In pursuit of forming yet another "coalition of the willing," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unscheduled visit to Moscow to persuade Russia to put pressure on Iran for its nuclear infractions. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov politely but firmly demurred.
It should be abundantly clear that Moscow and Washington do not see eye-to-eye on the Iranian question. When Rice declared last Saturday that Iran had no need for even a civilian nuclear program, Lavrov countered that Iran had a full right to possess a nuclear fuel cycle. Meanwhile, Igor Ivanov, the former foreign minister who now heads the Kremlin's Security Council, is preparing a proposal to take to Tehran for the construction of a joint Iranian-Russian uranium enrichment facility for the Bushehr reactor.
Russia sees no reason to bring the Iranian file before the UN Security Council to discuss sanctions, not to mention more punitive actions, and Lavrov made clear that Russia's abstention during the Sept. 24 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which opened the possibility of referring Iran to the UN Security Council, was meant as a diplomatic courtesy to the United States.
For too long, we have pretended that disagreements between Moscow and Washington over what to do about Iran were "misunderstandings," that over time there would be a convergence between the Russian and American positions. It is very true that neither Russia nor the United States wants Iran to possess nuclear warheads. But beyond that joint position, there is no basis for a common Russian-American approach to dealing with Iran, and, in a sense, Rice's most recent failure reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of Russia's position and the nature of Iranian-Russian relations.
Ever since the end of the Cold War, and despite a recent rapprochement with Israel, the Islamic Republic has been Russia's most important partner in the Middle East. Much of this is due to economic factors. Iran has emerged as a valuable market for its cash-starved defense industries. Although the nuclear cooperation between the two states has garnered the most headlines, Russia has also been willing to sell Iran a large quantity of conventional arms, including sophisticated aircraft and submarines. In addition, unlike the West, which buys mainly raw materials from Russia, Iran is willing to purchase a variety of industrial goods.
The creation of new north-south transport corridors have given Russia virtual access to Persian Gulf ports and opened the possibility of vastly expanded trading connections not only with Iran but with other lucrative markets such as India. In short, there are powerful economic lobbies that support the expansion of Russian-Iranian ties and have no desire to see the imposition of economic sanctions that could deprive them of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in income. Given that reality, the notion that Russia would assist in applying significant economic pressure on Iran for its nuclear infractions is far-fetched and fanciful.
But even assuming that the United States was willing and able to "buy out" Iranian contracts with Russia, there is a more fundamental divide.
Washington assumes that the rest of the world shares its assessment of Tehran as an irresponsible, dangerous regime, based on its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, its refusal to recognize Israel and its support for groups like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Russia has a far different view. Iran kept a low profile in Central Asia after the breakup of the Soviet Union and worked with Russia to end Tajikistan's devastating civil war in 1997; and has Iran never sought to inflame the Muslim regions of Russia itself. As for Iran's transgressions, for some Russians, there is little difference between Iran and U.S. ally Pakistan, another power that had a clandestine nuclear program, that proliferated weapons technologies via the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan (which benefited both the Iranian and North Korean programs) and that has, over the past decades, also been a state sponsor of terrorists and militants in other parts of South Asia.
Russia drew a major distinction between the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which it viewed as a dangerous cancer allowing al-Qaida to export death and mayhem all over the globe, and the Islamic Republic, which it views as a predictable, rational actor in global affairs. The mistake U.S. policymakers have made is assuming that cooperation with Russia over Afghanistan would translate into shared understandings of what to do, first in Iraq and now in Iran.
Rice's failure in Moscow ends the hope that Washington could rapidly forge a UN Security Council consensus on Iran. Unless the United States is prepared to make a major bid for Russian support -- such as conceding a Eurasian sphere of influence to Moscow -- or Iran decides to support the Chechens, the George W. Bush's administration will be left with two unpleasant alternatives: accepting a watered-down approach to Tehran that keeps the existing regime in place to acquire an advanced nuclear capability under uncertain international supervision, or preparing for costly action with only a partial coalition of major powers should Iran fail to cease and desist from its actions. In evaluating what to do next about Iran, the United States should have no illusions.
Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. Nikolas K. Gvosdev is editor of The National Interest. They contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
1. Deputy minister to lead Russian delegation to Korea talks
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MOSCOW - Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has approved the list of members of the Russian delegation to the six- nation talks on the settlement of the North Korean nuclear problem.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev will head the delegation, says a report posted on the government website on Wednesday.
The other delegation members include Russia's ambassadors to China and North Korea Sergei Razov and Andrei Karlov, officials from the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service.
North Korea has no nuclear weapons, despite its repeated claims to the contrary, Itar-Tass quoted a high-ranking Russian official as saying on Thursday.
Russia's Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Sergei Antipov made the comment during an interview with Russian news agency Itar-Tass in Tokyo. He is currently visiting Japan to discuss cooperation between the two countries on several nuclear projects, according to a Tokyo datelined story filed by Yonhap News. "Pyongyang has no possibilities to produce arms-grade (nuclear) charges," he was quoted as saying in the interview.
He did not rule out the possibility of the North completing the process of producing plutonium from its 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods. However, the availability of materials does not mean that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons from them, "since the technology of their production is by an order more difficult than the use of atom for peace," the Russian official said.
Pyongyang declared on Feb. 10 that it has produced nuclear weapons and will boycott negotiations until Washington softens its "hostile" policy toward it.
The six-nation disarmament talks, which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, convened three times to try to resolve the North's nuclear dispute, but little progress has been made. A fourth round, scheduled for last September, did not take place after North Korea boycotted it.
In the meantime, Russia knew about North Korea's Feb. 10 declaration that it possesses nuclear arms and is indefinitely boycotting six-party nuclear talks at least two days ahead of the official announcement, a diplomatic source told Kyodo News.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry announced Feb. 10 that Pyongyang has manufactured nuclear weapons and that it would indefinitely boycott the six-way talks involving China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States.
It was not immediately clear whether Russia obtained the information through official channels or its own sources.
Several Chinese government sources told Kyodo News that Beijing was not notified of the North Korean declaration in advance.
When U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill met with Chinese officials in Beijing in mid-February, Chinese officials expressed surprise at the North Korean announcement because China did not hear anything about it in advance, according to another diplomatic source.
The six have met for three rounds of talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions since August 2003. But the fourth round, which had been scheduled to be held by the end of last September, did not take place after North Korea accused the United States of "hostile" policy toward Pyongyang.
3. Russia to be most active at talks to settle DPRK nuclear problem
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MOSCOW -- Russia "conducts an active line for successful settlement of the nuclear problem of the Democratic Peopleï¿½s Republic of Korea," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
"Time is needed to take all the steps regarding the arrangements reached," Yakovenko said. "Russia will be most active at the negotiations," he said.
1. ICBM launched from Baikonur Space Center hits target
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MOSCOW - Russia's RS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (NATO reporting name Stiletto), which was launched from the Baikonur Space Center, has hit its target, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The missile was launched at 11:30 a.m. Moscow time (07:30 GMT) toward the Kura test range in Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
"The launch was conducted in accordance with a Russian Armed Forces training plan to extend the missile's service life," the ministry said.
The RS-18 missile has been in service for 28 years. "The test launch was designed to extend the missile's service life to 29 years," the Strategic Missile Force said.
RS-18 missiles are considered to be very reliable, as proven by numerous test launches. About 160 Stiletto missiles are currently in operation in the Russian Strategic Missile Force. Each missile carries six warheads.
3. Turkmenistan to ban flights of foreign planes carrying WMD
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ASHGABAT--Turkmenistan will ban flights of foreign planes carrying components of weapons of mass destruction and missiles in its airspace, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
"The day after tomorrow we will make a statement banning flights of foreign planes which are carrying components of weapons of mass destruction and missiles," he said.
The Russian open joint-stock company, TVEL, has signed a contract with the Libyan research centre, Tajoura, for the delivery of low-enriched nuclear fuel (enriched by less than 20 percent) for an IRT-1 research reactor, a TVEL announcement quoted by Interfax says.
The contract was signed by TVEL, the U.S. Department of Energy and Libyaï¿½s Renewable Energy and Water Desalination Research Centre. TVEL is to deliver fuel of this sort to Libya for the first time...previous deliveries of highly-enriched nuclear fuel were carried out by the Soviet Union, the announcement says.
The low-enriched nuclear fuel will allow the research reactor at the Tajoura centre to be operated more safely and will lower the threat of the proliferation of highly-enriched uranium material.
TVEL has already signed a similar contract with the Czech Technical University in Prague and delivered low-enriched fuel.
The deliveries of nuclear fuel to Libya will be carried out in the framework of a Russian-American program to switch research reactors to fuel with a lower degree of enrichment. This project is being implemented under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under the program, Russian-manufactured nuclear fuel assemblies are repatriated to the Russian Federation from research reactors abroad, with fuel with a lower degree of enrichment supplied in return. At the present time, highly-enriched fresh nuclear fuel has already been imported from Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, the Czech Republic and Latvia.
TVEL is one of the worldï¿½s biggest producers and suppliers of nuclear fuel for energy and research reactors in Russia and abroad. The corporation consists of 15 enterprises of the nuclear fuel cycle and auxiliary infrastructure. TVEL keeps 17 percent of the worldï¿½s nuclear power station reactors in operation.
2. Chinese bank gives loan for floating NPP construction
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Plans to begin construction of a floating nuclear power plant have been bolstered with the signing of a loan agreement with a Chinese bank.
The venture is expected to see Russian nuclear agency Rosenergoatom invest some $35 million in the project next year, but some $14 million of this investment may come from the Chinese national EXIMBANK if domestic financing is insufficient.
"We signed a contract with China on terms [for a potential loan if needed],ï¿½ Alexander Polushkin, head of development at Rosenergoatom is quoted as saying in local media. If the Russian government budget funds the project, the loan agreement will be abandoned, if not, under the terms of the loan, Chinese shipyards would build the main power plant housing, which would then be transported to Russia to be outfitted with the reactors.
According to Polushkin, an $85m contract has already been signed with Bohai shipyards of China, which is to be enacted after the Chinese EXIMBANK extends the loan. The final contract with the bank is yet to be concluded but building the station could begin in January 2006. Construction is expected to take five years at a total cost of some $210 million. Izhora and Baltiysky plants in St Petersburg will manufacture reactor equipment. The floating nuclear plant will be placed at the Sevmash plant in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region.
St Petersburg department of the Russian National Reserve Bank issued a $1.7m credit for the St Petersburg institute Atomenergoproekt, reported the bankï¿½s website.
The credit will be spent for the design development of the Leningrad NPP-2. Atomenergoproekt developed designs for many nuclear power plants and has been working on Leningrad NPP-2 with VVER-1500 units since 2001. The launch of the first units VVER-1500 at the Leningrad NPP-2 is scheduled for 2012.
The US has voiced its interest into Bulgaria's energy sector.
Within the frames of the official visit of the Bulgarian delegation to Washington President Georgi Parvanov and Economy and Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov held meetings with US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Minister Ovacharov and Samuel Bodman have discussed the options for participation of US companies in the construction of Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant Belene.
The US authorities have also voiced their support for the construction of alternative opportunities for nature gas and petrol supply. The Burgas-Alexandrandroupolis and Burgas-Vlora and the Nabucco pipelines have also been topics of discussion.
Following the meeting Minister Ovacharov said that the US energy giant AES has announced its decision to finance the Maritsa East 1 project with USD 500 M.
The Bulgarian delegates and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff have focused on the options for boosted cooperation in cases of nature disasters and identifying and coping with terror threats.
1. Putin orders support to be provided for nuclear center - PM
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SAROV. NIZHNY NOVGOROD REGION - The Russian government is to attribute a new status to a federal nuclear center in the city of Sarov, in order to provide it with financial support from the state, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told reporters in Sarov on Tuesday.
"The president instructed the government to find a way of awarding the federal nuclear center such a status which would enable it to receive all necessary state support," he said.
"The instruction was only released today," he said.
1. Media Note: Russian and Eurasian Scientists Compete with International Counterparts: Technology Advances and Commercial Opportunities Presented During American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting October 31 - November 4, 2005, Cincinnati, Ohio
Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State
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Building on the success of the 2004 Moscow Chemical Science and Commercialization Conference (http://biistate.net/chemconference/2004/), the U.S. Department of State Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR), in conjunction with the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow (ISTC) and the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU), has invited more than 40 representatives from renowned chemical institutes in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to participate and present at the 2005 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. The goal for the scientists is to enhance sustainable partnerships by meeting with Western scientific and commercial counterparts to further establish cooperation.
The U.S. Department of State ISN/CTR Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise (NWMDE) programs are targeted nonproliferation initiatives engaging former Soviet weapons scientists in peaceful and sustainable civilian research with scientific and commercial collaborators. In the context of U.S. nonproliferation efforts and in cooperation with host governments, the long-term aim of the programs is to ensure opportunities for sustainable employment for participating scientists and engineers. Fostering sustainable partnerships with U.S. industry is an approach enabling mutual sustainability and commercialization.
During the AIChE meeting, Russian and Eurasian chemical experts from select institutes will participate in a poster session and three oral presentation sessions designed to specifically highlight science, technology, and commercial opportunities in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The presentations will focus on: 1) Opportunities and Challenges: Doing Business in Russia and Eurasia; 2) Environmental Monitoring and Remediation; and 3) Drug Development, Toxicology Testing and Synthesis.
AIChE presents an opportunity for U.S. companies to meet with Russian and Eurasian scientists whose skills or capabilities might augment company or institute interests. For more information on institutes and scientists capabilities please access: http://biistate.net/chemconference.
For more information on Department of State NWMDE Programs please contact Dr. Jason Rao, Senior NWMDE Program Coordinator (202-647-2601, RaoJE@state.gov). For more information on how to get involved, please contact Industry Relations POC, Aija Straumanis (202-736-7694, Straumanisa@state.gov).
2. Russian MFA Information and Press Department Commentary Regarding Sunday Telegraph Report Alleging Russia Has Been Assisting Iran's Ballistic Missiles Development Program
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia has been bewildered by an article in The Sunday Telegraph alleging that Russia has been helping Iran with the development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching most European capitals and that members of the Russian military were go-betweens as part of a deal they negotiated between the DPRK and Iran.
We consider that such "sensations" - and they, unfortunately, have been appearing in the western media quite regularly - are aimed at only creating in the British and international public a wrong perception about Russian policy on missile nonproliferation and at distracting attention from real problems in this field. We respect freedom of information, but do feel that information must be truthful.
Russia is committed to its obligations on the nonproliferation of WMDs and their delivery vehicles. Our export control system is effective and allows us to carry out close monitoring of the trade in dual-use goods and technologies. It is only in some hot heads that the thought could arise that it would meet Russia's interests the creation in a neighboring country of a nuclear-missile capability - of course, if this article in The Sunday Telegraph is not politically commissioned. In this case the reasonable question arises - who did the commissioning and who paid for it? It is up to the British newspaper to answer.
3. President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with the Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign States, Moscow, the Kremlin, October 17, 2005
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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The meeting discussed prospects for Russiaï¿½s military-technical cooperation with individual countries and examined measures to protect Russian intellectual property in the defence technology sector.
Introductory Remarks at a Meeting of the Commission on Military Technical Cooperation with Foreign States
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, dear colleagues!
We have two subjects of discussion on the agenda at our meeting today. First, we will be analysing the current situation and long-term prospects for Russiaï¿½s military-technical cooperation with individual countries, the countries with whom we have the greatest amount of interaction in this area. Second, we will be discussing measures to provide effective protection for Russian intellectual property in the defence technology sector.
Before turning to the agenda, I would like to note that serious and significant work has now been completed on preparing the new draft of what will be the principle normative document regulating military-technical cooperation. This document takes into account all the experience we have built up over recent years, the experience we have gained through life itself, and also that gained through the work of this commission. I have already signed the relevant decree. Now we will also need to approve a whole series of additional normative legal acts. It is my expectation that the commission members present here today will oversee this work. These decisions cannot be put on the backburner. I ask you to work swiftly on approving the necessary decisions based on the presidential decree that has been signed. I would note that the decree sets out very clearly the procedures for according Russian organisations the right to export military technology and provide the associated maintenance and repair services. Particular emphasis is placed on rapid decisions on orders, above all from the CIS member states. We have noted on many occasions that this is our Achilles heel, our weak point. The decision-making process is too drawn out and there is too much red tape involved, and this often causes us to lose markets to our competitors.
But at the same time, I also want to note that the decree sets out the necessary procedures that must be observed. The opinions of all the ministries should be taken into account, including that of the Foreign Ministry, as we are not just talking about an ordinary business here but about trade in arms and military equipment.
Overall, the new document lays the foundation that will make work in the military-technical cooperation sector more effective and will enable us to react quickly and flexibly to the situation on the world arms market.
Another important moment I would like to draw your attention to is that we cannot forget about the interests of the armsï¿½ inventors and the manufacturing companies. Their intellectual contribution should get the merit it deserves and in such a way as to encourage people and companies to pursue new work and new achievements.
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