1. Uranium Smuggled to Afghanistan from Russia : Ivanov
(for personal use only)
Russia has disclosed that suspected uranium-containing boxes were smuggled to Afghanistan.
Russian Defence Minister Sergiev Ivanov conceded the uranium boxes had Russian language written on them, which were smuggled to Kabul to malign Moscow. He added that a probe was underway in the Russian Atomic Defence Commission in this regard.
According to BBC report, the minister told Russian TV channel that a conspiracy was continuing to create suspicion about the security measures for the Russian nuclear weapons and uranium. He claimed that they received some information that boxes in the name of Russian enriched uranium were being sold in black market in Afghanistan. According to him, these boxes were fake.
However, the minister did not say as to where they saw this material and about any contact with Afghan government in this respect.
He also expressed deep concern over the failure of the Afghan government and world community to prevent drug trafficking in that country. He claimed that most of the money earned from drug smuggling goes to terrorists.
2. Minister Says Russia's Nuclear Sites Are Secure
(for personal use only)
At the same 10 February news conference in Nice, Defense Minister Ivanov said he has cautioned Western countries not to try "to cast doubt on the reliability of the security of Russia's nuclear arsenal," RIA-Novosti reported. "We have registered cases on the black market in Afghanistan when sellers offer containers with Russian-language markings purporting to contain weapons-grade uranium," Ivanov said. "But both the containers and the markings were faked." Ivanov did not say who was responsible for such counterfeiting. In Moscow, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has signed a directive authorizing the military, including air-defense units, to reinforce Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) forces protecting Russian nuclear nstallations, "Trud" reported on 9 February. Under the directive, military units will take part in the protection of 31 nuclear-power plants, 20 research reactors, 58 nuclear submarines, and 40 naval surface ships with nuclear reactors, as well as nuclear-weapons installations. Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergei Antipov said the measure is designed to counter the rising threat of international terrorism.
3. No Uranium-Containing Material Stolen from Russian Factories: Official
(for personal use only)
Not a single case of uranium-based material being carried out of Russian facilities has been registered in recent years, the chief of the Russian atomic ministry's nuclear and radioactive security said.
"In the 1990s, there were some 20 attempts to take dangerous radioactive material (from the facilities), some 15 of them in 1995 alone, but now there are no such attempts," Alexander Agapov said as quoted by ITAR-TASS.
State-of-the-art control measures and harsh security introduced after the registered incidents effectively cut down on such attempts, Agapov said late Thursday.
"If any such attempts are repeated, the mechanisms of certification and licensing of enterprises working with such materials would be boosted," Agapov said.
However, he said he did not think that selling shares of such companies to private hands would be a threat, warning only that "private business's rights insofar as nuclear industry's boards of directors are concerned should be limited."
Over the 50 years that the Russian nuclear industry existed, 176 accidents had been registered, with 344 people suffering from acute radiation sickness. A total 71 sufferers died of the disease, Agapov said.
The Russian Defense Minister and the US Secretary of Defense have reached an agreement on starting joint work on non-traditional explosive devises used by terrorists, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a conference President Vladimir Putin held with Cabinet members.
"Accumulated experience is quite enough and we consider it expedient to work in a bilateral format," Mr. Ivanov said, telling the President about the meeting with NATO defense ministers.
He said that they discussed questions "in the area of mutual interest, that is, the fight against international terrorism and the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in view of Iran's nuclear file and the statements by the DPRK leadership."
The ministers also discussed the question of operational compatibility of certain aviation units and the armed forces of Russia and NATO in carrying out joint operations in military training, peacekeeping and anti-terror.
Mr. Ivanov also said that the decrees on increasing servicemen's monetary allowance and military pensions would be sent for consideration to the presidential administration Tuesday. He also said that a government resolution was being drafted on raising stipends to the cadets of the military schools.
For his part, Vladimir Putin said "within a week the documents must be coordinated and drafted."
It seems the positive spirit that pervaded the Russia-US. relationship in the wake of 9/11 has been exhausted.
There is a situation in biking called standstill, which means balancing without forward or backward movement, sometimes for up to three minutes. As far as I remember, the record is 40 minutes. After that, the biker either falls down, noisily, or firmly moves ahead. This word most appropriately describes the current situation in Russia-US relations.
I think that the meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President George Bush in Bratislava could become an event that either provides a great boost to bilateral relations or provokes a dramatic cooling.
Regrettably, a certain anti-Russian consensus has developed in America. Political forces, from liberal Democrats to ultra-right Republicans, who cannot come to an agreement on anything, are unanimous that Russia is an authoritarian regime pursuing a neo-imperial foreign policy. Europe thinks the same. Although it is an economic rival to the US and is at loggerheads over Iraq, it completely agrees with Washington over Russia. So, Europe and the US can strengthen their relations because of Russia. For the first time in the past 15 years, a slogan even appeared a few months ago that called for Russia's neo-imperial policy to be restrained and Ukraine and Georgia taken away from it.
Six months to a year ago, hot heads in Russia raised the alarm, exclaiming that the Russia-US relationship was in a crisis. At that time, I said there was no crisis - I would not say so now. This is a very serious and complicated period.
But a crisis may not be followed by another cold war. In my opinion, the possibility still exists to advance, and at a faster pace, the positive development of bilateral relations. I think we can find arguments against the West's view of Russia. Everyone saw how the elections were held in Iraq. A model of democracy. I have very serious doubts about the standards of democracy Mr. Bush proclaims.
America needs to repair its relations with Europe quickly, because it needs allies. It needs NATO and the EU in Iraq, because the Americans, while reducing their presence, know that a vacuum cannot be allowed to emerge there. After his reelection, Mr. Bush has chosen to make his first overseas visit to Europe, and his agenda includes a meeting with Mr. Putin in Bratislava. In other words, the US has assumed a sharper tone with Russia, but has not yet toughened its political position.
Condoleezza Rice said carefully in a recent interview that there was a problem with democracy in Russia, but there is also cooperation and partnership, which America plans to promote.
The US has far more problems with Iran and North Korea than before. The last four years of harsh rhetoric from the Bush administration have not helped stop the two countries' nuclear programs. So, the EU initiative for settling the Iranian nuclear problem looks like the only real possibility. In terms of the North Korea problem, then all hopes now rest with China, that it can advise its Korean comrades about how to behave. This leads to a legitimate question: Is it in the White House's interests to quarrel with Russia now, in particular over the Bushehr nuclear power station? The importance of the Palestinian problem for the genesis and development of the radical Islamic terrorism is obvious. So, does the US need Russia's support on these problems?
There are other problems that are just as important for America and Russia, such as the accelerated destruction of nuclear and chemical stockpiles.
Although the US administration has proclaimed an anti-proliferation doctrine, far from everyone in Russia has noticed it. There is a distinction between non-proliferation, meaning the prevention of proliferation, and anti-proliferation, which entails proactive action when the genie is out of the bottle. In his Proliferation Security Initiative a year ago, Mr. Bush proposed monitoring and inspecting suspect aircraft and ships. Russia initially reacted coolly to it, but joined the initiative six months later. Does this mean that Russian-American rapprochement on anti-proliferation is possible? I believe it is entirely possible.
It can include broader cooperation in two spheres. The first is ballistic missile defense. Indeed, with whom else can America cooperate in this sphere? Only with Russia, as it has the requisite elements for cooperation. The second sphere is action against tidal waves, a terrible natural disaster with consequences comparable to a nuclear explosion. We must create an international rapid reaction system to such disasters so the effects can be localized as soon as possible. This is what the Russian Emergencies Ministry is doing in this country. Russia and America alone have the necessary personnel and equipment to establish such rapid reaction forces.
And lastly, only America and Russia have the ability to localize the consequences of a "dirty" bomb.
So, it would be imprudent to make optimistic or pessimistic forecasts about the future of Russia-US relations before the two presidents meet in Bratislava.
Congratulating George W. Bush on his re-election as U.S. president, Vladimir Putin remarked that over the past four years Russian-U.S. relations had markedly improved. He added, however, that the dialog between the two countries would be difficult no matter who occupied the White House. The second part of Putin’s statement provokes no objections; as for the “improved” relations comment, this must have been wishful thinking on the part of the head of the Russian state. In fact, bilateral relations between Russia and the U.S. have become obviously superficial. Their present agenda includes nothing fundamentally new compared with the Cold War era. The two countries continue to ignore a majority of their mutual problems, while focusing their efforts only on the traditional areas of cooperation – security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and trade in energy resources (the latter area of bilateral contacts emerged not long ago, and achievements in this field remain the least).
Over the last few years, the bilateral relations, far from growing stronger, have approached a dangerous point. The elites in the two countries have developed feelings of mutual disillusionment with each other, as well as the suspicion that the other side is secretly nurturing hostile plans. Figuratively speaking, the Russian-U.S. political space now consists of a small sitting-room where the two presidents demonstrate their mutual sympathies before the cameras, but beyond view is a large pantry into which they dump the increasingly complicated problems. Actually, the presidents’ friendship has ceased to be a means for solving these problems and is actually becoming a means for veiling them.
Putin’s repeatedly expressed wish to see George W. Bush re-elected president in 2004, was yet more proof that relations between the two countries have become fragile and unreliable and that their foundation, resting on personal ties between the two leaders, has grown unstable. On the horrible day of September 11, 2001, President Putin was the first world leader to telephone Bush. He assured him that Russia was on the U.S. side. Yet, despite the importance of that gesture, it was obviously not enough for building new relations between Moscow and Washington. It is obvious to the White House that Russia has never become a true ally of the United States. The Kremlin, in turn, has grounds for complaining that Bush, believed to be the most “pro-Russian” president in modern U.S. history, continues to force Russia out of its sphere of influence; Washington is ignoring Moscow’s interests, especially in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
TWO POLICIES, TWO FAILURES
The end of the Cold War introduced unique opportunities for a strategic partnership between the U.S. and Russia, which, however, have never been used. President Bill Clinton believed that support for Russian democracy would be a major factor in the success of U.S. foreign policy. Many influential members of his administration – from Vice President Albert Gore to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot – were involved in these efforts. However, the Clinton administration built only unstable mechanisms for coordinating mutual interests and conducting dialog in critical periods. The construction of a fundamental long-term basis for new relations was never started.
During the 2000 election campaign, George Bush accused the Clinton administration of “losing Russia.” Yet, after Bush came to power, he rejected all the mechanisms built before him and Clinton’s idea of U.S. participation in building a new Russian society and state. Bush reduced his Russia policy to relations between official structures – and only in the military and political spheres. This tendency markedly increased after September 2001. Hoping for Putin’s support in the war against terrorism, the White House backed the Russian leader’s actions, ignoring the Kremlin’s political evolution.
Washington’s strategy has proven to be erroneous: the possibilities for its influence on Moscow have decreased dramatically, while Russia is now farther away from democracy than it was four years ago. (In all fairness, it must be said that, apart from the White House’s position, these developments were also caused by objective factors: the high oil prices and economic growth in Russia have made it independent of international financial institutions.) Thus, two different U.S. strategies vis-à-vis Moscow have proven to be unsuccessful. Today, there is no unity in the American Establishment as to what policy should be pursued toward Russia, as there is simply no more enthusiasm for the project.
The Bush administration has ceased to regard Russia as a strategic ally. The reason is not only the problems affecting Russia, but the White House’s general approach to international relations. Actually, Washington has ceased to rely on allies, and its foreign policy rests on the assumption that the United States, the world’s most powerful military, political and economic nation, does not need strategic support from the outside. America can (and does) accept support from other countries within the frameworks of temporary coalitions set up to solve one or another problem, but tomorrow it may lose interest in these countries, or even declare them enemies. Unfortunately, the Washington-Moscow relationship now works according to this principle.
The transition to tactical military and political cooperation and, using what U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has called a “flexible” coalition, strategically leads U.S.-Russian relations nowhere. Yet, it is convenient to the microscopic part of the Establishment in both countries which has monopolized the bilateral contacts; this monopolization is yet another serious obstacle to progress. Washington continues the practice of focusing its efforts on individual groups and personalities in Russia. This model has long exhausted itself, and its further use will effectively discredit the partnership idea.
WHY DOES AMERICA NEED RUSSIA?
Today, Washington does not see a role for Moscow to play in its long-term prospects. It professedly ignores the fact that Russia, as the owner of the largest nuclear arsenals outside America, is the world’s only country that is capable of calling into question America’s existence. Russia possesses colossal resources of radioactive materials that can be used in the production of nuclear weapons, as well as resources, technologies, practical knowledge and specialists required for producing other types of WMD. Without a partnership with Moscow, the U.S. will never be able to ensure WMD nonproliferation. Russia is a U.S. ally in the struggle against international terrorism. Geopolitically, it remains a major power playing a key role in Eurasia (the Caucasus and Central Asia) and is a close neighbor to countries that are in the focus of Washington’s attention – Iraq, Iran, China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea. Russia is a member of the UN Security Council, and America finds it difficult to present its international initiatives as legitimate without approval from the Security Council. Finally, Russia can influence the world energy market, and may be a serious alternative source of energy for the U.S. Russia’s integration into the global economy would benefit American companies as it would give them access to the Russian consumer, as well as to its labor markets.
What prevents Washington from turning toward Russia?
The main obstacle is the worsening social and political situation in this country. International practices in the second half of the 20th century demonstrated that a genuine strategic partnership emerges only on the basis of a common vision and a common system of values. Washington and Moscow do not share such a system; moreover, the differences in their basic values have increased over recent years. The U.S. no longer views Vladimir Putin as a democrat, at least in the way this word is understood in the West. Washington is confident that the growth of authoritarianism in Russia will inevitably generate frictions between the two countries. Sooner or later, the Kremlin’s actions will come into conflict with the interests of America and its allies. Washington is perplexed by the fact that President Putin, despite his numerous general statements made since he came to power, has never formulated a clear-cut strategy for developing Russian-U.S. relations. As the White House has repeatedly made clear in conversations with Moscow officials, it would like the Russian leader to expound in public his vision of Russia’s U.S. policy and thus send a clear signal to the Russian and world elites. Yet, this has never happened, and the question remains unanswered whether an alliance with the West is Moscow’s real strategic choice.
THREE VIEWS ON RUSSIA
Today, in the U.S., there are three opposing views on Russia. Some people believe that the new Bush administration must make a resolute statement about the developments in Russia. It must make every effort to stop the development of authoritarian tendencies there, and make it clear to the Kremlin that its degree of democracy is a more important criterion for Washington in assessing the situation in Russia than its readiness for cooperation in the war against terrorism. The West has a powerful lever of influence – through the Group of Eight, to which Russia was admitted during Clinton’s presidency “as a favor,” as some people say. Many of them are even ready for a confrontation with the incumbent Russian government. This group, comprising Democrats and some neo-Conservatives, is rather large and influential, especially in the mass media and nongovernmental organizations.
Another group holds that America should take a critical yet wait-and-see position and watch developments in Russia, namely, following parliamentary and presidential elections and the takeover of power. People holding such views believe that, on the one hand, the Putin administration is a political reality with which the world has to reckon with; on the other hand, U.S. interests in Russia require the development of a long-term strategy for relations with Moscow in the post-Putin period. This point of view does not have many proponents, yet it has much influence in the White House.
The third group combines some aspects of the first two groups’ approaches: it criticizes the Russian authorities on some major issues and, at the same time, advocates mutual cooperation wherever possible. It argues that influencing the situation in Russia and, simultaneously, retaining prospects for a strategic partnership is possible only through Moscow’s renewed involvement in a partnership with the U.S. and new attempts to integrate Russia into the West – but not through increased isolation of Russia in the world. Proponents of this view speak of the possibility for a new honeymoon between Russia and the U.S., like the one that took place more than a decade ago. In order for this to work, they argue that Washington must find the right model for encouraging Moscow’s cooperation. This group includes some traditional Republicans and moderate Democrats, among them some members of the John Kerry team.
The three groups, however different they may be, adhere to some common principles. First, unpredictability and chaos in Russia would pose a threat to the whole world. The West is interested in a strong and stable Russia that would support order on its own territory and make a real contribution to regional and global security. Not everybody, however, thinks that Russia is now able to cope with such a huge task.
Second, Russia must become a full-fledged democratic, rule-of-law state that would respect human rights, as well as possess a normal system of checks and counterbalances with a transparent and accountable government. Such a Russia may join the community of democratic states, in which the U.S. is strongly interested. Yet, many analysts are skeptical about this possibility, as well. Third, adherence to the ideals of democracy and human rights is not a political program of America, nor are they tactics used in one or another situation, but the fundamental basis of the Western world’s system, irrespective of what parties and presidents are in power. It is from this principled position that the U.S. will always assess Russia. The view, widespread among the Russian political elite, that America will tolerate an authoritarian regime in Russia because Washington is more interested in a stable and predictable Russia, is naïve and vulgar. Historical experience, in which Americans strongly believe, shows that it is only democracy that can bring long-term stability and predictability.
Fourth, everybody in the United States agrees that Russia can be a leading nation in Eurasia. And it is in U.S. interests to see that Moscow stops demonstrating its imperial aspirations in its foreign policy, on the one hand, and rids itself of the “besieged fortress” syndrome, which is rooted in Russia’s past, on the other hand. This syndrome provokes a certain amount of xenophobia in the country’s domestic policy, together with an aggressive yet passive approach to world affairs. The part of the American Establishment that knows better Russian history, culture and mentality believes that a change will come about only after several generations change in the Russian elite.
Fifth, the West is interested in a united Russia, because its disintegration would have grave consequences for global security and stability. However, there is no agreement amongst the experts as to whether Russia’s territorial integrity can be preserved, what political and administrative methods can be used to solve this problem, and how effective these methods can be. In particular, there is no clear vision how the Chechen problem should be solved. Today, the United States can offer Russia only general political support; it is not prepared to offer Russia guarantees for the unity and integrity of its territory. Nevertheless, negotiations on this subject are possible. At the same time, Washington is not ready to give such guarantees to countries in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, yet it would not object to the inclusion of this issue in the agenda of Russian-U.S. relations.
Sixth, everybody agrees that Russia can become a factor in stabilizing the world energy market, and this would help the U.S. diversify its sources of imported oil and gas. For this to happen, however, Moscow must be politically prepared for a confrontation with OPEC and some Arab oil producers, with which it presently enjoys good relations. Russia, with its highly skilled manpower, may turn into a small yet attractive investment and production market for American businesses. The only obstacles to that is Russia’s demographic crisis, as well as the lack of Western business standards.
So, there is agreement in the American Establishment that the U.S. must seek to achieve two mutually related strategic goals: help Russia to become a full-fledged democracy, and consolidate its role as an ally in the war against terrorism and the construction of a new global security and stability system. These goals are viewed as a package, because achieving only one of them is actually impossible and would not meet U.S. interests. In any case, the two countries should broaden their traditional bilateral agenda.
FRUITS OF INTELLECTUAL BANKRUPTCY
The main content of U.S.-Russian relations in recent years has been not bilateral problems, but rather Moscow’s and Washington’s interests in third countries and individual regions, above all in Eurasia. To better understand the depth and complexity of the problems, it is necessary to make a brief digression into the past.
The Cold War ended without any documents signed that could have determined new global rules. During the years of confrontation between the two systems, the American elite sought not a breakup of the Soviet Union but rather to make radical changes in the Soviet political system, together with a normalization of relations. As it turned out, the West was completely unprepared for the Soviet Union’s collapse. The emergence of a large group of newly independent states in Eurasia triggered powerful tectonic shifts in geopolitics, demography, the global economy, as well as in national and religious systems that it is still impossible to estimate their scale and essence.
The last-remaining superpower, euphoric about its victory in the Cold War, realized only later that the disappearance of its main enemy could have a negative influence on global security. The former strategic alliances and geopolitical concepts collapsed; international institutions began to tremble; foreign policy grew improvisational; international law depreciated; and military doctrines went to pieces in the face of new threats and challenges. The future of those countries that comprised the “socialist community” was perceived during the Cold War years in rather clear terms: they would eventually return to the community of Western democracies. The prospects for a “non-Communist” Soviet Union were completely unclear for the West. Thus, the need to improvise in formulating a policy toward a dozen newly independent states, which were at different development levels, took the political and expert community unawares, as this community had used to view everything through the prism of Moscow’s conduct. Having won the ideological standoff, the United States and its allies thought their mission was largely completed. Meanwhile, the rivalry between Russia and the West for rebuilding the former Soviet republics is only beginning.
The intellectual weakness of the Russian and Western political elites, unable to correctly assess the fundamental changes brought about by the collapse of Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union, was among the main reasons behind the present crisis in the world order. The zealous activity of the West in the post-Soviet space, and especially that of the U.S., irritates Moscow. Yet, Russia has never clearly formulated its priorities in such countries and regions as Ukraine, the South Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East (Iran). Conflicts in the post-Soviet zone often break out not because of differences in countries’ intentions or because they are reluctant to recognize each other’s interests in a given region, but because they have never taken the trouble to reconcile their interests and have never distinctly formulated them.
Is such an agreement possible? In the early 1990s, Washington gave its tacit consent for Moscow to keep its monopoly influence over the Caucasus, while Moscow undertook to ensure stability and order in the region. However, the situation in the Caucasus has since only worsened, while not a single conflict has been settled; the U.S. Establishment is growing doubtful about the expediency of that agreement. While observing Russia’s policy in the former Soviet republics, Washington is coming to the conclusion that this policy is ineffective and that it increasingly comes into conflict with U.S. interests.
According to Washington, many of the post-Soviet conflicts, for example the one in the South Caucasus, require an international format for negotiation and peacemaking efforts. The United States, Russia and, to some extent, the European Union are key actors capable of ensuring real sovereignty and territorial integrity for the countries of the former Soviet Union. Without their participation, regional stability is impossible. Washington is interested in such stability, specifically because one of the post-Soviet regions, the Caspian basin, is assigned a certain role in supplying energy resources to the West. The rivalry between Russia and the U.S. for influence in the post-Soviet space – to the detriment of each other’s interests – is irrational and dangerous.
Actually, Washington is very interested in Russia becoming its major strategic partner in Eurasia – from the Caspian Sea to the Far East. However, it is not certain that Russia is able to fulfill this function. Russia’s relations with the former Soviet republics are burdened with numerous mutual complaints. With countries in Northeast Asia things are different. Russia, which has never become part of Western civilization, has not been giving much care to the development of serious relations with its Asian neighbors in the last 15 years. As a result, it has lost many of its positions in the East. Despite the fact that Russia remains one of the most pro-American among the great Asian nations, and has tremendous Eurasian experience, the U.S. does not view it as a strategic partner in the region. Yet, the vacancy remains unoccupied, because other potential candidates, for example, Turkey, Israel, India, Pakistan or Japan, are unable to undertake this mission, either.
The elites, both in the U.S. and Russia, continue to feel mutual distrust, mixed with elements of paranoia and malicious joy. The mass media often paints a primitive and biased picture of the other country, strengthening old stereotypes and creating new ones, while ties between the two societies remain very weak. Washington is under constant pressure from various kinds of international lobbies, whose interests are often in conflict with Russia’s interests. In the meantime, Russia does not lobby its own interests in the U.S. and does nothing to shape a positive image there.
GOING INTO A DEADLOCK OR SEARCHING FOR A NEW DIALOG?
During his second presidency, George W. Bush will not take steps to broaden the dialog with Russia, nor will Moscow receive any long-term guarantees from him; Russia’s economic, social and political development will not be among the U.S. leader’s priorities. Bush needs the Kremlin only as an ally in the war against terrorism, which suits Putin perfectly.
However, America’s foreign policy, unlike Russia’s, is not presidential. The Congress, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, mass media, and even members of the president’s team will do anything to influence him. The Republican Party’s leaders do not want to be accused in the 2008 elections of “losing Russia” again, or of overlooking the destruction of democracy in the former Soviet Union while building democracy in the Middle East, thus putting U.S. national security in jeopardy. A lack of support from the American Establishment, even on such a minor issue as Russia, may complicate the solution of other problems for Bush.
Now it will, most certainly, be easier to change the U.S. president’s position toward Russia. For the American neo-Conservatives, who make the ideological foundation of the incumbent U.S. government, Russia’s retreat from democratic positions would be a serious defeat, which they would not tolerate. The neo-Conservative ideology is much more imperialist and global than even the views of the Democrats in Clinton’s times. The neo-Conservatives give more priority to global democracy than to the war against terrorism, believing it to be the most effective way to counter terror. Knowing the messianic nature of George Bush’s character and policies, one can assume that he will heed such arguments.
During his second presidency, it will be important for Bush not only to focus on his main mission, that of proliferating democracy and freedom in the world, but also to rally his party around this goal and even try to win over part of the Democrats and independent politicians. Bush built his 2004 election campaign on a combination of political and moral values, which won him unprecedented support among the voters. It is these values that Russia is now retreating from, thus dissociating itself from Bush, the neo-Conservatives and the realistically minded Republicans, not to mention America as a whole.
In light of the abovementioned views, Moscow should give up the convenient “simplicity” in its relations with the U.S. and initiate a new, broad dialog with Washington, even though it may not always be pleasant. For example, in the dialog on the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Moscow should focus attention on ways to deny non-state structures access to the WMD market, and to build ground- and space-based elements for a joint ABM system. The Bush administration will not sign new long-term security treaties with anyone, as it will prefer to keep its hands free. This factor adds special importance to the efforts to broaden constant contacts between the U.S. and Russia in the nuclear field and to overcome mutual mistrust. The potentials of the two countries and the age of Russia’s WMD make it necessary to consider the possibility of an accidental nuclear war. The United States and Russia must immediately revise all aspects of their military doctrines that can be interpreted as being directed against each other.
As regards Chechnya, Washington does not view this problem as Russia’s internal affair – to Moscow’s obvious displeasure. Yet, the motives of the U.S. administration differ from the motives of a majority of European countries, for example. The Europeans give top priority to the human rights issue in the troubled Chechen Republic. For the U.S., they are aware of this problem, however, the White House is more concerned about Russia’s inability to cope with the terrorists and remove those factors that promote terrorist activities.
Washington views the situation in Chechnya as proof that Russia is incapable, politically and militarily, of ensuring security in its sector of the common front in the war against terrorism. The territory of the former Soviet Union has turned into one of the most explosive and corrupt regions of the world, while Russia has proven to be a weak link in the antiterrorist coalition. In the post-Soviet space, areas have emerged which are being used as training and rehabilitation bases for terrorists. In a worst-case scenario, Russia, unable to eradicate corruption in its army and law enforcement agencies, may turn from a victim of terror into its source.
Thus, the U.S. administration, unlike the Europeans, tends to accept the Kremlin’s arguments that Chechnya is one of the fronts in the global war against international terrorism. One should bear in mind, though, that the presidential administration of the U.S. is not omnipotent in formulating its policy, as it is oriented to the views of different groups and is under the influence of different factors. This circumstance partly explains the West’s benevolence toward emissaries of the Chechen separatist leaders and their readiness to give them political asylum, much to Moscow’s dismay. The pro-Chechen lobby in the U.S. is now much more effective than its pro-Russian counterpart, and Moscow should start making serious efforts in order to change public opinion in America in its favor. Otherwise, courts meeting to decide whether or not one or another Chechen leader should be given political asylum would always be inclined toward them, especially if the Russian law enforcement bodies continue submitting unconvincing and unprofessionally prepared documents to their foreign colleagues.
A radical change in Washington’s attitude to the Chechen resistance would require serious and comprehensive accords between the two countries. The Chechen issue must be included in a large package of agreements on cooperation in fighting terrorism. Stepping up this cooperation and raising it to a higher level would help create a favorable atmosphere in Russian-U.S. relations. This factor would cause the two allies to help each other with their problems – the U.S. problem in the Middle East, and the Russian problem in Chechnya. Mending economic ties between the U.S. and Russia is a more serious and long-term factor in mutual relations than the war against terrorism or efforts to stop WMD proliferation. It should not be supposed, however, that the Bush administration will be able to speed up this long process. But economy can diversify the bilateral agenda. For example, Washington will continue supporting Russia’s early accession to the World Trade Organization, while the two countries may negotiate their large-scale cooperation in rebuilding Iraq, especially its oil industry.
The U.S. has a vested interest in a radical improvement of Russia’s energy infrastructure, as it would like to ensure reliable Russian energy supplies to the world market. Washington argues that Russia will have difficulty joining in efforts to meet the global demand for energy, although it continues to grow. This is because Russia’s cheap oil is almost depleted, and the development of new oil fields requires heavy, years-long investment. The U.S. can help Russia build a modern energy infrastructure and make this country more attractive to foreign investors.
Russia’s stepped-up efforts to take control of the energy industry do not inspire much enthusiasm in Washington, yet they will not cause the White House to stop its cooperation with Moscow. Yet, the U.S. is not interested in the “energy switch” becoming the key and, most importantly, unpredictable element of Russia’s foreign policy toward former Soviet republics and other countries. It is impossible to say yet where Russia’s present geopolitical convulsions will lead it, nor what the final priorities will be for its foreign strategy. The centralization of power in Russia will reduce opportunities for U.S. investment in regional projects, as economic diversity will decrease and the Russian market will exist within limited political frameworks. The Kremlin’s growing control over the regions, which decreases their independence, causes U.S. companies to lose interest in local projects. Nevertheless, the American business community is certainly interested in what will happen to Russia’s Far East, Siberia and territories bordering on China in approximately 20 to 30 years. What will Russia’s borders look like? What will the environmental situation, political risks, economic security, and regional demography be like? Finally, who will be making the decisions in Russia?
Anyone speaking about a strategic partnership between Russia and the U.S. must understand that no one can achieve parity with America today. Yet, the United States, at the same time, is unable to cope with many problems on its own. These problems are much easier to solve on the basis of partner relations with other countries. In Eurasia, Russia can and must become such a partner. To this end, it must step up its dialog with the U.S. and offer a wide range of opportunities, including non-trivial ones.
In particular, Moscow and Washington could seriously discuss variants of their partnership based on regional parity. The U.S. and Western Europe coexisted for a long time in such a manner: in exchange for the security and protection of their interests, the European countries agreed to a reasonable limitation of their political independence. Today, we know what they gained from that partnership in the long run. Now, as the political and economic ambitions of the European Union are growing, the Old World is again facing the issue of maintaining a balance between European and American interests. Russia is facing such an issue for the first time.
Let us suppose that Russia undertakes a mission of representing, protecting and implementing Washington’s fundamental interests that are not in conflict with Russia’s own interests. These interests would be in Eurasia and, above all, in the post-Soviet space where Russia plays a key role. In exchange, the U.S. will represent and protect Russia’s interests in other regions of the world, for example, in Africa and, strange as it may seem, in Europe. The experience of U.S.-oriented countries, such as Poland or Turkey, shows that Warsaw and Ankara, in promoting their interests in the European Union, actively use their relations with Washington as an instrument of their European policies: the EU cannot ignore U.S. pressure. Considering the difficulties that Moscow is having in its dialog with the EU, support of its mighty overseas partner would provide Russia with much support.
Russia needs a long-term agreement with the world’s leaders within the framework of efforts to achieve mutual security and build a new world order. Russia and the U.S. have never held negotiations of this kind, but these talks could be a serious step in building a strategic partnership between the two countries. A partnership that is capable of successfully developing – even if relations between the two leaders become strained.
1. Iran's Plans to Increase Volume of Nuclear Fuel Supplies Are Not Related to Launch of Bushehr NPP
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Iran's plans to become one of the largest suppliers of nuclear fuel are not related to the planned 2006 launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant (NPP), the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) told RIA Novosti.
On Sunday, an Iranian state official announced Tehran's plans to become one of the largest global suppliers of nuclear fuel in 15 years.
Commenting on the statement, a Rosatom expert noted "the production of nuclear fuel is a very complex technological process, and it can be economically sound only if a country has several nuclear power plants."
In accordance with a Russian-Iranian agreement, Russia will supply nuclear fuel to the Bushehr NPP during the entire period of its operation. Therefore, Iran will be able to accomplish its plans only if it constructs several more nuclear power-generating units.
Russian experts are constructing the first power-generating unit at the Bushehr NPP with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. The launch is planned for 2005, and the unit will become fully operational in 2006.
It was reported earlier that Russia planned to construct six power-generating units of the NPP in Iran over a ten-year period.
2. Parliament to Oblige Iran's Atomic Energy Organization to Resume Uranium Enrichment
Islamic Republic News Agency
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Parliament will oblige Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) to produce part of the nuclear fuel needed for the country's reactors, a senior nuclear energy official announced in Tehran on Sunday.
According to the IAEO's deputy head for international affairs and planning, Mohammad Saeedi, parliament will present a bill to 'task Iran's Atomic Energy Organization with meeting part of the fuel for the country's atomic plants'.
"As repeatedly announced by the country's authorities, including the president, Iran's planning is such that it will conclude (construction) of its atomic plants and meet part of their fuel supply within the country," he told IRNA.
This will mark Tehran's rejection of the Europeans' efforts to persuade Iran on permanent suspension of uranium enrichment in their negotiations.
Iran agreed last November to suspend uranium enrichment under an agreement reached in Paris with Britain, France and Germany, which represent the European Union, in exchange for trade, technology and security incentives.
Uranium enrichment is allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory, and the country wants it as part of its efforts to master a nuclear fuel cycle.
Earlier Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi insisted that Iran would not give up construction of a heavy-water reactor in exchange for a light-water reactor offered by the Europeans.
Saeedi said, "Iran's planning is also such that it takes the issue of suspension of uranium enrichment out of the negotiations context."
The official reiterated 'the definitive position of the Islamic Republic to continue uranium enrichment', saying the country's suspension of the process so far has only been for 'removing international misunderstanding'.
Tehran has planned to plug the nationwide network to 7,000 megawatts of electricity, generated by its nuclear power plants by 2021, with the ceiling eventually being raised to 20,000 MW, Saeedi said.
Iran is already building a nuclear reactor in the southern city of Bushehr with Russian assistance to produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity, with the project planned to come on stream in 2006.
Saeedi said the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, will soon visit Tehran to finalize a date for the plant's operation.
"The Russian side announced a certain date, but we didn't accept it and we will try to reach agreement on a fixed date during this visit," he said.
The official acknowledged 'some slowness' in the construction of the Bushehr plant, which he said were due to technical problems, saying 80 percent of the installation work has been carried out.
"We hope the remaining 20-percent (work) will finish, given the two sides' acceleration of the construction operations.
"The main pieces and structures of the plant, including the reactor, the turbine and steam converters, have already been installed and we hope the remaining peripheral equipment will be installed in the few upcoming months," Saeedi said.
The two sides will also sign a deal on return of spent fuel by setting a date since existing obstacles in this regard have been removed.
Rumyantsev and Iranian official will also discuss the construction of the second nuclear reactor by Russian specialists, including decide whether to build it in Bushehr or elsewhere.
Saeedi said technical issues of the project have ended since six months ago and Tehran is ready to start contractual negotiations.
"The Russian side has announced its readiness to build the second reactor and we hope we will finalize a date for starting the construction," he said.
According to the official, a full working day in the visit will be devoted to a tour of the Bushehr plant by Rumyantsev and his Iranian counterpart, Gholamreza Aqazadeh.
3. Secretly or Not, Russia Does Not Export WMD Components to Iran
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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has called a myth the allegations that Russia is secretly supplying components of weapons of mass destruction to Iran.
"I cannot but voice my approach to one of the myths permanently maintained and multiplied in the West. It is that representatives of the secret services and the military industry (of Russia) are secretly supplying components of weapons of mass destruction and technologies banned for export to Iran", Mr.Ivanov told the Russia-NATO Council at a session.
"Somebody" is even attempting to cash in on such myths, he stressed.
"For instance, there are cases in Afghanistan when they offer on the black market containers with technical marks in Russian and ostensibly containing weapons-grade uranium", the Russian defense minister said. At the session of the Russia-NATO Council, Russia presented materials on the discovery of such containers, he said.
Alongside the myth of unfair cooperation between Russia and Iran, another myth is actively circulated in the West - poor protection of nuclear weapons and their components, Mr.Ivanov added.
"I stress one more time that Russia views the strengthening of the nonproliferation regimes as the crucial element of the confidence-building measures and is a participant in actually every basic international regime aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means", he stressed.
To him, Russia keeps control of the export of dual-purpose goods and technologies through the national legislative acts.
"Russian control lists are even fuller than, for instance, of the Australian group or of the convention of the prohibition of chemical weapons", he added.
The efforts of the international community and the new authorities of Afghanistan against the production and contraband of narcotics are, so far, inefficient, Mr.Ivanov believes.
He said that much of the sums from drug traffic goes to fund extremist and terrorist organizations.
"The problem is acute and the success in the struggle against terrorism and formation of stable centralized power in Afghanistan greatly depends on its solution", Mr.Ivanov said.
Simultaneously, the defense minister said that Russia positively assesses the present situation in Afghanistan. "The first presidential election in its history has been held, a new Afghan government has been formed and set to work, peaceful life is being arranged", he added.
1. IPR Agreement Between Russia, India in Final Stages
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The Russian Ambassador to India, Vyacheslav I.Trubnikov, today said the Intellectual Property Rights agreement between Russia and India to protect sensitive defence and hi-tech information was being finalised.
Replying to a query at a press conference here on the process of evolving an umbrella IPR accord between the two countries, which was announced during the Russian President, Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi on December 3, he said, "I am happy to say that both the sides are at the final stage of working out this agreement."
Mr. Trubnikov said the agreement was important to deal with delicate and sensitive information related to mutually beneficial scientific research work. "We hope that several legal aspects are resolved and a draft practically acceptable to both sides is worked out."
On the 2000 MW atomic power plant being constructed at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, Mr. Trubnikov said, "the work is going on according to schedule and it will be completed by the end of 2008, as both Russian and Indian experts are working with a high level of understanding."
Experts from India were given training in Russia in operation and maintenance of the nuclear reactors, he said adding that the Kundankulam plant was in a safe location as even the recent tsunami could not harm it. The future safety of the plant was guaranteed.
To a query, Mr. Trubnikov said the coming together of Russia, India and China should not be seen as a move to counterbalance some power or the other. Actually, cooperation among these countries would promote their internal interests. The country wanted India to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with veto power.
Andrey N. Chernyshev, Russian Trade Representative in India, said there was scope for better bilateral trade between Russia and India with South India contributing to information technology, telecommunication and seaports. A new website, www.torgpred.ru, had been launched by his country to enable mutual flow of information on trade and business.
1. North Korea Has Made 'Wrong Choice' If It Has Quit Nuclear Talks: Ivanov
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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that North Korea (news - web sites) had made "the wrong choice" if it had quit international talks aimed at resolving a stand-off over its nuclear programmes.
"If the information in question proves accurate, I would say that North Korea has made the wrong choice," Ivanov told a high-level meeting of international security experts in the German city of Munich.
"I believe we should do all we can to keep that state in the treaty framework," Ivanov added.
North Korea announced this week it was withdrawing from six-country talks over its nuclear weapons and vowed to build more atomic bombs.
Russia, along with the United States, China, South Korea (news - web sites) and Japan have held three rounds of talks with North Korea since August 2003 with a view to lowering tensions and persuading the Stalinist state to give up its nuclear weapons program.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that informal negotiations were continuing despite Pyongyang's announcement.
"The consultations over North Korea never stopped, and are continuing on a normal basis," Lavrov said.
"International contacts between all of the participants of the negotiations are continuing," he said.
Lavrov did not explain where, or between whom, the talks were taking place.
The United States on Friday rejected North Korea's call for direct negotiations outside the context of the six-party talks.
2. Russia to Consult on Six-Lateral Talks Resumption
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Russia's consultations with partners in the six-lateral DPRK talks on their resumption will be held very soon, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alekseev has said.
"It is yet early to say what their results will be but we do hope that the decision of Pyongyang (on the withdrawal from the negotiating process) is not final", he noted.
He did not cite a date for the consultations. "Only one day has passed and we are still studying statements from different parties, thinking in what form they may take place. No specific timeframe has been fixed but specific plans for communication and talking are in place", Mr.Alekseev said.
He recalled that actually every participant in the six-lateral talks has voiced the hope that Pyongyang's decision will be revised.
Commenting on the possibility of a direct dialog between the United States and the DPRK, the Russian diplomat noted that, in the opinion of Russia, the six-party format is optimal. "But we do not rule out the possibility of bilateral meetings, including between the United States and the DPRK", he said.
Since August 2003 three rounds of talks have been held in Beijing with the participation of six countries of the region (the DPRK, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea) on winding up the North Korean nuclear program. In September 2004 the dialog deadlocked because of the contradictions between Washington and Pyongyang. Americans demanded from the DPRK admitting the existence of the uranium program, which Pyongyang negated, and dumping all the nuclear programs, while the North Korean side accused the United States of being hostile.
On Thursday the DPRK Foreign Ministry circulated a statement, in which Pyongyang declares withdrawal for an indefinite time from the six-lateral talks and admits the presence of "defensive" nuclear weapons in the country.
1. Russian Army to Adopt New Nuclear Missile Complexes
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Russia's armed forces might soon adopt a new type of nuclear missile complexes developed by Russian military scientists, announced Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov at a press conference in Munich.
"We have enough evidence to assume that it will be a unique weapons system that does not have analogues in other countries," Mr. Ivanov underlined.
Mr. Ivanov refused, though, to disclose technical specifications of the new missile system.
He said that Russia had been actively conducting modernization of its nuclear triad "focusing on the quality of weapons rather than its numbers."
"Russia does not need a large amount of missiles that the Soviet Union used to have. We do not intend to threaten anybody, but Russia will continue to remain a strong nuclear power," the Russian defense minister stressed.
Answering a question about Russia's export controls over weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the minister underlined that there was a threat of WMD proliferation near Russian borders. That is why "Russia is more concerned about this problem than any other country," Mr. Ivanov said.
Commenting on the statement of Mr. Beresovsky saying that Chechen terrorists possess a small-yield nuclear device, the minister stated, "The myths that Russia poorly guards its nuclear weapons and their components are spread with a certain political goal in mind. Berezovsky's statement belongs to that category, I believe."
Mr. Ivanov emphasized that nuclear weapons and their components, enriched uranium and plutonium, were well guarded in Russia. "Statements indicating the contrary are myths," Mr. Ivanov stressed.
Russia still has about 7,200 nuclear warheads, including 3,400 of the tactical "battlefield" bombs it promised to destroy by 2004, a report says.
The United States also has a tactical arsenal but the number is classified. Defense analysts say the number is probably close to 1,600.
Russia could have as many as 10,000 to 12,000 small, tactical nuclear warheads in a non-operational status, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nuclear watchdog organization, reported.
Russia had committed in 1991 to get rid of its entire tactical nuclear arsenal by 2004, NRDC said. Senior Russian military officials have publicly stated they've cut about half the arsenal so far.
Russian nuclear forces conducted 15 tests of nuclear weapons in 2004, a significant increase over recent years, NRDC said. According to recently released Russian government information, Russia plans to cut its intercontinental ballistic missile fleet by almost 70 percent, from 2,270 to 750 during the next five years. There are 585 ICBMs currently deployed.
1. Nuclear Industry Reforms Pose No Security Threat
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Transformation of the Rosenergoatom concern into a joint-stock company will not affect the security of nuclear power plants' operation.
Alexander Agapov, chief of the nuclear security department of the federal agency for nuclear energy, has told reporters that a special system of security guarantees for citizens had been introduced in Russia's nuclear industry before some of its enterprises were transformed into joint-stock companies. Specifically, licensing regulations allow the nuclear energy agency to supervise the work of companies that use nuclear technologies.
Furthermore, there are compulsory and voluntary certification procedures in the nuclear industry. "These are the main mechanisms, which are enough to supervise enterprises," Agapov noted. In his view, the state should retain a controlling share in Rosenergoatom after the reorganization.
The current law stipulates that Russia's nuclear energy industry cannot be privatized. Agapov thinks that "in general, legal entities can own radioactive materials, but legal limitations on their rights should be introduced."
1. Russian, European Officials Optimistic About Russian Nuclear ‘Master Plan’
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The Russian government, in cooperation with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has publicly released an 80-page executive summary of what the institutions call “phase one” of an overall “Strategic Master Plan” to decommission and dismantle retired nuclear submarines and other nuclear Russian naval vessels that have been taken out of service in Northwest Russia. The plan will also remediate or rehabilitate numerous aging storage facilities for radioactive waste.
The release of the executive summary represents a major breakthrough in European and Russian cooperation in submarine dismantlement, which codifies Northwest Russia’s most pressing decommissioning priorities, resource management, public consultation and environmental rehabilitation, and will hopefully reduce friction in cooperative submarine destruction and remediation projects between Russia and European sponsors.
At present, some 71 decommissioned Northern Fleet nuclear submarines – some with their nuclear fuel still on board, await full dismantlement.
The Master Plan was approved on December 6th 2004 in London during a meeting with Russia and European sponsors of the EBRBs Northern Dimensions Enviromental Programme’s Nuclear Window” fund (NDEP).
The most important objective of phase one of the Master Plan, wrote, the project’s Scientific Supervisor Ashot Sarkisov, is “to justify high priority tasks which should be solved immediately.” Implementing the six interrelated tasks, he wrote, “will in fact facilitate eliminating the real and potential sources of environmental hazard associated with the decommissioning objects.”
The Master Plan executive summary and forthcoming technical volume were complete by three Russian institutions: the Russian Academy of Sciences IBRAE Nuclear Safety Institute, the Dollezhal Scientific Research and Design Institute of Energy Technologies (NIKIET in its Russian acronym), and the Kurchatov Institute. This makes the plan an almost entirely Russian-conceived project.
The executive summary, however, is a final draft, said Vince Novak of the EBRD’s Nuclear Security Department in an interview with Bellona Web this week.
What phase one of the Master Plan includes
According to Sarkisov, developing the several hundred page document that constitutes phase one of the Master Plan encompassed six inter-related tasks, The first task was to carry out and analyze of the “broad legal and regulatory basis which stipulates legal and technical requirements for organising the work of on [nuclear submarines] decommissioning.” According to the analysis conducted, Sarkisov wrote, “the legal and regulatory basis of the Russian Federation corresponded to commonly recognised approaches to nuclear, radiation and ecological safety and SNF (spent nuclear fuel) and RW (radioactive waste).”
The second and third tasks for the development of the Master Plan were minutely detailed collection, systemtisation, updating and analysis of all information on those items slated for decommissioning and environmental rehabilitation. This included gathering data on all SNF and RW accrued in various storage sites, analyzing the sites’ capabilities and features and those of related enterprises, and pouring over information regarding the physical protection of and environmental monitoring systems in place at these sites.
“The information an analytical materials presented in the report are unique in terms of their topicality and level of detail,” wrote Sarkisov on this phase of the Master Plan’s development.
The fourth task was to thoroughly consider hazards posed by decommissioned nuclear submarines. This phase analyzed the decommissioned submarine complex both as a whole and on the basis of individual vessels, taking into account their age and state of dilapidation The results obtained by this study became the cornerstone for justifying a “priority ranking system” which will flag for priority dismantlement those vessels in the worst shape.
The third and fourth tasks, wrote Sarkisov, logically gave rise to the fifth task which was to analyze where bottlenecks in the dismantlement operation under the Master Plan could occur on a vessel by vessel basis. Each vessel, said Sarkisov, will present its own set of technological dismantlement difficulties and the study considered over 100 measures and streamlined them to a more limited list to yield the most effective measures.
The sixth task, identified by Sarkisov as being the most important, was developing the a priority justification methodology for which dismantlement projects to tackle first. This methodology, he wrote, was created with the help of a broad spectrum of experts from different scientific, operating and industrial fields.
“At this point in time, the executive summary is what we have” for the public in order to spell out the goals of the Master Plan, said Novak in a telephone interview with Bellona Web. He said that a condensed version of the executive summary would be drafted for the public consultation portion of the implementation of the Master plan, making it a less cumbersome read for citizens of areas where Master Plan work will be carried out.
The EBRD holds the NDEP “Nuclear Window” fund. This money, the uses of which are dictated by a group of mostly European nations, has ballooned to some EUR180 since 2003, and the EBRD has been instrumental in working with the Russians to develop the Master Plan so the cash crop can be harvested most effectively.
Novak was especially pleased that the Russians had included the public consultation portion in the Master Plan’s implementation. Indeed, Russia has, in the past, been reluctant to share information on projects with nuclear remediation project sponsors—as can be seen in numerous examples within Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme run by the US Department of Defence. Novak singled out Sergei Antipov, deputy chief of the Russian Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom)—the successor organisation to the closed-mouthed Ministry of Atomic Energy—for making this culture of reportedly growing openness possible.
Novak, as well as other European officials who spoke with Bellona Web, indicated cautiously that this openness is a breath of fresh air cultivated by Antipov within the new Rosatom structure, whose mandate is as yet not completely clear, but will nonetheless be the lynchpin for Russian implementation of the Master Plan. One official notes, “The Russians can close up as easily as they can open up, so we hope the situation will stay as it is. For now they are cooperating and that makes our work easier.”
Novak said that “in the creation of the Master Plan, we have managed to overcome sensitivities and confidentialities—after all, you cannot have a confidential programme [for nuclear dismantlement].”
The public consultations, according to documents obtained by Bellona Web, are being handled by the British-Canadian consulting firm NNC, and have been divided into five stages. According to the NNC document, prepared for the EBRD and entitled “Public Consultation Plan for Strategic Environmental Assessment-Northern Dimensions Environmental Project (NDEP),”these stages will be completed along the following time-table:
-Preliminary engagement (completed)
-Scoping, which seeks to formally involve stakeholders in the definiton of the strategic environmental assessment by circulating a draft of its scope and public consultation plan to stakeholders for comment (completed in December 2004)
-Notification, which involves reaching all parties that wish to comment on the project, such as NGOs, public action groups and other concerned organisations to inform them of projects and explain to them how they can be involved (to be completed in March, 2005)
-Consultation on the strategic environmental assesment (to be completed in March-July 2005)
-Analysis of comments and reporting to the donors assembly (to be completed in May-June 2005)
In an earlier interview on the Rosatom-sponsored Nuclear.ru news site, Antipov was also pleased by the reception the Russian-developed Master Plan received at the December 6th NDEP donors’ meeting in London, where according to many who were present, the plan got overwhelming support.
“The donors’ assembly looked over and approved the Master Plan. And this is the most important result because there are no longer any barriers from the[NDEP] fund’s side to release expenditures in [Russia’s] direction.”
He said that eight priority task had been identified by the Russians right away and that work will begin as soon as a coordinating structure within NDEP is in place—when the Master Plan’s second phase is approved. As yet, there is no deadline fixed for completion of the Master Plan’s second phase, but according to Antipov and Sarkisov, it is already deep into the draft stage.
The eight projects identified by Antipov will deal with ensuring greater physical security at nuclear sites in Northwest Russia, engineering surveys of Gremikha Bay and Andreyeva Bay, two infamously contaminated sites on the Kola Peninsula storing naval radioactive waste—in some cases in the open—and organisation of radiation monitoring of sites where dismantlement work will be taking place.
Antipov slightly misspoke in his Nuclear.ru interview, saying that the public consultations had been concluded and approved by the Assembly of Donors, and adding that “the principle result of the public consultations is that, on the whole, no one, including such well known environmental groups as Bellona and Greenpeace, has any objections to the Master Plan.
It is true that Bellona has approved the idea of creating a Master Plan, but it has not been approached for the notification stage of the NNC public consultation.
Novak, who was present at the December 6th Donors’ Assembly meeting, explained, however, that Antipov was referring to the “scoping” portion of the public consultation. Other European officials present for the meeting corroborated this interpretation of Antipov’s presentation.
Antipov himself, despite several attempts, could not be reached for further comment.
Antipov and Novak emphasised in their separate interviews that this is just the completion of phase one of the Master Plan. Phase two, which according to Sarkisov, Novak, Antipov and others, will concentrate on developing time tables for work, outline specific projects, and organise the work in such a way as to avoid overlaps and bottlenecks.
Novak added that the development of phase two should also seek an agreement among donor nations on the creation of a management team for the program that would, in Novak’s conception, be comprised of a group of Rosatom experts with the EBRD in a consultative role. This would seem to echo Antipov’s version of how phase two should be developed in terms of a plan of programme action.
Setting the priorities—Andreyeva Bay
Among these top priorites, said Novak, is likely to be Andreyeva bay, located 55 kilometres from the Russian-Nowegian border, which suffered an accident in one of its pool storage facilities in 1982, during which some 3,000 cubic meters of radioactive cooling water leaked out.
The fuel stored in that pool, located in Andreyeva Bay’s infamous building No. 5, was transferred to dry storage in three concrete tanks, which are now 100 percent full. But many of Andreyeva Bay’s 21,640 spent nuclear fuel assemblies—which contain 35 tonnes of fuel materials with a total radioactivity of 26.8 million curies—have been damaged, making them much more difficult to extract from their holding cylinders and transfer to better storage facilities.
Efforts to deal with the radiological hazards at Anreyeva Bay have been thwarted time and again by Russian authorities who have refused access to potential donor bodies and have held information about the site close to their chests. This has only served to add to the perception of secrecy surrounding the Russian nuclear industry, and what many countries regard as the Kremlin’s “spy mania” and paranoia surrounding its ailing nuclear infrastructure.
But in Novak’s assesment, at least on the point of Andreyeva Bay, the Russian are only slightly clearer about the hazards contained at there than are those countries who wish to help.
“I believe the Russians indeed do not know enough about Andreyeva, neither the quantity or condition of the fuel stored there,” said Novak. “They just don’t have the information.”
A 90-pound chunk of masonry breaks off the facade of a high-rise building and crushes a man on the sidewalk below. Another man, stumbling home from a late-night party, falls in the street, passes out and freezes to death. Two men break into a railroad yard and die after drinking several quarts of industrial solvent from a tanker car.
There are so many odd and horrible ways to die in Russia that it's almost no surprise that the average Russian man isn't expected to see his 59th birthday. Men in Bangladesh live longer.
"Normally only during wartime do we see the kind of decreases in men's longevity that we've seen recently in Russia," said Vladimir I. Simanenkov, the head of the department of internal diseases at the St. Petersburg Medical Academy and a senior official with the city's Public Health Committee.
Government statistics show that the average Russian man lives 58.6 years, compared with 73 years for the average Russian woman. In 1990, life expectancy for men was 63.4 years.
The reasons sound simple: Russian men drink too much, smoke too much, live with too much stress and go to the doctor too rarely.
The consequences are anything but simple, however. Russia's erupting men's health crisis could trigger major social or political unrest in a nation with huge stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Russia one day could even become incapable of patrolling its borders or policing vast expanses of rural emptiness, creating new havens for smugglers, terrorists and others. Military leaders already complain that most new draftees are so unfit, drug-addled or psychologically damaged that only about 10 percent are capable of withstanding boot camp.
Death rates are soaring for stroke, lung cancer, stomach cancer, TB and heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer with a rate double that of American men.
Murray Feshbach, an expert on Russian health and demographics at the Smithsonian Institution (news - web sites)'s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, says the situation will grow worse.
He said the country's HIV (news - web sites)/AIDS (news - web sites) infection rates rival those of southern Africa, and that Russia is undercounting deaths from the disease by attributing many of them to secondary infections such as tuberculosis. By 2020, he said in a telephone interview, HIV/AIDS alone is projected to kill 250,000 to 648,000 Russians a year.
Hepatitis C, mostly caused by intravenous drug use, also is poised to explode, Feshbach said.
In the next 20 years, according to Goskomstat, the state statistics agency, the Russian National Security Council and the United Nations (news - web sites) Population Division, Russia's population of 144 million could drop by a third.
Russian women would have to have almost twice as many children (2.4) as they're having now (1.3) just to keep the population from declining, but Russia has one of the world's highest abortion rates. Some surveys suggest that there are more abortions than births.
The health slide for Russian women isn't nearly so dramatic. While 40 percent of all Russian men now die between the ages of 16 and 59, the average life expectancy for Russian women has dropped only one year since 1990, when it was 74.
Georgey M. Manikhas, the chief of the St. Petersburg Oncology Clinic, said Russian women lived longer than men did because they got more and regular checkups, a habit that begins as they reach childbearing age. Also, women's clinics in Russia tend to be more efficient and welcoming.
Conversely, men's approach to health seems not to have changed all that much since Stalinist times, when Soviet propaganda films showed the dictator and his aides working through the night in the Kremlin, drinking heavily and filling all the ashtrays with cigarette butts.
Many doctors blame men's ill health partly on what they call "culture shock," the stress from the economic and social upheaval that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Factories closed, salaries went unpaid, food and medicines were scarce, and runaway inflation and a currency crisis wiped out most people's savings.
In St. Petersburg last year, 5,000 men needed heart surgery. But limited budgets and facilities allowed for just 500 operations, according to statistics provided by a medical administrator.
The issue is compounded today by a near total lack of public health awareness among Russian men and a similar lack of a coherent, coordinated campaign on the part of the government to persuade them otherwise.
"Our young guys dress well, they become top managers with wonderful skills, but they haven't developed their health skills," Manikhas said. "They think a fancy car and a beautiful woman on their arm are preventatives. This is their greatest mistake."
More than 60 percent of Russian men smoke regularly, and lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death in Russia.
"The Russian concept of health," Simanenkov said, "doesn't include not smoking."
Alcohol is another unchecked danger.
The importance of vodka to Russia's celebrations, traditions and social life cannot be overstated. The average Russian man drinks a bottle of vodka every other day, and that's not counting additional beers, wine, whiskey and cognac, according to the Health Ministry. Overindulging isn't seen as a "risk factor", simply part of being Russian.
Counterfeit alcohol - bottled and labeled like the real thing but highly impure and toxic - also has flooded the country. The result: Tens of thousands die from alcohol poisoning every year, so many that alcohol poisoning is a separate subcategory in government statistics tracking accidental deaths, along with traffic accidents and drowning.
"In rural villages, the degradation from alcohol is complete, and it runs through entire families," said Manikhas, who says he's seen it throughout the country. "This is a true disaster."
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to restrict the sale and production of alcohol starting in 1985. The long lines for vodka rations were derisively called "Gorbachev nooses."
Industrial production and longevity rates went up, but the resulting social tension and massive loss of tax revenues soon scotched the Soviet experiment with Prohibition.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin was notorious for his drinking during the 1990s, and a rumor that his chief aide was secretly watering down his vodka was widely believed.
The carefully crafted image of Vladimir Putin (news - web sites), Yeltsin's successor, is that of the Anti-Yeltsin. Putin is a judo champion and downhill skier who's fit, sober, serious and restrained. Public health officials think Putin could serve as a healthier role model for young Russian men.
"Let's hope so," said Manikhas. "He's the first (healthy leader) we've had.
"But we shouldn't be too proud. Putin shouldn't be an exception; he should be the norm. Russian leaders should be able to drink, to play sports and be athletic - and able to control themselves."
Putin has endorsed limits on public drinking, and the Russian parliament, the Duma, is considering laws restricting advertising of alcohol. But the beer and spirits industry is fighting those restrictions, and Russian law still allows open containers in cars. The legal limit for blood-alcohol content is twice as high as it is in most states in the United States.
Public health doctors and administrators complain that the government spends little on prevention and education.
Russia also has been unwilling to accept international help for some of its most pressing health problems. One example: Russia for years refused World Bank (news - web sites) loans to treat drug-resistant TB, insisting that only Russian-made drugs could be used in the treatment program. The trouble was, Russia didn't make the drugs the treatment required.
Lee Reichman calls it "the Kursk (news - web sites) Syndrome."
When the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, several countries were quick to offer help in rescuing some of the crewmembers trapped alive in the sub.
"But Russia delayed accepting foreign assistance until it was too late," said Reichman, the executive director of the National Tuberculosis Center at the New Jersey Medical School and a physician with extensive experience in Russia.
"It's the same with TB. ... TB is not going to go away without a major, major effort. It's shocking enough that young Russian men die of violence and trauma. But Russia should be able to treat infectious, preventable diseases."
1. Nations Gather to Help Nuclear Citiies Shut Down Plutonium Production Reactors
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The permanent closure of Russian nuclear reactors built specifically to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons was the topic of a two-day conference that just wrapped up in Switzerland. The conference brought together representatives from 11 countries and two international organizations to address the challenge of shutting down the last three remaining plutonium production reactors in the Russian Federation, launching a process for international participation in funding the effort.
The reactors also provide necessary heat and electricity to two "closed cities" in Siberia. In order to meet these energy requirements, the United States will provide support to the Russian Federation to significantly refurbish a replacement fossil energy plant at Seversk and construct a replacement fossil energy plant at Zheleznogorsk. The Russian government has agreed to permanently shut down the reactors once the replacement facilities are operational.
The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP) Program is taking the lead in this important nonproliferation effort of the Bush administration. The EWGPP Program works to halt the production of new weapons-grade plutonium in Russia.
The goal of the conference was to solicit international funding for projects outside of the existing U.S.-Russia construction agreement. The Russian Federation proposed projects to the assembled countries that require international funding and participation. The proposed projects will help to protect and remediate environment around the reactor sites, and create new business enterprises and jobs for the workforce of highly skilled scientists and technicians that will be displaced when the reactors shut down.
"This conference is an historic call to action for the international community to support our collective global nonproliferation objectives. The EWGPP Program continues to work hard with its Russian counterparts to reduce the amount of nuclear materials available to terrorists. Continued funding and support will be critical to our joint efforts to shut down these deteriorating reactors and provide replacement facilities for the two closed cities and their inhabitants," said NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Jerry Paul, who represented NNSA at the meeting.
Switzerland hosted the event at the Spiez Laboratory, an official Swiss institution dealing with nuclear, biological, and chemical defense matters. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affair's Centre for International Security Policy was the primary sponsor of the event, which was attended by 11 countries, the European Commission (EC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
2. Russia and China Foreign Ministers Talk by Telephone
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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A telephone conversation took place on February 14 between Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China Li Zhaoxing. They focused mainly on the situation that has evolved around the six-party talks on the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula after the recent statement of the DPRK on indefinite suspension of its participation in these talks and on its intention to build up it nuclear arsenal.
The sides expressed concern over this move of the DPRK, which, in their view, may complicate the solution of the question of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. The need was emphasized of the earliest possible resumption of the six-party negotiating process and elaboration of compromise approaches, taking the interests and concerns of all the parties into account.
The ministers outlined specific steps for the further coordination of efforts in the matter of resolving the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen The Russian military and political leaders are fully aware that Russia's active role in the world sets higher requirements not only for its political system but also for the predictability of Russia's participation in common endeavor to promote international security.
And we do our best to demonstrate our compliance.
Our primary contribution to the common cause is the participation in countering present-day threats and challenges, and taking part in working out a strategy for the world community to counter crisis developments.
The need to safeguard our national interests alongside with the points I have quoted form the cornerstone for activities and practices of the Russian Armed Forces.
To put it I bluntly, until late last century a handicapped social and economic reform in Russia has limited the transformation of the military machine to cosmetic reductions in force and personnel sizes.
The situation has changed only a few years ago, when Russia had embarked on political and economic stabilization, resulting in a more secure public welfare. In turn, this has enabled the military to switch from struggle for survival in their own homeland over to a full-fledged development effort.
Further work on development of the Russian Armed Forces will be carried out according to the following priorities:
First, preserving the Strategic Deterrence Force potential as a result of the balanced development, improvement and upgrade of missile systems and their nuclear component. On saying this, may I emphasize the fact that we have reached understanding that Russia does not need the nuclear weapons in the amount the Soviet Union used to possess.
Therefore we have no plans to boost our nuclear missile potential.
Neither are any of our new nuclear missile system developments geared against any individual country.
None the less, Russia will remain to be an important nuclear power bearing its burden of responsibility for nuclear deterrence.
Fourth, improving research, technology and production incentives to ensure an independent development and production of strategic armaments. In doing so, we do not rule out research and production cooperation with other countries, including NATO member states.
In my further remarks I cannot but dwell upon some issues of global politics. The first issue is the one of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
Russia's stance on the issue remains to be unaltered. International agreements shall remain binding for all parties, with no exception, although export controls regimes are not supposed to serve as a smoke-screen to cover up unfair competition in the arms trade markets.
In this context, I would like to express my attitude towards one of the rumors launched in this respect.
It is alleged that we in Russia have inadequate controls for nuclear weapons or their components, and those are being smuggled to Iran or North Korea.
The situation has immediately been used by certain adventurists who have delivered to the black-market in Afghanistan a few fake weapon-grade uranium containers with Russian language labels. I can demonstrate to those interested related photos, which I have already passed to friendly defense establishments.
As far as both cases are concerned no comment is needed.
Another issue is related to the North Korean statement of its withdrawal from the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
I believe we should do all we can to keep that state in the Treaty framework. For that purpose, compromise solutions will be required, first of all within the ongoing six-party talks.
Of course, we have to see official documents to this score. But if information in question proves accurate I would say that North Korea has made a wrong choice.
And we have to remember that this is a state sharing common border with Russia.
We also believe that long overdue is the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which might serve as an extra roadblock to proliferation of nuclear weapons.
4. Commentary Regarding Question Concerning a Treaty on Control over Russian Nuclear-Weapon Complex Facilities
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: There have been press reports alleging that, during the Russian-US summit in Bratislava on February 24, a treaty is going to be signed to establish international control over the facilities of Russia's nuclear weapon complex. What could be said in this connection?
Commentary: Speculations about there being a treaty under preparation that provides for, among other things, international control over the facilities of Russia's nuclear complex are absolutely groundless. There is nothing like this being worked through between Russia and the United States, nor can there be.
This does not mean that there are no dialogue and cooperation between Russia and the US in the field of nuclear security. We've got them and they are developing. The references in the same press that the topic was discussed also during the visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov to Washington correspond to reality, because themes of nonproliferation of nuclear, just as, by the way, of any other weapons of mass destruction are continually the focus of our discussions, including those between the military departments.
"The struggle against such a real threat as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one of the least conflict-prone, clear and obvious areas of Russian-US cooperation. Here we have no differences at all," Ivanov stressed.
We shall emphasize that Russia and the US have many coinciding aims where preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction across the planet, including preventing them from falling into terrorist hands, is concerned. We expect this dialogue to continue to develop in the future a well.
5. Alexander Yakovenko, Spokesman, Answers a Question Regarding Possible Supplies of Russian Nuclear Fuel to Iran (MFA)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: How could you comment on a report carried by today's newspaper Vremya Novostei that in March Russia may begin supplying nuclear fuel to Iran?
Answer: Supplies of Russian nuclear fuel to Iran for the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the return of spent fuel to Russia are possible only after the signing of a Russian-Iranian protocol on the return of spent fuel. The protocol has not yet been signed.
6. Statement by Alexander Yakovenko, Spokesman, Regarding DPRK's Decision to Suspend Its Participation in Six-Party Talks Indefinitely
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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The Russian MFA is carefully studying the statement made by the DPRK MFA's spokesman on February 10 concerning prospects for the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula. We cannot but regret the DPRK's decision on an "indefinite suspension" of its participation in the six-party talks and the public announcement of an intention to build up its nuclear potential. In our opinion, such an approach is inconsistent with the striving expressed by Pyongyang for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
We treat with respect and attention the DPRK's security concerns, but at the same time consider that a solution of this problem should lie in the mainstream of the talks and not on the path of building up the race in arms, especially nuclear. In this context we regard the six-party negotiating process in Beijing as the most optimal mechanism for resolving the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.
Despite the toughness of the DPRK Foreign Ministry statement, the Russian side does not give up the hope for a possible resumption of the six-party talks in the nearest future and the development of compromise approaches towards resolution of the existing problems with due consideration for the interests of all the parties concerned.
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