1. US Intelligence Concludes Theft of Russian Nuclear Material 'Has Occurred'
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US intelligence agencies have concluded that theft of radioactive materials from Russia's nuclear complex "has occurred" and the country's atomic power plants remain vulnerable to terrorist attack, according to a new intelligence report.
The unpublished analysis by the National Intelligence Council, a CIA (news - web sites)-based think tank that serves the entire US intelligence community, came as US President George W. Bush (news - web sites) prepared for a potentially contentious meeting Thursday with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin (news - web sites).
The two leaders are expected to discuss in Bratislava what is seen here as flaws in the Russian democratic process as well as non-proliferation issues, including the security of Moscow's nuclear stockpile.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied terrorist groups could get access to either Russian nuclear weapons or weapons-grade materials.
But in its report to Congress, an unclassified version of which was obtained by AFP, the council cast doubt on these assurances.
"We assess that undetected smuggling has occurred, and we are concerned about the total amount of material that could have been diverted or stolen in the last 13 years," the report said.
The Russian nuclear arsenal is estimated to currently include about 4,000 warheads deployed on land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and strategic bombers.
But Moscow also retains several thousand nonategic nuclear warheads in storage, plus a network of production and research facilities dealing with fissile substances, according to US officials.
The US intelligence community, according to the report, retains high confidence in safeguards built around battle-ready weapons.
But, said the council, "we continue to be concerned about vulnerabilities to an insider who attempts unauthorized actions as well as potential terrorist attacks."
Suspected terrorists have already shown their interest in the Russian nuclear arsenal, according to the report.
In 2002, security agents from the Russian Defense Ministry twice thwarted attempts by known terrorists to scout out nuclear weapons storage sites, the document pointed out.
On top of that, two sabotage and reconnaissance groups associated with Chechen separatists were spotted at several major railway stations in the Moscow region, in apparent attempts to gather intelligence about a special train used to transport nuclear weapons.
The report did not give the time of these sightings.
More than a few milligrams of weapons-usable fissile material have been stolen over the years from Russian research institutes and manufacturing plants, according to the analysis.
As much as 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of 90-percent enriched weapons-grade uranium disappeared from the Luch Production Association in 1992. Two years later, about three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of the same material were pilfered from a Moscow facility.
Russian officials reported in 1998 an unsuccessful attempt to steal from a plant in the Chelyabinsk region 18.5 kilograms (40.7 pounds) of unspecified radioactive material, an amount described as "quite sufficient" to produce a nuclear bomb.
But the US intelligence community expressed skepticism about Russian assurances that in all of these instances, the stolen materials had been eventually found.
"We find it highly unlikely that Russian authorities would have been able to recover all the stolen materials," the report said.
Discussed up to now mostly in private, concerns about Russian nukes spilled into the public arena last week, when Senate intelligence committee vice chairman, John Rockefeller, during a hearing, asked CIA Director Porter Goss if he could assure Americans that no nuclear material from Russia had found its way into terrorist hands.
"No, I can't make that assurance," Goss replied. "I can't account for some of the material."
The council also warned that, despite all the security upgrades, Russian nuclear power plants "almost certainly will remain vulnerable to a well-planned and executed terrorist attack."
2. Threat From Unaccounted-For Russian Nuclear Material Equal to North Korean Program, U.S. Senator Says
Global Security Newswire
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The threat posed by quantities of Russian nuclear materials whose whereabouts are unknown is equal to or greater than that posed by North Korea’s nuclear efforts, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said Sunday (see GSN, Feb. 17).
“I think you can legitimately look at North Korea and the unaccounted-for nuclear weapons parts in Russia and have a real debate as to which is more threatening to the world right now,” Senator Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) said on FOX News Sunday.
Last week, CIA Director Porter Goss testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that there was enough missing Russian nuclear material to develop a nuclear weapon. Goss also testified that he could not be certain that some of that material had not been obtained by terrorists.
Senior Russian officials, however, have denied allegations of stolen nuclear weapons or weapon-grade materials.
The issue is likely to be a key topic of discussion during Thursday’s scheduled meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
A report prepared last fall by a CIA in-house think tank, obtained last week by Global Security Newswire, also warns of “undetected smuggling” of Russian nuclear materials.
“We are concerned about the total amount of material that could have been diverted or stolen in the last 13 years,” says the November report, prepared by the National Intelligence Council.
Congress has directed the director of central intelligence to submit an annual report on the safety and security of Russian nuclear facilities and military forces. The November report updates information submitted to lawmakers in 2002.
The CIA last week declined to comment on the report.
Continued progress has been made on improving security enhancements at Russian civilian institutes and naval sites that house nuclear materials, according to the report. While Russia has made improvements in its own nuclear material, protection, control and accounting practices, “risks of undetected theft remain,” the report says.
Rockefeller on Sunday questioned Russia’s ability to guard nuclear materials. “The point is that a lot of those people who protect those places can be bribed,” he said.
Concerns also still exist that a lack of U.S. access to sensitive materials at Russian nuclear weapons sites has hindered security enhancement efforts, the CIA report says.
It also warns that Russia may not be able to maintain security upgrades the United States has helped to install.
“We are concerned that Russia may not be able to sustain U.S.-provided security upgrades of facilities over the long-term given the cost and technical sophistication of at least some of the equipment involved,” the report says.
The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which conducts a number of projects to upgrade security at Russian sites, did not return calls for comment.
“The key question” on whether Russia can sustain U.S.-installed security upgrades is Moscow’s own commitment to doing so, Matthew Bunn of Harvard University’s Managing the Atom project said today. While Russia has a growing economy, a budget surplus and personnel with experience in managing modern safeguards systems, he said, there is also a lack of dedicated budget line items for security at nuclear sites and lack of regulation on the types of terrorist threats sites should be able to defend against.
In addition to technical issues, Russian nuclear facilities also need personnel who have high levels of integrity and are competent to manage installed safeguards, said Bill Hoehn, Washington office director for the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council.
“It’s a very serious issue,” Hoehn said today, referring to sustainability concerns.
The National Intelligence Council report says that the threat of an unauthorized launch or accidental use of a Russian nuclear weapon “is highly unlikely as long as current technical and procedural safeguards built into the command and control system remain in place and are effectively enforced.”
It warns, though, that despite increased security, Russian nuclear power plants “almost certainly will remain vulnerable to a well-planned and executed terrorist attack.”
1. Bush Meets Putin To Talk Dirty Bombs And Terrorism
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U.S. President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Slovakia Thursday (Europe time) and are expected to announce methods to combat nuclear terrorism. The issue was also high on the United Nations agenda this week after its anti-nuclear agency said a multilateral approach was needed to keep nuclear arms from terrorists.
U.S. president Bush meets Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin this week in Slovakia. But what's on the real agenda?
The meeting with Putin is the first between the two leaders since Bush was re-elected in 2004. It signals an end to Bush's tour of Europe - a tour designed to ease trans-Atlantic tensions and build a cross-continental accord that would forge rather that fragment moves to curb global terrorism.
But while Bush told European press he was there to 'listen" European commentators were left asking themselves what exactly had Bush heard.
Perhaps the real reason for Bush's sojourn to the conservative continent is two-fold: to ease the strain on the U.S' domestic economy by aiding a climate of European investment and financial commitment toward rebuilding Iraq, and, and intelligence mission to discover what exactly had become of the hundreds of "suitcase nukes" manufactured by the former Soviet Union.
Twenty four months ago the divide between the United States of America and northern Europe was extreme. On December 30 2002 Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had reaffirmed that the German government would not send German soldiers to fight in a "highly dangerous conflict" in Iraq. On the same day Schröder said Germany's foremost policy task for 2003 was "to preserve peace in the world. And I don't want to give up hope that the international community will be able to enforce the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq without having to go to war," Schröder said.
Germany's stance drove a wedge between it and the USA, a stand-off that was enhanced as Germany had by January 2003 taken a dominating role at the United Nation's security council. Shortly after, France too stood beside its European Union partner and declared the Bush Administration a virtual rogue state that was preparing to abandon international law and unilaterally declare war on a near defenseless nation (Iraq).
Russia's Putin too (concerned that Russia's billion dollar investments in Iraq) would dissolve post-invasion moved to abandon the United States' plans to once and for all time strike at and topple the Saddam regime.
For the first time in living memory north Europe was united and prepared to signal a stand on moral and legal grounds. Certainly it was strategic too. In recent months the cost of an aggressive foreign policy has bitten deeper into the United States domestic economy.
Bush may have been re-elected, but his fiscal record is questioned, his financial legacy considered by degrees of trillion dollar deficits.
This is the backdrop to this week's U.S. presidential visit to Europe.
Putin too has his problems: while nearly a year after a strong re-election victory, Putin is in a weakened position after increased violence in the Chechen conflict and the deadly raid on a school in Beslan that ended in a torrent of gunfire and explosions that killed more than 330 people, half of them children.
Bush's meeting with Putin - in the snow blanketed capital of Slovakia - will certainly centre on mutual political interests, but specifically counter-terrorism moves. It will likely play down fears of suitcase nukes and so called "dirty bombs".
A hint of this came from the United Nations this week, alerting geopolitical watchers to what lies behind the counter-terrorism talks.
Clearly, in this post 911 climate of borderless war, the United States president wants to know whether his cities, and his United States citizens, could and can be turned to ashes at the click of a ballpoint pen.
Via the UN, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed El Baradei said this week a decades-long nuclear non-proliferation effort is under threat. He suggested that wide dissemination of the most sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle could be the “Achilles’ heel” of the non-proliferation regime.
Such threats come from regional arms races, non-nuclear weapon states in breach of or in non-compliance with safeguards accords, and incomplete application of export controls required by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
El Baradei said they also arise “from burgeoning and alarmingly well organized nuclear supply networks, and from the increasing risk of acquisition of nuclear or other radioactive materials by terrorist and other non-State entities”.
The UN statement signals the tip of an iceberg of a most destructive and disturbing kind.
It will not have escaped the Bush Administration's attention that thousands of nuclear weapons - once tucked neatly within the Soviet Union - remain unaccounted for. This knowledge rocked world when in 1997 General Alexander Lebed, former secretary of the Russian Security Council, told a CBS news programme 60 Minutes that he believed more than 100 "suitcase sized" nuclear weapons remained lost.
Lebed told 60 Minutes that the 1 kiloton weapons, once assigned to the Spetsnaz special forces of the former Soviet Union, were especially dangerous because they could be transported and detonated by a single person. Made in the form of a suitcase, he said these devices were not protected by launch codes and could be prepared in approximately 30 minutes, potentially killing 50,000 to 100,000 people if detonated in a large city. He speculated that they could be somewhere in Georgia, Ukraine or the Baltic states.
Lebed said he attempted to make an inventory of the weapons while he was Security Council secretary but was unable to complete it before being fired by President Boris Yeltsin in October 1996.
At the time, several senior Russian government officials, including then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, denied the existence of these weapons—known in the West as atomic demolition munitions (ADMs)—and argued that the Russian arsenal remained safe and secure.
Last week, FBI director Robert Mueller told a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that al Qaeda had evolved and posed greater threat to the USA.
"While we still assess that a mass casualty attack using relatively low-tech methods will be their most likely approach, we are concerned that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction including chemical weapons, so-called 'dirty bombs' or some type of biological agent such as anthrax," Mueller said.
At the same senate meeting CIA director Porter Goss said he believed North Korea continues to pursue a uranium enrichment capability. On Feb. 10, North Korean officials claimed to have atomic weapons. "North Korea continues to develop, produce, deploy and sell ballistic missiles of increasing range and sophistication," Goss said.
The country has a large stockpile of SCUD and No Dong missiles. "North Korea could resume flight testing at any time, including of longer-range missiles, such as the Taepo Dong-2 system," Goss noted. "We assess the TD-2 is capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear-weapon-sized payload."
Further, the intelligence agency believes North Korea has an active chemical and biological warfare program and "probably has chemical and possibly biological weapons ready for use."
The CIA chief said he was also worried about Iran's nuclear program. Iran is negotiating with the European Union on its nuclear program, but several Iranian officials have said that the country would not give up its nuclear processing capabilities. "In parallel, Iran continues its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles, such as an improved version of its 1,300 km range Shahab-3 medium- range ballistic missile," he said.
Goss said that Iran is allegedly supporting some anti-coalition activities in Iraq and is "seeking to influence the future character of the Iraqi state."
Additionally, the FBI's Mueller said: "Whether we are talking about a true sleeper operative who has been in place for years, waiting to be activated to conduct an attack or a recently deployed operative that has entered the U.S. to facilitate or conduct an attack, we are continuously adapting our methods to reflect newly received intelligence and to ensure we are as proactive and as targeted as we can be in detecting their presence.
"Second, because of al-Qa'ida's directed efforts this year to infiltrate covert operatives into the U.S., I am also very concerned with the growing body of sensitive reporting that continues to show al-Qa'ida's clear intention to obtain and ultimately use some form of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-energy explosives (CBRNE) material in its attacks against America," Mueller said.
All this considered, Bush has pulled long trusted and tested government servants to centralized umbrella positions. First among these is John Negroponte, who will become the United States' first director of national intelligence and will become Bush's principal adviser on intelligence issues.
Negroponte's last two posts were U.S. ambassador to Iraq in the midst of a bloody anti-U.S. uprising and, before that, ambassador to the United Nations when U.S. relations with the world organisation were declining over the looming war to depose Saddam Hussein.
Bush, said last week at a White House news conference that Negroponte would be in overall charge of all U.S. intelligence with the goal of "stopping terrorists before they strike."
Key to this pre-emptive plan is Putin. The Russian president faces the same terrorist threats as Bush and has displayed a tendency to act in a hard hitting hawkish style (albeit in a clumsy fashion often with dire consequences).
Bush is moving to toward his National Security Strategy pre-emptive position. He has three more of his "Axis of Evil" nations in his sites - Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
It would appear Bush has won over German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, both clearly braced during a tour of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany yesterday. But Schroeder schmoozed and then out-maneuvered Bush in 2002/03.
But Putin and Bush have more in common, more to gain, and more to lose with terror lurking under the bed.
The bonds made in Slovakia this week will likely be a keystone in a new pact between the two former arch-enemies in their hunt for those lost suitcase nuclear bombs - designed by the Soviets during a distant but now all-too-real Cold War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with U.S. President George Bush in Bratislava today. This summit will take place at an especially historic moment. The West fears that Russia is sliding slowly but surely toward dictatorship and thinks it is time to do something about it. After farewells from his European partners in Brussels, Bush heads to a meeting with the Russian president in order to give him a friendly warning of the consequences of curtailing democracy.
Dialog at a Distance
Russia's departure from democratic principles became one of the main topics of discussion at the NATO and EU summits held in Brussels that Bush attended. The U.S. president had to publicly promise to talk to Putin about this without fail and inform the Russian president of the viewpoint of the United States' European partners. However, in reply to a question about Russia at a press conference on Tuesday, Bush began with the good news. “First of all, we have established constructive relations with Russia, and that's important,” the president said. “I have excellent personal relations with President Putin, and that's also important. It's important, because it allows me, and our country, to remind President Putin that democracy is based on the supremacy of the law and on respect for human rights, human dignity, and freedom of the press. Our constructive relations allow me to remind him that I consider Russia a European country, and European countries and America share the same values.”
On the same day, Putin responded to critics in an interview in the Slovakian media. He began about the same way as President Bush. “As far as fundamental relations between Russia and the United States are concerned, I agree with the assessment of my American colleagues; they have probably never been at such a high level as they are now… As for questions of democracy, human rights, and so on, I say to you that fourteen years ago, Russia made a choice in favor or democracy. Not because it was pleasant for whoever it may be, but for ourselves, our country, and our citizens,” he added with a challenge. After this, the Russian president tried to explain why democracy in Russia was not the same as in the West. “The fundamental principles and institutions of democracy must be adapted to the realities of Russian life today, to our traditions, and to our history. This we will do ourselves.” In order to soften the effect of his words, he noted that “a well-meaning, even critical opinion from outside will not hinder us, but will only help us.”
Not Isolation but Involvement
President Bush's resolve to raise the question of democracy in Russia in Bratislava became known two weeks ago, after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Ankara. According to Kommersant's information from a source in the White House, Rice insisted at the time that this question be added as a separate line on the agenda of the presidents' meeting with its restricted complement. The secretary of state said that President Bush was disturbed about “the growing concentration of power in the hands of the Kremlin” with simultaneous weakening of the legislative and judicial branches of government, the absence of real freedom of the media, especially television, and the “neoimperialist logic” of Russia's actions in the CIS. It was made clear to Moscow that the U.S. president could no longer ignore the opinion of the American establishment, which was urging him to react strongly to the alarming tendencies in Russia.
Just before the summit, neoconservative circles close to President Bush even began talking about the need to allocate funds to prepare a velvet revolution in Russia modeled on the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. A group of senators and congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans, once again demanded Russia's exclusion from G8. Other lawmakers called for blocking Russia's accession to the WTO.
Bush responded to these two proposals when he was already in Brussels. He made it clear that Russia should not be isolated but actively involved in cooperation with the West, through the G8, NATO, the EU, and the WTO. In the U.S. president's opinion, it is still possible to correct everything; he believes it is enough to simply have a heart-to-heart talk with Putin and make him see the possible consequences of a further departure from democratic principles. At the same time, this summit is very different from the previous ones. This time Bush will arrive for a meeting with President Putin as the western world's authorized representative and convey the West's united position. This is why his warning has never been so serious.
According to Kommersant's information, in response to American complaints about Russia's domestic and foreign policy, the Kremlin has prepared counter-complaints primarily related to the increase in the West's systematic actions aimed at replacing the ruling regimes in the CIS. Moscow is convinced that velvet revolutions that have already happened or are in the making are the result of the activity of Western nongovernmental organizations and special services that nurture and train opposition forces. In the Kremlin's opinion, such activities are especially dangerous for the countries of Central Asia, where exporting revolution could lead to serious, long-lasting destabilization. Moscow also does not like American military and political activity in the CIS, especially plans to locate military bases in Georgia and AWACS planes in Kyrgyzstan, as well as to assist in forming a federation of Central Asian countries (without the participation of Russia, China, and Iran). The Kremlin believes that all this may be interpreted as the implementation of a strategic objective to exclude Russia from the post-Soviet area and is offering the United States cooperation in strengthening security zones around Russia's borders to prevent the spread of international terrorism.
As Washington's insistence, one more unpleasant question for Russia will be included on the agenda of the presidents' meeting with its restricted complement, namely, the safety of its nuclear facilities. According to Kommersant's sources in the U.S. Administration, the decision to raise this question was finally made after the Beslan tragedy. The White House was horrified at how freely the terrorists operated and at the incompetence of the Russian authorities. It was then that the Americans remembered the huge stockpiles of fissionable materials (including warheads and shells) stored at military and civilian nuclear facilities in Russia.
In all fairness, it should be said that after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Americans undertook a series of unprecedented measures to tighten security and increase safety at its own nuclear facilities at a cost of more than $450 million. At the same time, Washington understands that all these measures make sense only if other countries with large stockpiles of nuclear materials guard them just as carefully. This is why American specialists have suggested that Russia introduce a tight control system at nuclear facilities. The United States has already selected around ten of the most problematic facilities requiring urgent preventive measures. The Americans are particularly concerned about civilian facilities, which they regard as less secure due to chronic underfunding.
In order to avoid humiliating Moscow with these suggestions, Washington has made provision for reciprocal control measures, in which Russian specialists will have simultaneous access to American nuclear facilities.
It is expected that the U.S. president will insist on making a separate declaration on nuclear safety, and President Putin will probably have to agree with this. However, experts believe the Russian side will try to avoid specific obligations for mutual facility inspections and for a start, will try to introduce phrases like “instruct to study the question”, “set up a working group”, and so on. Moscow has a particular aversion to the positions in the American draft declaration on the obligations of the parties to destroy surplus nuclear plutonium. The Russia side wants to ask the United States for such large-scale financing for what is in fact an expensive operation to incinerate plutonium in special ovens that the Americans will be forced to hesitate.
And about the Weather
In order to push painful questions and sharp disagreements into the background, Moscow is also proposing to accept two positive documents, i.e., declarations of cooperation in the field of energy and on Russia's accession to the WTO. In particular, Moscow is calculating that Russian energy resources will have at least a 10 percent share in the United States as a result of new joint projects (including with Gazprom's participation) that will be discussed in Bratislava. As for talks with the United States on the WTO, the Kremlin is hoping to complete them in May, so that presidents Putin and Bush will be able to sign the corresponding documents at the celebrations in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Victory in Moscow. According to Kommersant's information, Putin will ask his counterpart to repeal the Jackson–Vanik Amendment, since according to WTO regulations, members of this organization are obligated to grant one another most favored nation treatment, but the amendment prohibits granting Russia this treatment.
To avoid the impression that only Russian problems will be discussed at the summit, Moscow will try to propose global projects in which Russia would look like a partner of the United States. A Russian proposal for a joint initiative to set up an international warning and response system to global disasters with consideration of the lessons of the tsunami in Asia may be one of these projects. Sergey Lavrov has already discussed this idea with Condoleeza Rice, who responded positively to it.
On the whole, both Putin and Bush plan to focus on the subject of the unity of Russia and the United States in confronting the problems and threats of the 21st century, mutual understanding and trust relationships between the two countries and their leaders, as well as the encouraging prospects for developing these relationships. With one proviso on the part of President Bush – if Russia proves that it shares common democratic values with the western world.
President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to announce a package of measures today to counter the threat of nuclear terrorism, a threat highlighted in a recent U.S. intelligence report warning that Russian nuclear material could still fall into terrorist hands, according to U.S. officials familiar with the accord.
Under the planned agreement, U.S. and Russian officials would accelerate long-delayed security upgrades at Russia's many poorly protected nuclear facilities, jointly develop emergency responses to a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack, and establish a program to replace highly enriched uranium in research reactors around the world to prevent it from being used for weapons, the U.S. officials said.
Although details were still being negotiated last night, the joint statement to be released at the presidential summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, could be used as a counterpoint to the rising tension in U.S.-Russian relations over Putin's crackdown on domestic dissent. Bush has promised to challenge Putin on Russia's retreat from democracy during their meeting but has also stressed his continuing friendship for the Russian president and their ability to work together on mutual security issues.
"We're trying to demonstrate that we can make progress and move forward despite these other issues," a senior Bush administration official said. Securing Russian nuclear material remains at the top of the U.S. agenda with Moscow, the official said, and the Bratislava agreement is intended to "get better control over things to avoid the possibility that things fall into the wrong hands."
The White House declined to comment, citing ongoing talks. The officials who confirmed the pending agreement spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the joint statement before Bush.
The two sides were also working on an agreement to help stem the proliferation of shoulder-fired rockets, a particular favorite of terrorists and guerrillas. That agreement is to be signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. U.S. and Russian officials were also drafting joint statements on economic cooperation, counterterrorism, exchange programs and the fight against AIDS.
But negotiators were unable to break an impasse that has held up a multibillion-dollar program to dispose of 68 tons of plutonium usable for nuclear weapons despite last-minute talks. U.S. and Russian officials rushed to London and met in Moscow in a bid to resolve a technical dispute over liability that has frozen the program, first announced by Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in 1998 and still unrealized seven years later.
Barring an overnight breakthrough, negotiators will have to return to the table after the summit, hoping perhaps to find a compromise in time for Bush's next planned meeting with Putin in Moscow in May. If the liability issue is not solved, it could ultimately affect a broad range of programs designed to help Russia secure and dispose of nuclear arms when a bilateral Cooperative Threat Reduction pact expires next year.
Still, some security analysts said the agreement on track for announcement today represented a significant step forward, particularly because Bush administration officials began pursuing a deal only a couple of weeks ago and Russian officials were resisting out of pique over the short time frame and the criticism of democratic setbacks. The agreement also helps Bush respond to Democrats' criticism during last year's election campaign that he has failed to do enough to secure Russian "loose nukes."
"It is a coup for him," said Rose Gottemoeller, who negotiated nuclear security issues with Russia for the Clinton administration. "If he can get Putin to agree to this, it's a very important step."
The negotiations come in the wake of a U.S. intelligence report concluding that the Russians have been upgrading the security of their nuclear weapons at military bases and of their weapons-grade nuclear materials at production facilities, but that "risks remain" because of what occurred in the past.
"We assess that undetected smuggling has occurred, and we are concerned about the total amount of [nuclear] material that could have been diverted or stolen in the last 13 years," said the National Intelligence Council (NIC) report, completed in November and made available to The Washington Post yesterday.
The NIC, composed of representatives from the CIA, the Pentagon, the Energy Department and other intelligence agencies, noted in the report that the "risk remains" that terrorists could seize weapons or materials. It quoted Russian authorities as saying they "twice thwarted terrorist efforts to reconnoiter nuclear weapons storage sites in 2002." In addition, Chechen groups were reported to have been seen "at several major railroad stations in the Moscow region, apparently interested in a special train used for transporting nuclear 'bombs.' "
Under questioning by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) at a hearing last week, CIA Director Porter J. Goss said he could not rule out the possibility that Russian nuclear material has made its way into terrorist hands. "I can't account for some of the material, so I can't make the assurance about its whereabouts," Goss testified.
The NIC expressed doubt that Moscow could keep up to date the security systems being installed with U.S. help. "We are concerned that Russia may not be able to sustain U.S. provided security upgrades of facilities over the long-term, given the cost and technical sophistication of at least some of the equipment involved," the report said.
The agreement to be announced today would commit both countries to closer cooperation, including sharing "best practices" for security at nuclear facilities and creating a senior bilateral group to coordinate nuclear security issues, U.S. officials said. The two countries would develop a plan to provide low-enriched uranium for research reactors in other countries that now use highly enriched uranium that can be processed into weapons-grade fuel.
The centerpiece of the pact would speed up security measures at Russian nuclear facilities, setting a goal of finishing most of them by 2008, when both presidents will be finishing their second and final terms, instead of 2012, the current target.
With U.S. help, Russian facilities have been equipped with double electrified barbed-wire fences and monitors covering about 300 tons of weapons-usable material, said Charles B. Curtis, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. But another 300 tons remain uncovered by new security measures, leaving them vulnerable.
"It only takes kilograms, handfuls of kilograms, to make a nuclear device, and so there's an enormous urgency to get this job done at a more rapid pace," Curtis said.
Concern over Russian nuclear security has risen in Congress. "There's been a lot of blowback from the Hill on this subject, and it's caught a lot of attention inside the administration," said William E. Hoehn, director of the Washington office of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council.
4. Putin and Bush Head to Bratislava For Non-Proliferation and Democracy Summit
(for personal use only)
Despite the political upheavals that have separated Russia and the United States since US President George Bush’s reelection, the most dominant public talking points at Bratislava’s Thursday summit—and the one on which Presidents Vladimir Putin and Bush seem to most heartily agree—will be nuclear non-proliferation and containing the threat of loose nuclear material in Russia.
Russia has long depended on the United States Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR)and related programmes—to the tune of some $1.3 billion a year—to help clean up the Soviet nuclear legacy by destroying weapons of mass destruction. And, it is clear enough to Moscow that this it relies on this and other money to keep the Russian nuclear industry—inherited as a creaky Soviet money-pit that has not been remodeled since—chugging along.
Furthermore, following Russia’s recent democratic roll-backs, non-proliferation is also one of a small handful of topics the two leaders can address in public without dispute, and most indications indicate that the progressive failure of open democracy in Putin’s Russia will be addressed behind closed doors.
Nevertheless, Iran’s nuclear programme—for which Moscow is building an $800m light water reactor in the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr—had, according to many US Government sources, recently become as much a concern to Russia as it has to the United States, which has insisted that Teheran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.
Is Russia turning on Iran?
This concern hinges on the alleged sale by Ukraine to Iran in 2000 of up t 20 Kh-55 missiles. These missiles have a range of 2880 kilometres and are capable of carrying a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead at altitudes too low to be detected by radar. Also, recent revelations that many of Iran’s uranium centrifuges came from Pakistani nuclear black-marketeer Abdul Qadir Khan’s network, have also put Moscow on edge. “Russia is close to Iran than the US is, so they better be scared,” said on State Department official to Bellona Web.
Nonetheless Russia is so far sticking by Iran in public, according to Russian press outlets. Russia also believes the West is bent on isolating it from other countries in the CIS. The West in turn believes the Kremlin is trying to reestablish control over former Soviet republics. The Yukos affair and Putin's dismantling of democracy and the free press have poisoned US-Russia relations.
State Department and other officials interviewed by Bellona Web in Washington last week have tipped that the two leaders will talk about upping the tempo on securing Russia’s weapons-usable nuclear materials, only 38 percent of which after 12 years of effort are under reliable lock and key. They are also likely to talk about breaking the legislative log-jam laid by the US Department of State that has prevented the 2000 US-Russia Plutonium Disposition agreement from moving forward.
The slow pace of non-proliferation
The 2000 agreement between former US President Bill Clinton and Putin, stipulated that both countries, in parallel progress, would destroy 34 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium declared surplus to each countries arsenals.
Later, Bush said these efforts would focus on mixing weapons grade plutonium with uranium in Mixed oxide, or MOX fuel for burning in specially retrofitted reactors. This disregarded the vastly cheaper and safer method—by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) own calculations— of immobilisation, via which weapons-grade plutonium is, generally speaking, encased in highly radioactive glass and stored in special containers.
The US MOX program is slated to cost some $4 billion and Russia some $2 billion. But Russia has thus far refused to succumb to US liability demands that place all liability implementation of the MOX programme. The DOE and others in the nuclear disarmament establishment that support the controversial plan are anxious for Putin and Bush to reach a liability resolution.
Most analysts in Russia and the US agree, however, that the cumbersome, expensive and behind-schedule will collapse under its own weight—a goal the State Department was shooting for when it refused to renew the MOX programme’s five-year 1998 Technical Agreement, grinding MOX research to a halt on both sides of the ocean.
A US official told Bellona Web, however, that the new State Department, under the control of Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s former National Security Advisor, is sending along amended liability documentation for the MOX programme for sideline negotiations at the summit.
The US is also bringing with it newly proposed legislation for the creation of a “non-proliferation czar” to oversee U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The Omnibus Nonproliferation and Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Act of 2005 would establish within the White House an Office of Nonproliferation Programs, to be headed by a director nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The director, who would serve as the president's chief nonproliferation adviser, would be responsible for overseeing the various programs conducted by the Defense, Energy and State departments. Among the director's responsibilities would be guiding the development of nonproliferation budgets and setting priorities.
It is as yet unclear how this would interface with European donor nations’ efforts. Responsible European Union and US administration officials could be reached for comment.
Concerns for Russian democracy
It thus remains to be seen whether discussions in the area of nuclear non-proliferation are substantive or simply a distraction to divert from what some State Department officials expect to be closed door raps from the diplomatic ruler.
In comments to Slovak state television last week, Bush said his "good relationship" with the Russian leader would "give me a chance to say in private—ask him why he's been making some of the decisions he's been making."
The senior US official said; "If you talk to Russian experts, they will tell you Putin recoils from public criticism -- that's not the most effective way to deal with him. Bush has been criticized by some for not being more vocal publicly. On the other hand, the point is (that) you want to be effective."
Washington’s political elite is expecting the US president to come back with results in this area.
Republican Senator Richard Lugar, co-author of the 1992 CTR legislation and current Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, last week urged Bush at a Senate hearing devoted to Russia’s deomcratic back-peddling, to "make democracy, human rights and the rule of law" priorities in his talks with Putin. Senator Joseph Biden, the panel's top Democrat, asked bluntly, "When are we going to get tough with Russia?"
This month, shortly after Ukraine's pro-Western president was sworn in, the nation's prosecutor-general launched an inquiry into reports that up to 20 nuclear-capable cruise missiles intended for transfer to Russia were instead sold to other countries, including Iran and China.
The complaint filed by Ukrainian legislator Hrihory Omelchenko claims that in 2000, Iran received six of the Kh-55 missiles, which have a range of 1,800 miles and are capable of carrying a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead at altitudes too low to be detected by radar.
Omelchenko alleges that a private Russian arms broker and officials in Ukraine's state-owned arms export agency and security services were behind the deal. The reports caused a storm in the Russian press, not least because the Russian Defense Ministry, in whose name the export licenses were reportedly signed, never publicly reported failure to take delivery of the 20 missiles.
In fact, Russia's government has denied any knowledge of the transaction, and there have been no allegations that it was involved in the deal. At least one analyst says he thinks initial reports of the deal are "full of holes."
But the continuing vulnerability of Russia and other former Soviet states to inadvertent loss of weapons and nuclear material is one of many reasons why nonproliferation will be near the top of the agenda when President Bush meets Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Thursday.
"We attach a high priority to a number of issues; perhaps the top of the list is the nonproliferation … agenda, both in terms of strengthening or establishing efforts to complete securing and dismantling of nuclear [materials], as well as strengthening our joint efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction from getting into the hands of terrorists," a senior U.S. diplomat said in a pre-summit briefing last week.
With mounting U.S. concerns that Iran could convert its nuclear power production program into weapons development, Russia announced last week that it expected to sign a final protocol this weekend on handling spent fuel, providing additional protections that would clear the way for the start-up of an $800-million nuclear power plant that Russia is building in southern Iran.
"Iran's latest steps convince us that Iran has no intention to make nuclear weapons, which means that we will continue cooperation in all areas, including the nuclear energy field," Putin said Friday.
Nonproliferation analysts in Moscow said it was likely Putin would travel to Iran shortly after his summit with Bush, possibly paving the way for contracts under which Russia would build additional nuclear power plants in Iran.
Bush will almost certainly raise continuing U.S. concerns over Russia's virtual state takeover of Yukos Oil Co. and prosecution of its former chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, along with perceptions that Putin has rolled back press freedoms and the independence of the courts, parliament and regional governments.
Both sides will also be looking for a way to move past the bruising behind-the-scenes confrontation that accompanied the recent elections of pro-Western governments in Georgia and Ukraine, territories that Russia had regarded as its strategic backyard.
In a possible signal that Russia wants to start a new chapter on the issue, Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov said that Moscow viewed both countries as "absolutely sovereign, absolutely equal states in the new geopolitical architecture."
"Russia does not need a cold war," Lavrov told the newspaper Izvestia last week, urging people against "succumbing to irrational anti-Western sentiments."
"It would merely make more difficult the solution of our internal socioeconomic tasks, would impede our country's sustained development and its integration in world politics and economics," Lavrov said.
The issue of Russian nuclear aid to Iran is likely to be one of the thorniest summit issues, despite a growing U.S. conviction that Russia shares Washington's view that Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions must be contained. The difference, Russian analysts say, is in the approach.
"In the area of nonproliferation, we have serious controversies. The U.S. would insist on Russian support of the American hard line with respect to Iran, and potentially North Korea. Russia would insist on giving priority to diplomatic and economic instruments, not just threats of the use of force," said Alexei G. Arbatov, co-chair of Carnegie Moscow Center's nuclear nonproliferation program.
Russian officials believe the safeguards in place would delay any diversion of fuel from Iran's commercial nuclear applications to a military program for at least a year — plenty of time for United Nations intervention.
"It's an open secret that Russia has the same concerns about Iran that the U.S. has," said Anton Khlopkov, deputy director of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia, which focuses on nonproliferation issues. "And because Russia is closer to Iran than the U.S. is, Russia is trying to understand in detail what is going on in the nuclear field."
U.S. officials credit Russia with using its diplomatic channels to insist on controls.
"The Russians have done a fair amount of tough diplomacy on the bilateral level with the Iranians in support of the outcome we are trying to achieve," the senior U.S. diplomat said.
At the same time, the U.S. will be pushing for its own nonproliferation oversight in Russia, via the $1.6-billion Cooperative Threat Reduction program, under which Washington has provided assistance to Russia and other post-Soviet nations in dismantling and securing nuclear and chemical facilities to prevent them from getting into the hands of terrorists.
Kremlin hawks have been increasingly nervous about U.S. access to Russian military facilities under the program. On Sunday, hundreds of Orthodox Christians and Cossacks rallied in the center of Moscow in favor of Russia's continued sovereignty over its nuclear sites — an issue both the U.S. and Russia insist is not in jeopardy.
On the issue of the reported sales of Ukrainian missiles to Iran and China, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had no information. "For now, this is Ukraine's purely domestic issue," said Col. Vyacheslav Sedov, head of the ministry's press service.
State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said U.S. officials had seen reports of the missile sales but could not confirm them.
In a telephone interview, Omelchenko said he had evidence that private Russian citizens were "part of an international criminal group" that masterminded the missile deal.
Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, citing Ukrainian military sources, said there were reports that new satellites Russia recently contracted to build for Iran could help produce digital maps for the Kh-55.
"This news made my hair stand on end," Felgenhauer said in an interview. "Now it doesn't sound like such an empty threat to me when I hear the president of Iran make a very aggressive statement promising to send 'the fire of hell' on the United States and Israel."
The reports are certain to form an important part of the backdrop to this week's meeting between Putin and Bush, Felgenhauer said.
"I am sure that during the summit this alarming information will be used by the United States as a heavy tool of pressure on Russia," he said.
Another analyst, Ivan Safranchuk at the Center for Defense Information, said that although the sales involved Ukraine and not Russia, and the initial report of the missile sales "seems to be full of holes," the inquiry might raise questions about overall accounting for weapons systems.
"If it transpires that the missiles had been scheduled to arrive in Russia four years ago, and for all this time no one in Russia has sounded the alarm over the missing missiles, then, clearly, it will be a huge scandal," Safranchuk said. "Regardless of whether the transportation documents were forged or not, not noticing that 20 missiles are missing is a very big deal."
1. Russia Set to Sign Nuclear Deal with Iran, Irk U.S.
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Russia, ignoring U.S. concerns, is set to sign a deal with Tehran this weekend that will pave the way for the start-up of Iran's first nuclear power plant.
President Vladimir Putin last week cleared the way for the $1 billion Russian-built Bushehr reactor project to go ahead when he said he was sure that Tehran -- branded part of an "axis of evil" by Washington -- had no plans to make atomic arms.
His nuclear energy chief, Alexander Rumyantsev, was finally due to visit Iran to sign the deal Saturday, crowning years of tense politicking in which Moscow has defended the lucrative project in the face of strong pressure from Washington.
The United States says it fears the 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant in southern Iran could be used as a cover by Tehran to build atomic weapons. Tehran has denied this.
"Moscow is really keen to get on with this project," said Vladimir Yevseyev, a non-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow.
"Abandoning the Bushehr project would immediately destroy diplomatic relations with Iran and hurt Russia's standing in the region."
Moscow's decision to press ahead with Bushehr has not been easy for Putin, given the value he attaches to his personal friendship with President Bush. The two men were meeting Thursday in the Slovak capital with Iran a top item on their agenda.
A key part of the agreement due to be signed addresses itself to U.S. concerns, obliging Tehran to repatriate all spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr reactor back to Russia.
Moscow hopes this will alleviate U.S. fears that Iran may use the spent fuel -- which contains potentially weapons-grade materials -- to develop arms.
Oil-rich Iran denies it is developing nuclear arms and says its program is solely for generating electricity.
The Bushehr plant, where hundreds of Russian engineers and scientists work, is due to go on line later this year and reach full capacity in 2006.
Diplomats in Moscow said last year's offer by the European Union's "Big Three" to help Tehran with peaceful atomic energy may have spurred Russia into getting going with the plant to avoid losing a key market in the Middle East to EU rivals.
"Bushehr is a huge economic incentive for Russia. It will raise revenues and create jobs for Russian specialists," said one diplomat.
"But a lot of questions still remain unresolved over Iran's nuclear program. And any cooperation in that field can be problematic for as long as that is the case."
Carnegie's Yevseyev said: "By pressing ahead with Bushehr, Russia wants to prove that it's not only got a lot of natural resources for export, but that it is also one of the world's most advanced nuclear powers."
Under the deal, Russia could start fuel shipments to Iran as early as in the next two months. The fuel will be used to generate electricity.
After about a decade of use, Iran will have to repatriate the material back to a storage facility in Siberia.
A Russian Atomic Energy Agency official said Moscow will receive around $20 million from shipping the fuel to Iran and another $10 million from its repatriation -- but revenues may rise considerably over years.
"Construction of another reactor there cannot be ruled out either," he said. "There are good opportunities for us there, so we are determined to expand our relationship with Iran."
With a firm handshake from the Kremlin chief, Hassan Rohani concluded his visit to Moscow last Friday. As head of Iran's National Security Council, Rohani made no secret that his meetings were timed ahead of a U.S.-Russia summit in Bratislava this week.
A triangulation of interests has emerged in which Russia is keen on bolstering ties with the U.S., while signing defense contracts with Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin met Rohani's delegation with a broad smile, a signal that work on the Bushehr atomic plant remains on track: "We will continue to cooperate with Iran at all levels, including nuclear energy," a resolute Putin told the Kremlin pool.
According to Izvestia, more than 1,500 Russian engineers are scheduled to bring Bushehr online by 2006. Putin restated his conviction that Tehran does not intend to develop nuclear weapons. Next to him at the bargaining table was Aleksandr Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Federal Agency for Atomic Energy. Rumyantsev is expected to sign a protocol in Tehran on Feb. 26 monitoring the return of spent fuels to Siberia. The precautionary measure has not quieted critics who argue that plutonium can easily be extracted from reprocessed fuels.
Last September, Iran announced it was resuming large-scale conversion of uranium ore. The debate is now about mastering the whole nuclear cycle, in violation of a 2003 agreement reached with Britain, France and Germany. Although the Islamic Republic holds 9 percent of the world's proven crude oil reserves (and 64.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas), nuclear power is seen as an alternate source of electricity generation. Exports of crude oil could then be freed up to pay off the country's $9.9 billion in external debt. Tehran argues that the Gulf reactor at Bushehr will help meet the needs of a population fast approaching 70 million. With median age at 22, the mullahs fear youths with few job prospects could lead a de-facto opposition.
For Moscow, the commercial incentives are strong. Putin is reluctant to alter his economic development plans on the basis of what he sees as unproven allegations. The Kremlin is concerned that Chinese oil companies are profiting from the diplomatic crisis by clinching deals in Iran. According to a January report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, China's Sinopec has secured 51 percent of Iran's Yadavaran oil-field project. And in September, another Chinese oil major took over operations at Masjid-e Suleiman. Meanwhile, the European offer to supply Tehran with nuclear fuels and civilian technology is a potential slap in the face for Putin.
Still, business daily Kommersant reminded its readers Saturday that Iran could be nuclear-enabled within six months. It said Kremlin officials had failed to mention that U.S. President George W. Bush is not ruling out pre-emptive attacks against Bushehr. A military showdown could put Russian trade policies at risk. In Moscow, a consensus among analysts holds that Bush's threats are not credible.
"Iran is not Iraq. There is no possible way the U.S. can carry out the same type of campaign it launched against Saddam Hussein in Iraq," says Gleb Pavlovksy, a Kremlin-connected political strategist. "Anyway, business and diplomacy don't necessarily cancel each other out," he says.
The war on terrorism can distract from other conflicts of interest between Russia and the United States. But when news hit trading floors last Wednesday that an explosion had taken place near Bushehr, oil prices moved up sharply. There is nothing like oil prices to correct market distractions. Izvestia revealed the next day that Russian specialists on the ground had not been harmed since the blast was detected 100 kilometers away from the reactor. But a source at Atomstroiexport, the Russian outfit in charge of Bushehr, said security measures had been heightened.
Moscow is not only investing in Iran's atomic market, but also in exports of military equipment. Much of it is weaponry designed in the 1970s. When Putin came to power in 1999, he committed to double-tracking the economy.
"The idea was that exports of oil and gas would help rebuild the high-tech sector. Preserving the legacy of the Soviet Union's space research, for example, was important to Putin's team," says Aleksei Bogaturov of Russia's Academy of Sciences.
Deemed of strategic national interest, the Kremlin co-financed the construction of long-range Ilyushin aircraft equipped with U.S.-built engines. But the short-term vision of Russian bureaucrats, coupled with nostalgia for a lost sphere of influence, is getting in the way.
Russia is struggling to find its strategic fit in the Middle East. One way is by opening new export markets. But to avoid upsetting the regional balance, it will have to tread lightly. This past week, Moscow had to qualify the sale of Strelets surface-to-air missile systems to Syria. A controversy erupted in January over the possible sale of rocket propellers. At the time, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov denied talks over "illicit" weapons. During his three-day visit to Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad also denied arms deals. But just last week, Ivanov's office resorted to a rhetorical device to explain that it was going ahead with sales to Syria. The Strelets is for defensive purposes only, an official source claimed. It cannot be detached from armored vehicles and is therefore unlikely to land in terrorist hands.
Linguistic devices may not work after the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Any tracks leading to a Syrian role in the Beirut bombing will isolate Damascus.
"I assume this issue will be raised in Bratislava [on Feb. 24] to avoid additional irritants in the Bush-Putin partnership," says Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation in Moscow. Kortunov thinks Putin is responding to the pressure of arms exporters linked to the Defense Ministry.
"Putin will be as opportunistic as he is allowed to be. It all depends on U.S. persistence and whether Bush can convince the Europeans to hold the line," says Kortunov.
The delivery of anti-aircraft systems to Syria does not directly violate UN conventions. But if Putin is unable to calibrate his policies, he may have to alter his portfolio and forsake Iran.
3. Russian-Built Nuclear Power Station Unaffected by Iran Quake
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Since the beginning of construction of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr, the recurring earthquakes and tremors in Iran have not “damaged the power plant’s building or equipment”, a representative of the Russian company Atomstroyeksport told ITAR-TASS.
The latest quake on Tuesday had a 6.4 magnitude and an epicentre near the town of Zarand, 740km (460 miles) from the capital, Tehran. The quake has left at least 420 dead and some 900 hurt.
Tuesday morning’s earthquake is milder than the one that struck the town of Bam in 2003. That disaster killed some 30,000 people and prompted an international relief effort.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami expressing his condolences over yesterday’s earthquake, the Russian presidential press service said on Tuesday.
A source in Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), however, said that “there are no reasons to postpone a working visit to Tehran and Bushehr by Rosatom’s head Aleksandr Rumyantsev, set for the end of this week”.
During the visit, an additional protocol on the return of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr power plant to Russia for storage and reprocessing is expected to be signed.
The Rosatom source also said that “deliveries of nuclear fuel for the first generating set of the Iranian nuclear power plant may start immediately after the signing of this protocol”.
ITAR-TASS noted that the Russian specialists have constructed the building of the power plant’s first generating set with a reactor and a turbine hall that can withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of between 9 and 10.
1. China To Accept Tenders For Four Nuclear Reactors Next Week
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China will kick off an ambitious plan to more than double its nuclear generating capacity when it accepts tenders next week for contracts to build four 1,000 megawatt reactors, state press said Wednesday.
US-based Westinghouse, France's Areva and Russia's AtomStroyExport are putting the final touches on their offers for the two multi-billion dollar contracts, each of which will be for two of the reactors, the China Daily said.
The three companies have been competing for the projects in eastern Zhejiang and southern Guangdong provinces since the central government gave the go ahead for construction last year.
No timetable for awarding the contracts have been put forward so far.
Two of the reactors will be built in Sanmen in Zhejiang and the others in Yangjiang in Guangdong.
"We are ready to deliver our scheme," Arnaud de Bourayne, president of AREVA China told the newspaper.
Preparations for the French bid began five months ago, he said.
The tender from Westinghouse, which has no nuclear energy presence in China, was boosted over the weekend when the US Export-Import Bank approved some 5.0 billion dollars of loans for the project.
"The US government has done a lot since last year to approve exports of the AP-1000 reactors to China," Liu Xingang, chief representative of Westinghouse China, was quoted as saying.
China plans to increase its nuclear generating capacity from 8,700 megawatts to 36,000 megawatts by 2020, a plan that calls for the building of an average of one 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor a year over the next 16 years.
The ambitious plan is being implemented in an effort to overcome ongoing energy shortages and to build up alternatives to massive coal use which is causing serious air pollution, acid rain and global warming.
By 2020, about four percent of China's total power output will be from nuclear power, up from just under two percent today.
China has nine nuclear power reactors in operation, with two 1,000 megawatt Russian reactors expected to go on-line in the coming months.
1. Russian Government Developing Federal Program ”Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Russia”
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By December 2005, the Cabinet of Ministers is to work out proposals on the blueprint for and draft of a federal targeted programme, entitled "The nuclear and radiation safety of Russia" 2007-2010 and by the end of the year is to work out proposals to list "The main threats to facilities that present a nuclear or radiation hazard and typical intruders in order to analyse the vulnerability of these facilities". By November 2005, the Cabinet of Ministers is to come up with a draft plan of activities to carry out the second phase in implementing the bases of state policy in ensuring Russia's nuclear and radiation safety until 2010, ITAR-TASS reported.
According to Antiatom.ru, it will be the second edition of the federal program. Obviously, the first edition of the federal special-purpose program ”Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Russia” did not improve the situation. It is necessary to secure two conditions to make the new program successful: effective and goal-oriented operation of the state and regional agencies responsible for the nuclear safety as well as their interaction with the NGOs, which can secure independent control in this field. The attempts of the interaction of the Russian Nuclear agency with the NGOs from 2002 to 2004 added negative experience and tensions in this relationship.
The main problems in the field of nuclear safety is spent nuclear fuel stocks, security of the nuclear sites, control of the dangerous substances and the first generation reactors, which are due to be decommissioned. The situation will not change for the better if Rosatom does not agree with the problems and starts close interaction with the NGOs. So, far no such signals were mentioned. Russia collected 17,000 ton of the spent nuclear fuel scattered around Russia in the reactor pools and at the various nuclear facilities. The first step to be made is to accept the conception on handling spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste i.e. to determine their future.
Ten Russian nuclear power plants operate 31 nuclear reactors, 10 reactors have exceeded their designed lifetime and should be taken out of operation. Instead, Russia is trying to get lifetime extension for the first generation reactors, the safety of which cannot be upgraded to the modern standards. To work out the schedule of these reactors decommissioning is another fundamental task, Antiatom.ru reported.
1. Joint Statement by President Bush and President Putin on Nuclear Security Cooperation
Office of the Press Secretary, The White House
(for personal use only)
The United States and Russia will enhance cooperation to counter one of the gravest threats our two countries face, nuclear terrorism. We bear a special responsibility for the security of nuclear weapons and fissile material, in order to ensure that there is no possibility such weapons or materials would fall into terrorist hands. While the security of nuclear facilities in the U.S. and Russia meet current requirements, we stress that these requirements must be constantly enhanced to counter the evolving terrorist threats. Building on our earlier work, we announce today our intention to expand and deepen cooperation on nuclear security with the goal of enhancing the security of nuclear facilities in our two countries and, together with our friends and allies, around the globe.
To this end the United States and Russia will continue and expand their cooperation on emergency response capability to deal with the consequences of a nuclear/radiological incident, including the development of additional technical methods to detect nuclear and radioactive materials that are, or may be, involved in the incident.
We will work together to help ensure full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and early adoption of an International Convention on Nuclear Terrorism and the amended Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
U.S. and Russian experts will share "best practices" for the sake of improving security at nuclear facilities, and will jointly initiate security "best practices" consultations with other countries that have advanced nuclear programs. Our experts will convene in 2005 a senior-level bilateral nuclear security workshop to focus increased attention on the "security culture" in our countries including fostering disciplined, well-trained, and responsible custodians and protective forces, and fully utilized and well-maintained security systems.
The United States and Russia will continue to work jointly to develop low-enriched uranium fuel for use in any U.S.- and Russian-design research reactors in third countries now using high-enriched uranium fuel, and to return fresh and spent high-enriched uranium from U.S.- and Russian-design research reactors in third countries.
The United States and Russia will continue our cooperation on security upgrades of nuclear facilities and develop a plan of work through and beyond 2008 on joint projects. Recognizing that the terrorist threat is both long-term and constantly evolving, in 2008 our countries will assess the joint projects and identify avenues for future cooperation consistent with our increased attention to the security culture in both countries.
We have established a bilateral Senior Interagency Group chaired by Secretary of Energy Bodman and Rosatom Director Rumyantsev for cooperation on nuclear security to oversee implementation of these cooperative efforts. A progress report will be due on July 1, 2005, and thereafter on a regular basis.
2. President and President Putin Discuss Strong U.S.-Russian Partnership (excerpted)
Office of the Press Secretary, The White House
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PRESIDENT BUSH: We produced a lot of positive results at this meeting. We agreed to accelerate our work to protect nuclear weapons and material, both in our two nations and around the world. And I want to thank you for that. And I want to thank our Defense Ministers for working on the issue, as well -- Minister Ivanov is here; he and Secretary Rumsfeld have had a very constructive relationship. Our mil-to-mil exchanges are very positive, and I appreciate that. You and I talked about that a couple of years ago; I think they're coming to fruition, which is a very important way to make sure we understand each other better.
We agreed upon new efforts to fight the war on terror, to combat MANPADS and improvised explosive devices. And I want to thank you for that. Vladimir has been a -- ever since the -- September the 11th, he has clearly understood the stakes that we face. And every time we meet, he is -- we have an interesting and constructive strategy session about how to continue to protect our peoples from attack. He is -- he has confronted some serious attacks in his country. I know what that means as a fellow leader. I know the strain, I know the agony, I know the sadness, I know the emotion that comes with seeing innocent people lose their lives, and we have shared that. I hope we never have to share it again, that common -- that common situation.
We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. And I appreciate Vladimir's understanding on that issue. We had a very constructive dialogue about how to achieve that common goal. We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon. And again, this is an area where we're working closely together as two nations of the five nations that are involved with North Korea.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: It is obvious that Russia and the U.S. share long-term interests, genuine strategic goals, and certainly, a great degree of responsibility before our own people and people of other countries. We talked about international security. This reality is not affected by the circumstances of the moment or the consolidation of political interests. Therefore, we can see no alternative to the consistent strengthening of the Russia-U.S. relationship.
In the course of this summit, we have agreed upon specific guidelines that will navigate us through the process of cooperation in the forthcoming three years. This has to do primarily with addressing the threats and challenges of today; first and foremost, fighting terrorism. We have agreed to better coordinate our efforts on these fronts, including through the Russia-U.S. working group on counterterrorism, which has existed five years. Among the highlighted priorities have been the neutralization of the systems of financing and recruiting of terrorists, and work on identifying terrorist cells, et cetera.
We are ready to jointly work on the pressing problem of stemming the illicit trade in MANPADS. Our colleagues today agreed upon this in very concrete terms. I'd like to note that on the sidelines of this summit, the Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Ivanov and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a Russian-U.S. arrangement on cooperation in enhancing control over MANPADS. It is important to neutralize the attempts to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
We talked a lot about nonproliferation. We talked a lot about the situation in Iran, about the situation in Iran -- North Korea, and we share a common opinion in this regard, and we are taking a similar approach. We should put an end to the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. The proliferation of such weapons is not in the interest of specific countries, or the international community, in general.
3. U.S.-Russia Joint Fact Sheet: Bratislava Initiatives
Office of the Press Secretary, The White House
(for personal use only)
Joint Presidential Action
The President of the Russian Federation and the President of the United States committed to pursue a number of initiatives that will make the two countries and their citizens safer and more prosperous. The Presidents issued joint statements on three matters and agreed to personally ensure progress on all three issues. They will assess progress at subsequent meetings this year.
Nuclear Security Cooperation
The two countries will enhance cooperation to counter one of the gravest threats the two countries face, nuclear terrorism. This cooperation will include:
o Enhancing an emergency response capability to deal with a nuclear or radiological incident, including development of additional technical methods to detect nuclear and radioactive materials that are, or may be, involved in the incident;
o Working together to help ensure full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540;
o Sharing "best practices" for the sake of improving security at nuclear facilities bilaterally and with other nations with advanced nuclear programs;
o Enhancing of the "security cultures" in both countries; and
o Working jointly to develop low-enriched uranium fuel for use in any U.S.- and Russian-design research reactors in third countries now using high-enriched uranium fuel, and to return fresh and spent high-enriched uranium from U.S.- and Russian-design research reactors in third countries.
While the security of U.S. and Russian nuclear facilities meet current requirements, the Presidents stressed that these requirements must be constantly enhanced to counter evolving terrorist threats. To this end, the Presidents agreed to develop a plan of work through and beyond 2008 for cooperation on security upgrades of nuclear facilities.
The Presidents established a U.S.-Russian Senior Interagency Group for cooperation on nuclear security (including the disposition of fissile material no longer needed for defense purposes) chaired by Secretary of Energy Bodman and Rosatom Director Rumyantsev. The Senior Interagency Group will report on implementation of the two countries' cooperation in this sphere, taking into account key financial, legal, technical, and other considerations.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
The Presidents committed the United States and Russia to work together to complete our bilateral negotiations for Russia's accession to the WTO in 2005 and to help Russia complete the multilateral negotiations necessary for WTO accession. Russian WTO membership will integrate Russia more fully into the global economy, improve the trade, regulatory, and investment climate, and facilitate increased U.S.-Russian trade and investment.
The Presidents directed the U.S. and Russian Ministers of Energy and Commerce to meet to develop recommendations on how to intensify and develop further the bilateral energy dialogue, including through the mechanisms of the Energy Working Group and the Commercial Energy Dialogue. The Presidents set a goal of identifying concrete trade and investment opportunities for U.S. and Russian firms, including in support of Russia's pipeline and liquefied natural gas development and increased Russian oil and gas imports to U.S. markets; and targeting the initiation of several such projects no later than 2008.
The Presidents also instructed their governments to enhance cooperation in a number of other areas.
In the area of counterterrorism, the Presidents:
o Directed the co-chairs of the U.S.-Russian Counterterrorism Working Group to update their action plan, taking into consideration new counterterrorism challenges, and to press forward on implementation of action plan items;
o Agreed, because of the growing threat posed by terrorist use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), to direct U.S. and Russian experts to share information on IEDs; and
o Instructed U.S. and Russian experts to facilitate efforts to store MANPADS more securely, or to destroy them if they are obsolete or otherwise exceed defense requirements, and to eliminate the illegal trade in such weapons, building on the MANPADS agreement signed in Bratislava by Minister Ivanov and Secretary Rice. That agreement provides a bilateral framework for the United States and Russia to cooperate in the control of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that can threaten global aviation if obtained by criminals, terrorists and other non-state actors.
o In the area of space cooperation, the Presidents called for enhanced cooperation, focusing on the International Space Station and other projects, including those related to possible lunar exploration.
Humanitarian, Social and People-to-People Cooperation
In the areas of humanitarian, social, and people-to-people cooperation, the Presidents:
o Called for efforts to further enhance our coordination when responding to humanitarian emergencies. They tasked their governments to build on previous collaboration and develop a bilateral mechanism to further improve coordination of our responses to future humanitarian emergencies and to convene a joint expert session, with other nations, to develop lessons learned from the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami;
o Affirmed their commitment to strengthening contacts between our societies and the citizens of our two countries by increasing the number of students, teachers, scientists, cultural workers, business people, and people from various professions who participate in bilateral exchange programs. They directed their governments to present specific proposals; and
o Called for greater joint efforts in countering the global threat of the spread of HIV/AIDS by identifying, training, and deploying health care professionals and raising public awareness. They instructed their governments to consider the possibility of joint work to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in third countries, at the request of those countries.
4. Alexander Yakovenko, Spokesman, Answers a Question Regarding DPRK Leader's Remarks on Six-Party Talks
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
Question: How can you comment on the North Koreans' statement that Pyongyang may again take part in the six-party talks?
Answer: The Russian side welcomes the statement of Kim Chong-il, the Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, on readiness to resume participation in the six-party talks, aimed at resolving the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.
As before, the Russian side presumes that talks in the six-way format is the shortcut to achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and solving the other related problems.
The fact that President Bush will meet President Vladimir Putin during his first overseas trip so soon after Bush's inauguration illustrates the importance of our relationship. The meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, could be as significant as their first encounter four years ago in Slovenia.
Russia and the United States are obliged to work together, if for no other reason than their possession of tremendous nuclear arsenals, a legacy of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. Fortunately, we no longer threaten one another, but our unique status brings with it unique responsibility for concerted efforts in the nuclear field, including possible cooperation and exchanges of information to avoid misunderstandings.
We also share goals -- for example, in the energy sphere. Despite some assertions to the contrary, Russia welcomes know-how and investment to expand its energy production. This is increasingly important to U.S. and world energy markets hungry for more energy at acceptable prices.
But our success as partners cannot be taken for granted. We cannot ignore attempts in both Russia and the United States to question our collaboration. To some extent this is inevitable -- the two countries are both major states, and despite many shared interests, we have different histories, different contemporary circumstances and different perceptions. Even some of our interests differ. But emphasizing our differences, ignoring our similarities and devaluing what we have achieved pushes us apart rather than pulling us together.
Let me remind you that Russia has viewed some U.S. approaches as troubling, especially on Iraq. There was widespread opposition to U.S. actions in this regard, which our governments have agreed not to put in the forefront. It is an open secret that many in Russia are expressing serious concern about American intentions in the post-Soviet space, including in Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Notwithstanding these pressures, Putin and the Russian leadership are committed to a close relationship with the United States. Moreover, Russia recognizes considerable promise and prospects for such a relationship.
In the United States, particular attention has focused on Russian democracy. Putin has stated more than once that Russia fully adheres to democratic principles. More broadly, Russians have chosen the path of freedom; their lives are fundamentally different today from what they were 15 years ago. While fully mindful of how they have suffered since the Soviet collapse, most Russian people do not want to turn back.
Today Russia faces the very challenging task of strengthening law and order, building democratic institutions and civil society and addressing grave social problems. The road to attaining these goals is a bumpy one. At the same time we are taking steps to accomplish a pressing task: ensuring the stability and integrity of our country. We must deal with complex and comprehensive problems that we inherited. This is something Americans should understand well.
In my view, it is a sign of maturity in the Russian-U.S. relationship that our presidents and governments can discuss any issue -- our concerns and yours -- in a candid and constructive way. Nothing, including democracy, is off the table. The Russian side is open to criticism when it is substantiated -- and is intended to help and promote mutual understanding rather than to score points or put Russia on the defensive. But it is inadmissible to move in the direction of demonizing Russia. As far as we are concerned, we seek to convey our point of view, when it differs from the American view, in a respectful manner, rather than to try to use a disagreement to undermine America's image or interests.
Bush has often described the task of building democracy as part of a long-term agenda. In his inaugural address, he added that the democratic institutions established in other nations may be different from America's, reflecting the diversity of culture and traditions in today's world. Indeed, there cannot and should not be a sole standard for democracy -- one that is tailored by a single state or a group of states. That should be obvious to everyone.
I hope that more Americans, and more Russians, will find ways to discuss our differences openly, constructively, as friends. The alternative -- our estrangement -- would benefit neither nation. In a world where potentially devastating terrorist attacks remain a threat to both our countries, the stakes are high. There are other threats and challenges that Russia and the United States have to act on shoulder to shoulder to make our world safer and more secure. This demanding task, which should set up a new bilateral agenda for four more years, will surely be a focus of this week's discussions in Bratislava.
6. Interview with Radio Slovensko and the Slovakian Television Channel STV, The Kremlin, Moscow (excerpted)
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
(for personal use only)
QUESTION: The American President George Bush said after his first meeting with you that as soon he looked into your eyes, he understood your soul. American commentators, reacting to this, wrote about political sympathy or even political “love at first sight”. I think that openness and honesty of dialogue between the United States and Russia is a characteristic of strong relations. Or am I mistaken?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: No, absolutely right. I think that this is the case, because when I talked about the fundamental bases of our relations, I meant a great deal of things which are in the interests not just of the United States and Russia, but of the whole world.
Let’s remember control of nuclear weapons, problems of non-proliferation, the war on terrorism, the war on poverty and diseases all over the world, because without constructive dialogue between the United States and other countries of the world, including Russia, these issues cannot be solved effectively. So all this is the basis of our cooperation, including, as I already said, economic problems. And on this basis we will build the edifice of Rusisan-American relations.
QUESTION: Many analysts (not just Russian, but also foreign analysts) believe that the anti-terrorist union can no longer act as the “all-purpose glue” which united the interests of Washington and Moscow after 11 September. What is your position on these comments?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is a very primitive view, in my opinion.
Of course, anti-terrorism is a large joint undertaking between us. But this is not the only thing that unites the United States and the Russian Federation.
I have already talked about this, and I would like to repeat it once more. For example, is the issue of controlling nuclear weapons not important for the international community? Russia, b the way, remains one of the major nuclear powers in the world, along with the United States. We have nuclear weapons which no one in the world besides the United States has: we had a triad – in the air, on land and at sea. And we are developing our nuclear technology, developing our armaments in this sphere to ensure our security.
And is non-proliferation not important for universal peace, security and stability? And is fighting poverty or creating democratic economic order not important? To say that only anti-terrorism unites the interests of Russia and the U.S. is too narrow a view of these problems.
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