Hands
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At military exercises in northern Russia, aimed at protecting nuclear weapons from terrorist attacks, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov said that the notion that Russian nukes were poorly guarded was a myth, Reuters reported.
As part of disarmament agreements, Russia is supposed to decrease its stockpile of nuclear warheads by approximately two-thirds over the next ten years. The generally low morale and bad conditions in the army cause experts to wonder whether the nuclear weapons are safe from militants who might seize or steal them from storage sites.
Ivanov said that there had never been an attempt at seizure of weapons neither in recent years nor during Soviet times, despite the myths to the contrary, and said it was unfortunate that the idea that the weapons are badly guarded is propagated around the world.
2. Russia's nuclear weapons in safe hands: defense minister
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Russia's defense minister angrily dismissed speculation Tuesday that his country's nuclear arsenal was not safe amid growing global fears of a potential terror attack involving weapons of mass destruction.
"Never, neither in the history of the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation, where there any real attempts to seize nuclear weapons," Sergei Ivanov was quoted as saying by Interfax during a visit to the Barents Sea port of Murmansk.
"We have never had terrorist attacks on any of our sites," he said in response to a reporter's question.
"But unfortunately, myths are spreading in various regions of the world that Russia's nuclear arsenal is of poor quality and unsafe."
His comments came amid Russian military exercises aimed at preventing nuclear accidents, which were observed by specialists from 17 NATO countries.
The West has expressed increasing concern about the state and safety of Russia's nuclear arsenal amid the troubles of its cash-starved military.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed his close ally Ivanov in charge of army reforms and has since promoted him to head the whole massive military infrastructure, demoting the status of the general chiefs of staff.
3. Russian defence minister to attend Avaria-2004 exercise which starts at a training ground near Olenegorsk
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Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov is expected to arrive in Russiaï¿½s Murmansk region on Tuesday to monitor the Avaria-2004 exercise which starts at a training ground near Olenegorsk (the Murmansk region) the same day. The exercise will proceed according to the following scenario: a military truck convoy transporting nuclear ammunition is supposed to come under a terrorist attack. Terrorists will wound several servicemen. A car with nuclear containers will go off the road and fall into a lake. Radiological reconnaissance crews will be sent to the scene of the accident after troops repel a militant attack.
Nearly 50 observers from the armies of NATO countries have been invited to observe the exercises.
A Russian Defence Ministry source told Itar-Tass that the second stage of the exercise will also be devoted to anti-terror tasks. Its participants will learn how to act in critical situations caused by railway explosions or accidents involving echelons transporting nuclear ammunition.
"The history of the Soviet Union and Russia knows no real attempts to seize nuclear weapons or commit terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said during nuclear safety exercises Avaria-2004.
"Unfortunately, there is a myth made up in certain parts of the world that Russian nuclear weapons are not protected qualitatively and sufficiently. We are paying careful attention to this issue because Russia understands its responsibility in protecting nuclear weapons and preventing accidents," said Ivanov.
In his words, new equipment has been recently purchased to protect nuclear facilities and prevent accidents. "Terrorist methods are updated, and we are reacting adequately," said the defence minister. "Exercises are regularly held in different parts of the country to repel potential attacks on nuclear facilities, and measures are trained to eliminate consequences of the accidents," said Ivanov.
The testing range in Olenegorsk is hosting an active phase of the Avaria-2004 exercises. During the exercises, an attack was imitated on a convoy transporting containers with nuclear ammunition. The attack was repelled by two helicopters from the air and on the ground.
Then, the durability of the super-containers was checked. The cars carrying them were burnt, blown up with anti-tank mines, and shelled from grenade launchers and automatic weapons. The containers passed the durability test. Monitoring groups and brigades preventing contamination of the environment are heading for the site. In the end of the manoeuvre, the defence minister presented the most prominent participants with awards and memorable watches.
Early August saw intensified anti-terrorist preparations, and not only in Athens, where the Olympics will begin soon. Or in the US, where the threat condition is Orange, one below Severe (Red), and means a high risk of terrorist attacks. Or in Iraq, where coalition forces seem unable to do anything about terrorists.
A tactical exercise, Avariya (Accident) 2004, is planned in Russia for August 3-5 outside the city of Olenegorsk in the Murmansk region, and the Rubezh (Frontier) 2004 exercise of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) are to begin at the settlement of Kurdai, Kazakhstan, on August 2 and will continue from August 4 to 6 close to the Balykchi and the Edelweiss mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.
Although both are clearly anti-terrorist exercises, they differ greatly in terms of structure, the number of participants and significance. Rubezh 2004 will be a traditional exercise of Central Asian states, with Rapid Deployment Forces (special forces and airborne units) airlifted from Chechnya and Central Russia to the deployment sites of Kazakh, Tajik and Kyrgyz troops. The exercise will include command post training, cutting off transport corridors which terrorists and their accomplices may use, and then blocking and liquidating terrorist bases. The exercise in the Russian North will be unique, as it entails training in regular army and special operations to repel terrorist attacks targeting transports carrying nuclear weapons.
A situation will be simulated outside Murmansk when imaginary terrorists try to seize a nuclear weapon carried by a vehicle. One of the vehicles (the one allegedly carrying the charge) will be blown up by a land mine, mimicking what happens in Chechnya or Iraq. The terrorists will then try to seize the container with the weapon; there will be a shootout between them and the convoy, who will be soon helped by a group of forces hurrying to the battlezone in helicopters and armoured vehicles. In short, the troops will receive training in repelling the attack and in withdrawing the "threatened" charge to the technical maintenance depot.
This is not the last surprise planned for the Avariya exercise. According to the plan devised in the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian Defence Ministry, which is responsible for the safety of nuclear weapons in Russia, men and officers will also receive training to repel a terrorist attack targeting a train carrying nuclear weapons. Besides this, divers will search for a sunken vehicle in order to remove a super-container with a nuclear charge from it.
Avariya and Rubezh will differ in the training standards to fulfil the tasks: though the standards of fighting terrorists in the mountains or during the transportation of nuclear weapons should be comparably high, the dangers involved and political consequences are more serious in the latter case. This is probably why observers from NATO countries (above all the US) have been invited to the exercise in the Murmansk region.
No NATO observers, not even from the Manas base outside Bishkek, have been invited to the exercise in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Only officers from Uzbekistan and China, which are (like the majority of the Collective Security Treaty signatories taking part in the exercise) members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, have been invited. The SCO is not a military organisation, yet one of its goals is to combat international terrorism.
Besides, the number of troops involved in the exercise in the mountains will not exceed 1,500, which is, by international standards, too few for the obligatory invitation of international observers (the lower ceiling is 10,000).
On the other hand, military observers from NATO countries will not attend the exercise in Central Asia not simply because it is small. This "modesty" has a military-political explanation. Despite the growing threat of terrorism in the region (the recent explosions in Uzbekistan are proof of this), Moscow, Astana, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Beijing and Tashkent want to stress that they can deal with the problem on their own, without NATO. You carry on the counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, they seem to be saying, while we will do our best to defeat terrorism in the zone of responsibility of the CSTO and the SCO.
The security of Russia's nuclear weapons and their depots, transportation routes and other military infrastructure is a completely different matter. The Russian leadership and the Defence Ministry have repeatedly stated that the country's strategic deterrence weapons are carefully protected and perfectly safe. On the other hand, the Kremlin has never rejected financial and material assistance to improve protection systems. Paul Longsworth, First Deputy Secretary of Energy and Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation (National Nuclear Security Administration), recently visited Russia and said that Moscow and Washington were doing their best to prevent terrorists from gaining access to nuclear materials. The US has spent over $400 million in Russia towards this end.
In a significant shift in U.S. policy, the Bush administration announced this week that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty that would ban production of nuclear weapons materials.
For several years the United States and other nations have pursued the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. At an arms-control meeting this week in Geneva, the Bush administration told other nations it still supported a treaty, but not verification.
Administration officials, who have showed skepticism in the past about the effectiveness of international weapons inspections, said they made the decision after concluding that such a system would cost too much, would require overly intrusive inspections and would not guarantee compliance with the treaty. They declined, however, to explain in detail how they believed U.S. security would be harmed by creating a plan to monitor the treaty.
Arms-control specialists reacted negatively, saying the change in U.S. position will dramatically weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. The announcement, they said, also virtually kills a 10-year international effort to lure countries such as Pakistan, India and Israel into accepting some oversight of their nuclear production programs.
The announcement at the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament comes several months after President Bush declared it a top priority of his administration to prevent the production and trafficking in nuclear materials, and as the administration works to blunt criticism by Democrats and others that it has failed to work effectively with the United Nations and other international bodies on such vital global concerns.
"The president has said his priority is to block the spread of nuclear materials to rogue states and terrorists, and a verifiable ban on the production of such materials is an essential part of any such strategy," said Daryl Kimball, director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. "Which is why it is so surprising and baffling that the administration is not supporting a meaningful treaty."
The U.N. Conference on Disarmament includes 66 countries as members. It had announced its intent to start negotiations this year toward a verifiable international agreement known as the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) that would ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. The two ingredients are used for setting off a chain-reaction nuclear explosion.
The treaty wouldn't affect existing stockpiles or production for non-weapons purposes, such as energy or medical research. Mainly, it was designed to reinforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to impose restraints on India, Pakistan and Israel, whose nuclear programs operate outside the reach of NPT inspectors.
In 2000, all three countries, the Clinton administration and the rest of the conference members agreed to pursue negotiation of the treaty. But last year, when the possibility of starting negotiations arose in the conference, the Bush administration decided to review its position on the FMCT.
On Thursday, Jackie Wolcott Sanders, the U.S. representative, said the United States would support the treaty, but without a way to verify compliance.
The State Department later released a statement saying that an internal review had concluded that an inspection regime "would have been so extensive that it could compromise key signatories' core national security interests and so costly that many countries will be hesitant to accept it."
Furthermore, "even with extensive verification measures, we will not have high confidence in our ability to monitor compliance with an FMCT." Bush administration officials would not elaborate on the statement or on the U.S. position, except to say they would send a delegation to Geneva to better explain the position to the conference. But the conference goes on recess in early September, leaving virtually no time to begin formal negotiations on the treaty before the end of the current presidential term. Since the disarmament conference can adopt a treaty only by consensus, the American position makes it highly unlikely that a verification system will be included in a future agreement.
Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry has supported the verification provision and has criticized the administration's policies on weapons of mass destruction, particularly after none turned up in Iraq after the war.
Early this year, after revelations that Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had sold nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea, Bush gave a major speech on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. He proposed several new measures, including encouraging all nations to criminalize proliferation and secure sensitive materials within their borders.
While declaring nonproliferation a priority, however, the administration has opposed other arms-control treaties that rely on inspection regimes.
In 2001, the administration opposed attempts to create an inspections regime for the Biological Weapons Convention. It has signed an arms-reduction deal with Russia that doesn't include new verification mechanisms, and in its first year in office, the administration pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
As Democrats and Republicans gather for their national conventions in Boston and New York, security officials are on alert against a terrorist attack. But American cities should be the last line of defense against terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. One of the first - and most effective - lines of defense begins 5,000 miles away in the Russian town of Shchuch'ye.
Deep in the Ural Mountains, Shchuch'ye holds perhaps the most dangerous and vulnerable stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the world - nearly 2 million poorly guarded Soviet-era shells containing 5,400 metric tons of deadly VX and sarin gas. Just one, hidden in a suitcase, could kill 85,000 people if unleashed inside Atlanta's Olympic Stadium.
Since 1992, the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program created by former Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar has worked to end such threats, deactivating or destroying more than 7,000 Russian nuclear warheads, missiles, bombers, and submarines.
Yet - thanks as much to congressional restrictions as to Russian resistance - construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch'ye has proceeded in fits and starts and even now is threatened annually by arcane bureaucratic obstacles. This is no way to run a program designed to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction, which President Bush has called "the greatest threat before humanity today."
Congress now has a fresh opportunity to strengthen U.S. nonproliferation efforts. As leaders of an organization devoted to bringing best business practices to the national security apparatus, we recommend a number of business-style reforms to enhance these critical programs.
Ensuring continuity. Russia has so far met four of six congressional conditions on U.S. funding for chemical weapons destruction. In the meantime, that money remains contingent on an annual presidential waiver that expires September 30. Past failures to extend waivers have caused construction at Shchuch'ye to grind to a halt for months at a time. No business could afford to operate in such a fitful manner; nor should a program so vital to our national security.
While agreeing with Congress' policy concerns, Senator Lugar warns that "the elimination of weapons of mass destruction must be our top priority." Rather than subject Shchuch'ye to the annual vagaries of the legislative process, Congress should grant permanent waiver authority to keep operations running smoothly year-to-year while still holding Russia to its obligations.
Invest where it counts. Investing our defense dollars in programs like CTR, where the nation can achieve the biggest bang for the smallest buck, makes both common sense and business sense. CTR's $409 million in funding is less than one-tenth of one percent of the total $447 billion defense budget. Eliminating all the weapons at Shchuch'ye will cost each American roughly the same as a large lattï¿½. These efforts are good security on the cheap, and Congress must maintain its support for them.
Likewise, the Energy Department's proposed Global Threat Reduction Initiative will be a bargain by any measure. At a cost of $450 million over the next decade, the initiative will secure at-risk fissile and radiological materials worldwide, depriving terrorists of the building blocks of atomic and "dirty" bombs that could devastate a major metropolitan area. Congress needs to do its part by passing implementing legislation now under consideration to jump-start the initiative.
Leadership at the top. Finally, the direct involvement of a CEO can mean the difference between success and failure. In this case, a triad of access, tax, and liability issues - including the Russian Duma's failure to ratify a broad umbrella agreement governing CTR - has stalled crucial disarmament projects.
Destroying Russia's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction before they can be stolen by or sold to terrorists is too important a task to flounder over these technicalities. Repeated entreaties by senior administration officials have been rebuffed by Moscow. The time has come for President Bush to engage directly with President Vladimir Putin to break the political logjam over these critical programs.
Nuclear materials, deadly germs, and nearly 2 million Russian chemical weapons are at risk of theft or diversion. The race is on between Americans and Russians who want to destroy them and terrorists who would use them against both our nations. This is a race we know how to win. The consequences of failure are unthinkable.
Bernard Marcus is Co-Founder of The Home Depot, Inc. and a board member of Business Executives for National Security (BENS). General Charles G. Boyd, USAF (Ret.) is President and CEO of BENS.
1. NATO nuclear arms storage facilities still closed to Russian experts - Russian military official
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Igor Volynkin, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's 12th central department for nuclear security in the country's armed forces, said that Russian experts have not so far been provided with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the way NATO member-nations store, protect and transport nuclear weapons.
"Not a single western country has so far shown us its capabilities in this area," Volynkin told journalists at a testing ground in the Murmansk region.
2. RUSSIA, NATO TO EXCHANGE SECURITY TECHNOLOGIES AT NUCLEAR OBJECTS, SERGEI IVANOV SAYS
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Russia and NATO will start exchanging security technologies at nuclear objects soon, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists during the Avaria (Accident) 2004 nuclear exercises.
"I believe we shall exchange technologies on the security of nuclear weapons' storage and elimination of nuclear accidents," the minister said.
According to him, servicemen of the 12th main department of the Defense Ministry, 200th brigade of the Leningrad military district, representatives of the federal atomic energy agency, Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, and Emergencies Ministry are involved in the exercises near Olenegorsk (Murmansk region).
"The personnel has accomplished its goals successfully," Sergei Ivanov stressed.
In his words, 49 observers from 17 countries attended the exercises. Such exercises with NATO representatives have been held for the first time, Mr. Ivanov added.
Next year Russia will observe similar exercises in a NATO country, he noted. Such interaction between Moscow and Brussels, in particular, technologies exchange, will become a tradition, he said. According to Sergei Ivanov, nuclear security exercises are held regularly in Russia. When I took the office in 2001, I attended such exercises at once, the minister emphasized.
1. Russia, US officials discuss nonproliferation at talks in Moscow
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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak held talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones in the Russian capital on Friday.
The two officials discussed interaction of Moscow and Washington ï¿½in issues of strategic stability and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.ï¿½
The Russian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass the sides ï¿½discussed vital problems of the Russian-American relations in the context of implementation of agreements reached at high level.ï¿½
Besides, the ministry said, the officials exchanged views on the ï¿½settlement of regional conflicts and development of trade-economic ties.ï¿½
Elizabeth Jones is in charge of Europe and Eurasia affairs in the U.S. Department of State. According to her, Moscow and Washington have carried out enormous work for the development of strategic bilateral relations.
Russia is a reliable partner of the United States in the global fight against terrorism, as well as in solving the task of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, believes Jones.
According to the U.S. assistant secretary of state, Moscow is playing a very productive role in the multilateral negotiating process aimed at normalizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
She highly assessed the U.S. interaction with Russia in the Middle East, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Russia and NATO have established rather good partnership, Jones noted. She said the U.S. side is consulting with Moscow on the issue of redeployment of American troops abroad.
August 2 turned out to be a "military day" for the Kremlin, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports. In the morning, President Vladimir Putin greeted paratroopers marking the 74th anniversary of the foundation of the Airborne Troops. Later in the day, he met the cabinet to discuss upcoming military exercises.
Today, the first military exercises of the Defense Ministry organized within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council are beginning on the Kola Peninsula. One of the Russian Defense Ministry's 14 nuclear arsenals is situated outside Olenegorsk (the Murmansk region). The Avaria-2004 maneuvers will drill security and defense measures at military nuclear facilities and safety measures while nuclear warheads are transported. "We want these exercises to be open and to demonstrate our ability to guarantee security at nuclear facilities," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at his yesterday's meeting with the president. Observers from 17 NATO countries will attend the maneuvers, the minister stressed.
1. Reactor run in at power generating unit 3, which is under construction at the Kalinin nuclear power plant
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One of the most important sub-stages of preparatory work has been completed at energy-generating unit 3, which is under construction at the Kalinin nuclear power plant (NPP): hydraulic testing, flashing and running in of the reactor complex is over,ï¿½ a NPP source told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
The entire set of work has been done to test all the key and auxiliary systems and equipment in the reactor compartment at nominal process variables.
The source also said that in accordance with the directive schedule the next sub-stage has begun ï¿½ in its course all faults and defects, if any are detected, will be doctored.
Amidst a prolonged stalemate over where to build the world's largest nuclear fusion facility, the US is halting work on a homegrown fusion project. The decision caused concern among researchers at a fusion meeting earlier this week.
The US is pinning its hopes on ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which aims to lay the groundwork for using nuclear fusion as an inexhaustible and clean energy source.
But the project has been stalled since December 2003 because its six members - the US, the European Union, China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia ï¿½ cannot agree on where to build the facility. The EU, China, and Russia favour the French city of Cadarache, while the US, South Korea, and Japan back the Japanese town of Rokkashomura.
The deadlock has persisted even after both the EU and Japan sweetened their offers in June, each agreeing to pay half of ITER's estimated $5 billion construction costs to host the reactor. And rumours have spread that some parties might splinter off to build the reactor on their own.
Now, the standoff has lasted so long that the US has reached a deadline on another fusion project. The deadline was set in 2002 by a committee advising the US Department of Energy (DOE) to proceed with a smaller project called FIRE (Fusion Ignition Research Experiment) if ITER negotiations had stalled by July 2004.
1. Armenian nuclear power station to close July 31 for repairs
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Unit two at the Armenian nuclear power plant will be shut down at midnight local time for repairs and nuclear fuel loading.
At 1:25 a.m., on Friday, one of two turbo generators was stopped and the other will be stopped on July 31, the plant's general director, Garik Markosian, told Interfax.
Reactor repairs at unit two will take 65 days. Nuclear fuel will be completely unloaded and the condition of the reactor's metal body will be checked. Skoda of the Czech Republic will carry out the work.
Management company Inter RAO UES has already delivered 100 nuclear fuel cassettes to the plant for $12 million, Markosian said.
The power plant produced 1.66 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from January 1 to July 29 2004. It sold 1.51 billion kilowatt hours.
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