The sad plight of the Russian mini-submarine rescued last Sunday from a snare of fishing nets was another reminder of how far the once-formidable Russian fleet has fallen. It also wasn't so long ago that Russian naval might featured in the film, "The Hunt for Red October," taken from the Tom Clancy thriller. In the dramatic opening scene, Captain Ramius, played by Sean Connery, carefully leads his ballistic missile submarine beneath the Barents Sea to the Atlantic Ocean for combat patrol, avoiding a U.S. submarine and NATO's multibillion-dollar underwater listening network.
Though fictional, "Red October" is based on the Soviet submarines that skirted the Arctic to maintain the threat of a quick and undetected missile attack on the United States. For years, Soviet and American submarines shadowed one another around the globe, risking undersea collisions while promising mutual nuclear annihilation to one another's countries.
The good news is that U.S. and Soviet submarines no longer play this dangerous hide-and-seek, and the listening network has been donated to ocean scientists. In fact, few Russian submarines even leave their military bases because of budget pressures, poor maintenance and low readiness levels - the factors that meant foreigners were required to save the mini-sub. This month we also mark the fifth anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Kursk with 118 sailors on board, an accident emblematic of the numerous hardships the Russian Navy has endured.
Of the more than 300 Soviet submarines and 83 missile submarines in service at the height of the Cold War, only a handful remain capable of fulfilling their Cold War missions. Most will never return to sea.
The bad news is that the remnants of this vast fleet still pose major security risks. Strategic missile boats can fire their payload and strike hundreds of American cities while tied up at the dock.
The United States has been working for more than a decade to dismantle these missile submarines through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Operating largely out of view, the program has dismantled 28 missile submarines carrying 543 missiles capable of hitting America with thousands of warheads. The program plans to destroy another 12 submarines with 169 missiles in the years ahead. At the moment, two Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarines are being dismantled. The Typhoon, the largest submarine ever built, can carry 20 missiles, each with 10 independently targeted warheads. Just one submarine was capable of striking 200 targets with a total explosive force greater than all the bombs dropped in World War II.
While the United States has been concentrating on ballistic missile submarines, its allies have tackled the general-purpose submarines that Russia has retired but cannot afford to dismantle. Although unable to fire ballistic missiles, these subs pose serious environmental and proliferation concerns because of their nuclear reactors, the possibility of conventional weaponry remaining on board, and the risk of sinking. The nuclear material could be used in a "dirty bomb," and a nuclear accident could have devastating effects on energy development, food supplies, ocean habitat and indigenous peoples.
Of the 193 strategic-missile and general-purpose nuclear submarines retired by Russia, 94 have already been dismantled. Of those awaiting destruction, 55 boats remain floating at the docks or moored off shore with spent nuclear fuel on board, including one crippled by a reactor explosion, the K-19, a real sub featured in a movie starring Harrison Ford.
Norway, Britain, France, Germany and Japan are currently dismantling 37 submarines at locations throughout northwest Russia and in the Far East under the Group of 8's Global Partnership Against Weapons of Mass Destruction. The partnership will dedicate $20 billion over 10 years to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.
While we have made good progress, time is not on our side. The longer we take to finish the job, the greater the chance that of one of these boats will be involved in a deadly accident or a hostile act. We all can do more. For its part, Russia must remove the legal roadblocks to starting new projects and continuing the work.
America's collaborators in the global partnership must redouble their efforts to turn pledges, which have been generous, into real projects, which have been lagging. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has restated President George W. Bush's strong backing for the Nunn-Lugar program, and the administration fully supports legislation, recently approved by the Senate, to strengthen dismantlement programs and give the president more flexibility in meeting dismantlement goals.
The world will be a safer place when these submarines are eliminated. We have a window of opportunity to reduce the threat from Soviet-era weapons of mass destruction. The United States, its allies and Russia cannot allow this opportunity to slip away.
2. Russian Nuclear Experts Inspect Storage For Submarine Reactors
(for personal use only)
Representatives of Rosatom (Federal Agency for Atomic Energy) have completed checking the storage facility for reactor modules of nuclear submarines in the Sayda firth on the Kola peninsula, an ITAR-TASS correspondent has been told by the head of the directorate for the decommissioning of nuclear and radiation facilities of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, Viktor Akhunov.
Forty-eight such modules, including from the Kursk nuclear submarine cruiser, which sank on 12 August 2000, are kept afloat in the Sayda firth. Viktor Akhunov said that to ensure their radiation safety, a more secure storage facility for reactor modules from submarines that have reached the end of their service life is being built on the shore here. The project is being funded by Germany within the framework of global partnership. The first stage of the storage facility on the shore should be ready to receive the modules which are still being kept in the water as early as in the fall.
According to the representative of Rosatom, it is planned to put altogether 120 modules from scrapped nuclear submarines in the storage facility on the shore.
"Unfortunately, the amount of material you need for a nuclear bomb is only about the size of a soda can," explained Matthew Bunn, a senior research associate in the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University, in an interview with the Foreign Policy Association two months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Especially troubling, he said, was the vulnerability of nuclear stockpiles in the former Soviet Union: "Many facilities in Russia to this day still don't have security cameras in the areas where the plutonium and highly enriched uranium are stored. They still don't have a detector at the gate that would set off an alarm, if a known and trusted worker was carrying plutonium out in his briefcase."
This was at the time when the average wage at Russia's major nuclear facilities was $60 a month and Osama bin Laden's share of his father's fortune, according to Forbes magazine, was nearly $300 million.
Nuclear material thefts
"There have been multiple cases of real theft of real weapons-usable nuclear material that we know of," Bunn continued. "We know of those cases because the material was seized and recovered, and the people arrested. But the question is, of what iceberg are we seeing only the tip? How much of the nuclear theft that actually occurs are we seeing? We just don't know the answer to that question."
In testimony last February before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter Goss, President Bush's recently installed CIA director, pointed to the same danger in his first public comments after assuming the top post at the CIA. "The vulnerability of Russian WMD materials and technology to theft or diversions," he warned, "is a continuing concern."
The concern, additionally, is that al-Qaida's weapons capabilities will likely be targeted at the mainland of the United States. "Al-Qaida is intent on finding ways to circumvent U.S. security enhancements to strike Americans and the homeland," Goss explained. "It may be only a matter of time before al-Qaida or another group attempts to use biological, radiological and nuclear weapons."
Recent news reports indicate that top planners in the U.S. military view the aforementioned apprehension about a WMD attack on the U.S. as not unwarranted.
"The U.S. military has devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans," reported the Aug. 8 Washington Post.
The classified plans developed by the Northern Command headquarters for responding to synchronized multiple-target strikes call for the quick-reaction mobilization of as many as 3,000 ground troops per attack.
"Several officers," reported The Post, said the planning included post-attack military responses to catastrophic "mass-casualty" strikes on U.S. soil involving "the release of a deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological device."
Under the new plans, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which generally prohibits the direct participation of troops in domestic law enforcement, takes a back seat to national security. In the event of "a biological, a chemical or nuclear attack in any of the 50 states," explained Adm. Timothy J. Keating, head of Northcom, the Department of Defense is best suited "to take the lead."
What's unknown is the level of destructive capacity in al-Qaida's arsenal. What is known, however, is what bin Laden thinks. "By God's leave," he declared in his February 1998 call for a jihad, "we call on every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward to obey God's command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can."
The killings on Sept. 11 were "blessed by Allah to destroy America's economic and military landmarks," he explained. "Yes, we kill their innocents and this is legal religiously and logically."
Furthermore, to ratchet up the killing with WMD is fully correct, "religiously." In May 2003, dutiful to the conventions of running a holy war, bin Laden secured a fatwa -- a ruling on a point of Islamic law that is given by a recognized authority -- from a Saudi sheik saying al-Qaida would be justified in using nuclear weapons against America.
The question is, will the U.S. government be any more competent at stopping an attack than it was on Sept. 11?
2. Retired Army General Warns of Terrorists' Nuclear Bomb Scenario
(for personal use only)
A nuclear attack by terrorists in the United States is "unthinkable but not unlikely," according to a retired Army general who spoke to about 200 peace activists and interested citizens Tuesday night at a Livonia church.
Three peace activist groups sponsored the special talk concerning nuclear non-proliferation Tuesday evening at Unity Church of Livonia. The talk also marked the 60th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
For audience member Clara Lawrence of Redford the event was very informative.
"This is something the public must be aware of ... the issue has been hidden because of the war. It is a crucial issue that has gotten buried," she said.
Linda Lieder, secretary of Citizens for Peace, and a Westland resident, agreed.
"What strikes me the most is the proliferation of nuclear weapons that are uncontained. That is scary in the time of terrorism."
The speaker at the event was retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, a West Point grad who has served in Germany, Vietnam, Korea and with the Department of Defense.
"Is this scenario (nuclear attacks) farfetched? Al-Qaida has said it is their duty to obtain nuclear weapons and to use them," Gard said. "We must deny terrorists access to nuclear weapons."
Gard, whose extensive military background is bolstered by master's and doctorate degrees from Harvard, is a senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C.
Gard said that 95 percent of the nuclear weapons outside of the United States are in Russia and "most do not even have rudimentary security." One estimate is that there are 20,000 warheads in Russia, he said,
"All we see is lethargy and indifference in the effort to nail down Russia's weapons. ... Our executive branch is not dealing with this problem," Gard said.
We must give this "global cleanout" the priority it deserves, "so terrorists can't get them." He said the rhetoric about reducing nuclear threats from unattended Russian warheads has not been matched by federal dollars.
Gard spoke for about 25 minutes then took several questions from the audience. On terror in general, Gard said foreign policy, especially with the Middle East and Israel, is really the "third rail" in American politics, "not Social Security."
Gard admitted America must maintain some nuclear weapons as a deterrent and to meet treaty obligations but that "we do not need 10,000 such weapons."
The Army veteran said that the issue of cleaning up nuclear weapons had "manifest obstacles" but that we could not leave it to the "guys in Washington."
"Disagreement with the federal government is not unpatriotic ... it is, in a sense, the highest form of patriotism."
How easy would it be to get small nuclear weapons into the country? Very, according to Gard.
"We can't keep bales of marijuana out of this country. How can we keep a small weapon the size of a grapefruit out?"
The three sponsoring groups Tuesday night included Peace Action of Michigan, Swords Into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery in Detroit, and the Livonia-based Citizens for Peace.
The Citizens for Peace group is loosely organized around Michigan's 11th Congressional District and includes members from Livonia, Redford, Garden City, Westland, Plymouth and Canton.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. there was a display of peace signs by marchers at Middlebelt Road and Five Mile Road near the church.
1. Russia Calls For 'De-Escalation' Over Iran N-Crisis
(for personal use only)
Russia called Friday for "de-escalation" of tensions and dialogue over Iran's decision to resume nuclear fuel work, according to AFP.
Russia supported Thursday's decision by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), urging Iran to resume its moratorium on nuclear fuel production, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Having supported this resolution, we believe it is essential to create conditions for a de-escalation of the situation and a return to the path of negotiation," the ministry said.
Dialogue should aim to "reach a solution that in the end meets Iranian interests," the ministry said, while boosting trust of Iran's nuclear intentions. "Russia for its part is ready to use all means to help the development of the situation along this path."
Iran has flatly rejected the IAEA's resolution, saying it has the right to produce nuclear fuel.
1. Russian Ex-Minister Says U.S. Charges Political
(for personal use only)
A former Russian nuclear minister in Swiss custody pending a U.S. extradition request on Monday accused the American authorities of fabricating a criminal case against him to avenge his push for nuclear contracts with Iran, India and China.
Yevgeny Adamov, accused by the U.S. of stealing money intended to improve Russia's nuclear safety, said in a letter published in the daily Izvestia that the U.S. criminal charges against him were intended to convey a hidden political message: "You guys ... don't forget who's the boss in the world."
Adamov, who served as Russia's nuclear minister in 1998-2001, was arrested on May 2 while visiting his daughter in Bern. He has since been indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of conspiracy to transfer stolen money and securities, conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and tax evasion.
Adamov has denied the charges. He said the U.S. grudge against him dated back to 1998, when he visited China, India and Iran to speed up efforts to build Russian nuclear power plants in these countries.
Shortly after, then U.S. Vice President Al Gore visited Moscow and tried vainly to persuade him to drop the nuclear contract with Iran in a conversation that lasted nearly two hours, Adamov said in the letter.
"By 1998, the Americans got accustomed to the fact that people in Russia must listen to them and they don't have to listen to anyone here," Adamov said.
He claimed that a later Russian probe against alleged financial abuse in the nuclear ministry had been encouraged by the Americans.
U.S. prosecutors say he diverted up to $9 million from U.S. Energy Department funds intended to improve Russian nuclear security, and want him extradited to the U.S.
Russian authorities, concerned that he could divulge nuclear secrets if extradited to the United States, have demanded he be sent to Russia.
Switzerland now must decide whether to extradite Adamov to the United States or Russia, or to reject both extradition requests.
The European troika (France, Germany, and the UK) was clearly taken by surprise last week by Iran's determined drive to resume its uranium enrichment program. Their proposal, delivered to the impatient new leaders in Tehran in early August, was far from convincing, but they had expected more bargaining and not a straightforward rejection. Since the "carrot" was thrown out as irrelevant, they presumably had to prove the relevance of the "stick" -- but failed again. The emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last Thursday produced only a timid "serious concern" resolution that contained no reference to a possible transfer of the issue to the UN Security Council to consider for sanctions (Kommersant, August 12). Russia's position in this anti-climactic crisis has been quite ambiguous, and Moscow can now look forward to its continuation with anticipation rather than worry.
The desire to confirm its European credentials and the interest in continuing cooperation with Iran might appear to shape a difficult dilemma for Moscow, but in fact most of the tricky questions are being addressed by others. Maintaining close relations with key European leaders, particularly Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac, is certainly one of Vladimir Putin's top personal priorities, and he can only express polite regret about their poor homework on the Iranian "dossier." Back in February, he took great care to clear with his partners that the Russian contract on building the Bushehr nuclear power station did not undermine their negotiations and was fully covered by the IAEA safeguards. In the on-going complicated intrigues in Vienna among the members of the IAEA governing board, Russian envoy Grigory Berdennikov has made sure that the Bushehr issue is not on the table, while asserting that Moscow wholeheartedly supports the hopeless approach of the European troika (Vremya novostei, August 12).
The Russian Foreign Ministry duly issued a statement urging Iran to halt its uranium enrichment and continue negotiations (Rossiiskaya gazeta, Gazeta.ru, August 10). That, however, was a cheap gesture, since Moscow was quite sure that no consensus in the IAEA on "punishing" Iran would emerge and that, if the issue was indeed referred to the UN Security Council, China would block any possibility of sanctions (New York Times, August 12). Instead of agonizing over bad choices, Russia has an opportunity to hide behind the triangular contradictions among the United States, Europe, and China, while quietly continuing its own business and watching oil prices climb to a new record high every day (Vedomosti, August 11). This is a perfect crisis indeed for Putin, who as the acting chairman of the G-8, might even suggest special consultations in this format, which would grant him center stage but with little responsibility.
It might appear that Moscow is playing petty games over a problem with potentially global repercussions. Russian commentator Yulia Latynina pointed out that all the technical questions in the Bushehr project had been miraculously resolved when Atomstroiexport, the lead company in the contract, was sold by Kaha Bendukidze to Gazprombank, which has good connections in the Kremlin (Ekho Moskvy, June 12).
What makes such suggestions plausible is the real attitude of the Russian leadership, which, while issuing politically correct statements, remains fundamentally unconcerned about nuclear proliferation. This position is quite similar to the proclaimed commitment to reforms in the UN system, whereby Germany is promised full support in obtaining a permanent seat in the Security Council, while in reality there is a total reluctance to change anything in the old patterns (Gazeta.ru, August 11). Moscow sees no reason to be any more concerned about a nuclear Iran ten years from now than it is about the recent test of a long-range cruise missile by the already-nuclear Pakistan (Kommersant, Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 12). The 60th anniversary of Hiroshima was barely noticed in Russia, and the risks associated with nuclear weapons do not look prohibitively high when another short-circuit in the worn out domestic energy grid could trigger a chain of technological catastrophes. Indeed, seeking to increase the political usability of its still-impressive nuclear instruments, Russia might even find it useful if other states obtain small nuclear arsenals.
In the meantime, Putin can enjoy observing how Washington would try to cajole the European allies to take a more forceful stance, a task that will hardly become any easier three weeks from now when Mohammed Al-Baradei, the IAEA director general, is due to present a report on Iran's compliance with standard rules and regulations. The fact of the matter, as many officials in Moscow, including Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Duma committee on foreign relations, are pointing out, is that in removing the seals from its uranium facility in Isfahan, Iran has done nothing wrong (Itar-Tass, August 12).
The Bush administration has a difficult case to make regarding Iran's nuclear program, and Putin might hope that building tensions bring new troubles for the already overstretched U.S. forces in Iraq. He has experienced so many setbacks in his second presidential term that he can only envy and possibly resent the efficiency of the British and U.S. rescue teams that saved not only the stranded submarine recently but, quite possibly, his presidency as well. He would much rather see somebody else, preferably the "partner" who cares so much about "democracy," dragged down by Iran.
2. Russia Reiterates That It Follows the Rules in Nuclear Deal With Iran
BBC Monitoring and Itar-Tass
(for personal use only)
The International Atomic Energy Agency has no complaints "about Russia's collaboration with Iran to build and commission a nuclear power station at Bushehr", ITAR-TASS was told today at the Federal Atomic Energy Agency [Rosatom]. It declined to comment on the resolution passed yesterday at an emergency session of the IAEA's board of governors on Iran's nuclear programme and resumption of uranium enrichment to produce its own nuclear fuel.
"This issue is within the diplomatic remit of a number of countries, including Russia, which are holding and continuing negotiations with Iran," Rosatom said. "Rosatom's remit," a source said, "is engineering services for the construction of the first generating set at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in line with an agreement between the Russian and Iranian governments, which is being implemented in compliance with IAEA standards and rules and is being overseen by that international organization."
"Intensive work is being carried out now to assemble the generating set's reactor, which is scheduled to enter operation in 2006," the source stressed. Under the terms of that agreement and an additional protocol signed early this year on the return to Russia of spent fuel for storage and reprocessing, "deliveries of fuel to the Iranian nuclear power plant will begin six months before the reactor is started up".
"A fuel storage facility is ready at Bushehr, and complies with all IAEA standards and requirements. This is confirmed by reports from the organization's inspectors who regularly visit the site," Rosatom added. [Passage omitted]
Rosatom added that Atomstroyeksport [nuclear engineering company] has supplied the Iranians with technical and economic documentation for the construction of a second generating set with a VVER-1000 reactor. Tehran has also been notified that Russian nuclear businesses "will bid in the tender to build the second set at Bushehr".
Russia's Foreign Ministry has urged Iran to immediately halt its work on uranium conversion and continue its close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Russia has for years cooperated closely with Iran on nuclear issues. Does Moscow's call mean it is now realigning its position to mirror that of the West?
For years, Russia has defended Iran against accusations that Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Russia, which is in the final stages of building an $800 million nuclear power plant for Iran at Bushehr, has always upheld Tehran's right to civilian nuclear technology.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said on numerous occasions that Moscow will not support referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible international sanctions for pursuing a nuclear program the United States says is aimed at developing atomic weapons.
But that was before Iran announced its intention to resume uranium enrichment -- a diplomatic slap in the face to the IAEA and the European Union, which had offered Tehran political and trade incentives to permanently drop the program.
This places Russia in an almost impossible situation. Up to now, Moscow felt it could risk damaging its relations with the United States over Iran. But it cannot risk its relations with both America and Europe, as Aleksei Malashenko of Moscow's Carnegie Center told RFE/RL. And that puts Moscow's twin objectives -- commercial and diplomatic ties with both Europe and Iran -- at risk.
"There are two main goals here. And these two main goals contradict each other. The first one is of course maintaining cooperation with Iran while at the same time ensuring that this cooperation does not spoil Moscow's image in Europe. So, it's going to be very hard to achieve, but I think Moscow will try," Malashenko said.
Relations between Moscow and the European Union have worsened in recent months. They hit a new low after Ukraine's Orange Revolution, whose success was helped by Europe's diplomatic intervention. They risk once again being upset by Poland's diplomatic war with Kremlin-allied Belarus.
Malashenko said Moscow's public criticism of Iran is an attempt to show the West that Russia remains interested in cooperation. "I would place this Russian statement in the context of Russia's overall [foreign] policy," he said. "What do I mean? The fact is that in recent months there has been a rather noticeable divergence in Russia's foreign policy and the foreign policy of the West, of the United States. So I think Russia doesn't want to spoil those relations -- above all with the Europeans. And so Russia found it necessary, and in this particular situation very appropriate, to express its complete solidarity with the Europeans, which is what was done."
Economically, if Russia is forced to pick between cooperating with the European Union or with Iran, the choice is obvious, according to Stephan de Spiegeleire, a Russia analyst at the Clingendael Center for Strategic Studies in The Hague. That calculation is sure to have influenced Moscow, he told RFE/RL.
"In this particular instance, I think a tactical choice was made on Iran, that at this particular juncture, it's better to keep cooperating within the IAEA, to get some 'brownie points' also from the European Union, which of course is much more important to Russia than Iran. The trade relationship between Iran and Russia is about $2 billion a year. [The trade relationship] between Russia and the European Union is $100 billion a year. So of course, the economic interests at stake here are very different," de Spiegeleire said.
Nevertheless, Carnegie's Malashenko said, Russia will do everything it can to ensure it doesn't have to choose one over the other. He said the best outcome for Moscow would be for Iran to stop its reprocessing program and resume cooperating with Europe. That would ensure the Bushehr plant is completed and Russia and Iran's financially advantageous bilateral nuclear cooperation can continue.
In February, Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency signed a multiyear agreement on supplying the plant with nuclear fuel. Under the deal, Iran will return spent fuel to Russia for suitable disposal. As Malashenko notes, Russia is depending on the deal going through.
"I think that if Iran is going to observe all the demands put forward by Europe and the IAEA, then Iran's [nuclear] cooperation with Russia is covered politically," he said. "There will be no problems and Russia will not be saddled with all of these accusations."
Currently, the IAEA is meeting in emergency session in Vienna to consider its options. What will Russia's reaction be if the IAEA eventually decides to refer the case to the UN Security Council? "It's very hard to say. I think that above all, Russia does not want it to get to this point," Malashenko told RFE/RL. "In this case, Russia will make the maximum effort to ensure this does not happen because if this is handed to the Security Council, the Russian question will once again be raised, in terms of what types of cooperation [with Iran] have been taking place. Therefore, I think Russia's task is not to allow this to happen.
Unlike the other nations on the Security Council, Russia may be the only permanent member with the leverage to make Iran cooperate with the international community -- precisely because of the unfinished Bushehr plant.
Experts, however, see the chances of UN sanctions ever being imposed as minimal. China, another permanent Security Council member, has not made any official statements on the case.
China's trade with Iran has been rising steadily, as Beijing's energy needs mushroom. Bilateral trade was worth $7 billion last year. Recently, the two countries signed long-term oil and gas deals worth at an estimated $100 billion -- something China is unlikely to want to jeopardize.
1. North Korea Has Right for Peaceful Nuclear Program ï¿½ Russian Official
(for personal use only)
The Peopleï¿½s Democratic Republic of Korea has the right to develop its civilian nuclear capacity and can expect cooperation with other countries if it returns to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said Monday in an interview.
ï¿½Russia has always insisted that as a sovereign state, the Peopleï¿½s Democratic Republic of Korea, can develop its peaceful nuclear program in keeping with international law,ï¿½ Alexeyev was quoted by Xinhuanet as saying in an interview with South Koreaï¿½s Joong Ang Ilbo daily newspaper.
If North Korea returns to the Non-proliferation Treaty and joins the additional protocol to the agreement on safeguards, it can expect cooperation and assistance regarding such activities from the International Atomic Energy Agency and other nations, Alexeyev said.
ï¿½The Russian delegation stated this clearly again at the fourth round of talksï¿½ on the Korean peninsular nuclear issue, said Alexeyev, who headed the delegation to the talks on nuclear issue in late July in Beijing.
The six parties to the talks ï¿½ China, North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan ï¿½ have agreed to take a recess after 13 days of discussions in Beijing and resume the talks in the week starting Aug. 29.
The Russian chief negotiator said the recess was meant ï¿½to give the sides a chance to modify their approaches with the purpose of finding a wording acceptable to all sides,ï¿½ Xinhuanet adds.
2. Nuclear Talks On North Korea To Resume in August -- Russian Diplomat
(for personal use only)
The fourth round of the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear problem will resume late August, the head of the Russian delegation to the talks said Monday.
"As the Chinese chairman said earlier, the parties will step up efforts to resume the fourth round in the week starting August 29," Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Alekseyev told a popular Southern Korean daily. He added that the delegations had agreed to set the exact date later.
The first stage of the fourth round of talks, involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, were held in Beijing from July 26 - August 7.
Alekseyev rejected media reports that the talks on North Korean nuclear related issues had come to a complete standstill. "I would like to clarify that the talks have not ended but have been suspended due to a break in the fourth round," the diplomat said.
The diplomat also said the talks had been put on hold because consensus had not been found on some important issues during preparations for the fourth round's final document. Therefore, he said delegations had been given time to consider mutually acceptable solutions in their own capitals.
Alekseyev said Russia took the view that discussions during the first stage of talks had been useful. He also said the parties had virtually agreed on a common approach to making the Korean Peninsula a nuclear-free zone and on basic principles of relations between the countries.
Nuclear weapons remain the foundation of Russia's security. Do these weapons meet the requirements of universality, efficiency and safety? Is the Strategic Missile Force prepared for solving the nuclear containment tasks and ensure strategic stability in the world? Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of the Strategic Missile Force, answers these questions.
Nikolai Solovtsov: According to the plan of military construction and development of the Strategic Missile Force we are now reinforcing the group of the Topol-M missiles. Four regiments of the Tatishchev missile unit are armed with the Topol-M silo missiles. We continue modernizing another missile regiment.
We do this work in compliance with the schedule, the industry does not delay deliveries.
As far as the mobile group is concerned, we plan to add the Topol-M missile complex to arsenals in 2006. We have conducted practically all flight tests of this missile. We will soon start testing this complex in the Army.
Question: What does the Strategic Missile Force plan to do in order to retain its potential after scrapping railway missile complexes?
Nikolai Solovtsov: It is impossible to extend the lifetime of weapons for ever and ever. This concerns railway missile complexes, especially taking into account the fact that this unique complex was created in Ukraine. The enterprises, which were involved in creating this complex, were shut down long ago. It is inadmissible to keep missile complexes the reliability of which raises many questions. Unfortunately, we had to make the decision to scrap railway missile complexes. The last such complex will be withdrawn from the arsenals in August 2005.
It should be noted that Mikhail Gorbachev unilaterally suspended patrol missions of railway missile complexes in the early 1990s. Railway complexes have not been leaving their bases since 1993, because of the negative political and economic changes in the country.
The group of the Strategic Missile Force changes, we scrap obsolete complexes. At the same time, we manage to retain the necessary potential of the Strategic Missile Force thanks to the Topol-M missile complexes. At present, our military construction plans are based on a balance between the development of offensive, control and logistics systems.
Question: Does the system of using the Topol-M mobile missile complexes differ from the maintenance of silo-based missiles? Is the Strategic Missile Force's infrastructure prepared for adding the new mobile missile complex to arsenals in 2006?
Nikolai Solovtsov: Methods of using the Topol-M missile complexes have different principles of centralization of the maintenance systems.
The maintenance crews check and repair silo-based complexes on the site. As far as mobile complexes are concerned, we use a decentralized system. Maintenance tasks can be realized at the base or along the patrol routes (field positions). In addition, we can send mobile missile complexes to special technical positions.
We have been using this system for a long time since we received the first mobile missile complexes (the Pioneer). We improve this system when we added the Topol missile complexes to arsenals.
As far as the infrastructure of the Strategic Missile Force is concerned, it's prepared for organizing the maintenance of the new complexes. We are now reconstructing the technical position.
Question: Extending the lifetime of missile complexes lets the Strategic Missile Force save money. Meanwhile, does this ensure high reliability of missile complexes?
Nikolai Solovtsov: (...) Rearmament of the Strategic Missile Force with new complexes depends on the economic capabilities of the country. Although the warranty period of over 80% of missile complexes is over, the existing system of technical maintenance and the professionalism of our servicemen ensure high reliability of missile complexes. We cooperate with the defense enterprises in doubling the lifetime of generation four missile complexes.
For instance, designers used a very high assurance coefficient when creating the RS-20 (Voyevoda) missile, which lets us extend its lifetime by 150%.
The same concerns the RS-18 missile complex. The safety period of this complex is 25 years. We plan to replace them with missiles from our reserves, they were stored in dry arsenals and were not fuelled. The lifetime of these complexes will end in the 2020s.
Our cooperation with defense enterprises let us extend the lifetime of the Topol missile complex to 20 years.
The Strategic Missile Force's military construction plans will always coincide with the economic capabilities of the country and the militaryategic situation in the world. Cuts to the strength of missile groups will be compensated by higher quality and efficiency.
Question: Do the Strategic Missile Force's educational institutions manage to train enough specialists?
Nikolai Solovtsov: This year 1,770 officers graduated from the military educational institutions of the Strategic Missile Force. Over 1,200 of them will serve in the Strategic Missile Force, and the remaining officers will join other branches of the Armed Forces. The majority of the graduates were sent to military units on duty.
At present, the network of our high schools consists of the Peter the Great Military Academy of the Strategic Missile Force and three military institutes located in Rostov-on-Don, Serpukhov and Stavropol.
Our educational institutions train specialists at 50 faculties, since the Strategic Missile Force has a lot of sophisticated technical systems. (...)
We reformed the structure of our military high schools last year. The Stavropol military communication institute of the Strategic Missile Force was established based on the Marshal M.I. Nedelin military institute of the Missile Force.
All military high schools of the Strategic Missile Force recently received licenses from the Education Ministry. Licensing was carried out in two phases. At first, the Educatino Ministry inspected and issued licenses to the Peter the Great Academy and the Serpukhov military institute.
The same procedure was launched at the Stavropol military communication institute and the Rostov military institute in May.
Question: Do repair plants of the Strategic Missile Force cope with the task of scrapping of obsolete missile complexes?
Nikolai Solovtsov: All weapons, which the Strategic Missile Force has (missiles and launchers) are included in the START agreement. As far as mobile missile complexes are concerned (railway complexes and the Topol), the US monitors their destiny very attentively. In particular, US representatives monitored scrapping of railway complexes at the Bryansk base and the Topol complexes at the Pibanshur base in Udmurtiya. We scrap missiles dismantled from these complexes at defense enterprises in Perm and Votkinsk.
This year we have scrapped five railroad complexes, and plan to scrap four more complexes by the end of the year. We have also scrapped nine launchers of the Topol missiles in Pibanshur; 18 launchers are to be scrapped by the end of the year.
We scrap the RS-18 and RS-20 missile complexes without US inspectors. Our facilities and bases make it possible to solve tasks linked with scrapping of obsolete complexes. It should be noted that we scrap weapons in compliance with the technological and environmental safety requirements. These technologies comply with international standards. (...)
1. Belarus 'Concerned' Over Lithuanian Plan For Nuclear Waste Dump
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Officials in Belarus expressed concern at plans by Lithuania to build a radioactive waste dump near their shared border and close to a national park in Belarus, saying it could negatively impact ecological tourism in the area.
"The government of the Lithuanian republic's intention to build a base for the burial of radioactive waste... close to the Belarussian border raises concern," Vasily Podolyako, deputy minister for natural resources and environmental protection, said at a press conference.
Belarus wants the dumping site for nuclear waste from the Ignalina plant to be built as far away from the Belarussian border as possible, Podolyako said.
A decision on building the burial site should only be taken with the consent of Belarussian authorities and the population of the neighbouring Braslavsky region of Belarus, Podolyako said.
An official from the Braslavskie Lakes National Park echoed concern over the waste dumping ground.
"It's a unique place for ecological tourism. When we found out the Ignalina nuclear power plant was being shut down, we were very relieved. Now everyone is worried again," said Viktor Romanov, deputy director of the park.
Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant, also situated close to the Belarussian border, is set to be shut down by 2009.
Construction workers rebuilding the protective shell over the Chernobyl nuclear reactor destroyed by an explosion 19 years ago have been complaining of increasing instances of internal radiation.
And although there is no direct threat to health, the committee concerned with contractor safety is worried. Doctors think radioactive substances getting into people's bodies with water, food or through the respiratory organs are responsible.
Tens of thousands of clean-up workers suffered health problems or even died when they hastily erected the envelope in 1986. It was touch and go, and they had to work by trial and error. Shelter-1, as it is officially called, is a giant structure 25 stories tall.
"Within it is 185 tons of nuclear fuel with a total activity of 17 million curies," said Dr. Alexander Borovoi, head of the Kurchatov Institute task group in Chernobyl. "The explosion has scattered part of the fuel [3-5%] around the plant. Over 30% of the cesium it contained was evaporated and carried by air currents thousands of kilometers away. Given that cesium has a half-life of 30 years, and plutonium 24,000 years, it can be said that the Chernobyl radiation-inflicted wound will take an indefinite time to heal and will remain a constant threat to humans."
Borovoi says that the building is unfortunately not strong enough structurally. Much of the work was done remotely, hence the defects. For example, cracks could not be helped. On rainy days the water gets inside the shelter, dissolves radioactive substances, and takes them into the groundwater. The total crack area is today estimated at several hundred square meters. This means that people may breathe in plutonium dust that filters out. Besides, the shell rests on old structures damaged by a powerful explosion and a fire. So the odds of a cave-in cannot be ruled out.
The world community has stepped in to remedy the situation and to budget the construction of Shelter-2. One billion dollars was allocated for the project to minimize the harmful effects of Chernobyl, and the process is now under way. The plans provide for building a ferro-concrete facility to encase the reactor once more, and in a more reliable fashion. In the meantime, the old envelope is being fortified and sealed.
At the request of Ukraine, the Kurchatov Institute did a good deal of work to draw up instructions on behavior, particularly among construction workers, in cases of exposure to radiation risk. They wrote instructions how to suppress radioactive dust, what solutions to use for decontamination, and how to weld or drill. Unfortunately, specialists complain, these recommendations are not followed to the letter, which, they think, explains the contamination with radionuclids.
"Chernobyl's chastening experience is, unluckily, at a discount in the world," said Yevgeny Velikhov, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and president of the Kurchatov Institute. "We in Russia have a powerful Emergencies Ministry, like the U.S. Homeland Security Department. But staff working there are familiar with man-made radiation explosions only in theory, and if this theory is applied in practice, chaos and confusion may ensue."
Russia, Velikhov said with conviction, could contribute a good deal in drafting a serious international program to scrupulously sum up the hands-on experience of Chernobyl.
1. Press Release Concerning IAEA Board of Governors' Resolution on Iran
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency on August 11 adopted by consensus a resolution concerning Iran's implementation of its Safeguards Agreement Pursuant to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The resolution expresses serious concern over the decision by Iran to resume the previously frozen activities at the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan. It urges Teheran as a confidence building measure to fully restore its voluntary moratorium on sensitive nuclear work, including conversion. The resolution notes that such moratorium is exceptionally important for the clarification of the questions the Agency still has about Iran's previous undeclared nuclear activities.
In accordance with the resolution the "Iranian dossier" will continue to be examined within the framework of the IAEA with reliance upon its verification instruments. By September 3 the Agency's Director General must submit to the Board of Governors a comprehensive report on Iran's implementation of its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA and compliance with this resolution.
Having supported the adoption of the resolution, we proceed from the necessity to create conditions for de-escalating the situation and getting it back into the negotiation mainstream. We are convinced that in this way, through a mutually keen dialogue, it is possible to arrive at solutions ultimately meeting the interests of Iran, including through the creation of an atmosphere of necessary trust around its nuclear program. Russia, for its part, is ready to assist the development of the process in this direction comprehensively.
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