The final round of nuclear talks between Iran, the European Union (EU) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are to be held in Moscow on February 20.
Russia and Iran will discuss the so-called Russian initiative of creating a joint uranium enrichment venture in Russia, with possible participation of other countries. Much, if not everything, depends on the outcome of these talks. The stand of the Iranian delegation will decide the future of Iran's nuclear dossier, which the European Trio, the IAEA Board of Governors, and Iran's main opponent, the Untied States, want to forward to the UN Security Council.
The emergency session of the IAEA Board in early February showed that its general attitude to Iran's stand on uranium enrichment and a full nuclear cycle had become noticeably harsher. The Board approved a resolution binding IAEA Secretary General Mohamed ElBaradei to inform the UN Security Council about Iran's nuclear program and attitude to cooperation, and about IAEA's actions.
An absolute majority of Governors (27 out of 35) voted for the resolution, including Russia and China, who are permanent members of the UN Security Council. In the past, they were against sending the Iranian dossier to the Security Council, which made the possible transfer senseless in view of their right of veto. But this time they voted in favor of the decision.
The approval of the resolution does not mean the dossier will be sent to the Security Council. This is one more, possibly the last, reminder to Iran that it should agree to Russia's plan of uranium enrichment if it wants IAEA to keep the dossier.
Russia suggested enriching uranium in Russia jointly with Iran, who should pledge to return nuclear fuel wastes to Russia. All countries, including Iran's main opponent, the U.S., have accepted this plan.
Russia's proposal to Iran has not been withdrawn, and the U.S. supports it, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said February 14. The day before, the European Commission called on Iran to accept Russia's offer.
If Iran stops its uranium enrichment program and accepts the Russian offer, its dossier might not be sent to the Security Council, the Belgian media said citing the statement made by Franco Frattini, Vice-President and EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, at the February 15 session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Iran to seriously consider Russia's offer.
Like Beijing, Moscow still advocates a diplomatic way of solving the Iranian problem, as confirmed by the statements made by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, high-ranking parliamentarians, and state officials.
However, Russia has assumed certain obligations when it signed the IAEA Board's resolution (augmented with a clause that informing the UN Security Council does not mean the transfer of the nuclear dossier to that agency, added at Russia's insistence). In particular, it should try to convince Iran to accept a compromise in relations with the IAEA. The first trial of Iran's willingness to find a compromise is set for March 6, when the IAEA Board will meet for a routine session.
Moscow officials, who know that Iranian diplomats are masters of avoiding firm answers, have refused to comment on the possible outcome of the talks. But it will be Iran's last chance to accept the Russian offer and thus stop the IAEA from sending its dossier to the UN Security Council. Iran can lose it if its diplomats again say in Moscow, "We accept the Russian offer but will enrich uranium on the Iranian territory."
Barely a fortnight remains before March 6, and it may not be enough for Moscow to formulate arguments for its potential refusal to support IAEA Board's decision to transfer the Iranian dossier to the UN Security Council.
2. A non-conventional approach to Iran's nuclear ambition
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Conservative treatment of Iran's nuclear problem seems to be deeply flawed on two counts: Iran is mistakenly treated as a pariah and its perceived goals are erroneously diverted.
A nuclear-aspiring Iran is treated differently from India and Pakistan, who succeeded in their own nuclear efforts, partly because of its "axis of evil" and "sponsor of terrorism" labels, partly because President Ahmadinejad's extremist rhetoric is of little help in making the rest of the world less nervous.
Meanwhile, Iran's nuclear case, great powers say, has more to do with energy than weapons. All parties in the discussion seem to take it for granted that what Iran wants is nuclear power, the bomb being more of a looming consequence than a clear goal.
On the first count, the prosecution has to tread carefully, keeping in mind that the "axis of evil" is in fact little beyond a propaganda move exploited by the Bush administration to justify its foreign policy strategies. In real terms, someone who lashes out at you in broad daylight is much less dangerous than someone who walks softly and has a big stick behind his back.
The issue of nuclear power is no less tricky. Centering the current debate around control over nuclear fuel production for power generation means diverting it from the main point. Hardly had the West put up with the prospect of having Iranian nuclear materials enriched in Russia, when Tehran demanded more concessions. The Iranian negotiators were so tough that Mohammed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested that the United States supply Iran with nuclear reactors in exchange for an eight-year moratorium on nuclear research. In turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for the establishment of "a global infrastructure" that would ensure "equal and non-discriminate access of all interested countries to nuclear power, while reliably maintaining non-proliferation requirements."
To my mind, however, Iran is clearly and determinedly heading for a nuclear weapons capability, which comes as no surprise, considering today's international environment in which no sane statesman can be sure of his country's future if earmarked as an "enemy to civilized world." In addition, the West's non-proliferation policies have been too hypocritical to be considered seriously.
In short, a solution to the current debate would emerge as all major world powers dramatically rethink their non-proliferation principles.
An important proposition would be that it makes little sense now to intensify pressure on Iran. Even without Russia's help, Iran is capable of building a nuclear bomb, let alone a nuclear power plant, all by itself. There are many places Iranians can go - if Russia turns them down, there is China; if China refuses, there is Pakistan, until recently world's largest online shop for nuclear technology. And, in any case, there is a possibility to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a move as quickly played-down as it was loudly condemned when North Korea defied it.
The two remaining options are military action or a profound rethinking of the entire non-proliferation policy.
The military option sounds as simple technically as it is risky politically, as it may lead to unpredictable consequences. Rethinking is impossible without a consensus of the "old" members of the nuclear club - the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and China - concerning nuclear aspirations of developing countries. Such consensus is harder but apparently more important and valuable.
This new strategy could come from the European Union as Europe's image in the Middle East is much more positive than that of the U.S. In addition, the EU includes two of the five nuclear powers, and accounts for the bulk of economic aid to developing world.
The proposal to ensure "equal and non-discriminate access" of all interested countries to nuclear power is also reasonable, where the main problem would be to prevent misuse. This will be possible if there is a single security policy based on guarantees from "nuclear" to "anything but nuclear" countries and including promises of military assistance in case of external aggression.
With India, Pakistan, and Israel already having nuclear weapons, at least one Muslim Mideast state highly likely to obtain one, South Korea housing some, North Korea presumably possessing a lot, and conventional nonproliferation policies clearly unfit for the job they are assigned, the current events seem to serve as a kind of response to great powers' half-century failure to put an end to regional conflicts and, more importantly, to openly aggressive U.S. axis-of-evil rhetoric.
This leaves the West facing a dilemma, whether to go for the costly security guarantees, nuclear power aid, and buyouts of existing nuclear ordnance from the "newly nuclear" (there are nuclear demilitarization precedents with South Africa, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine), or just watch impassively and hope the possession of nuclear weapons will not lead to interstate conflicts (well, a Soviet-American nuclear war is now a half-forgotten Hollywood nightmare, and the relationship between India and Pakistan since 1997 has been strained but in no way apocalyptic).
What great powers should beware of is selective treatment. Uneven approach to real or potential nuclear weapons states - biased on either side, as the White House or the Kremlin or whoever pleases, and fuelled by self-imposed rush and hysteric propaganda - is clearly a policy that has no place in today's world.
3. Military escalation around Iran possible - Russian general
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Russia's most senior military officer said Thursday that a military escalation of the situation around Iran's controversial nuclear program was a possibility.
"I do not rule [it] out, but military action is not the best option," Chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky said.
Baluyevsky urged Iran, which the United States and some European countries fear is seeking to build nuclear weapons, to be sensible.
"The real military capabilities of Iran and the United States cannot be compared," he said.
He added that a U.S. aggression against Iran could cause unpredictable reaction in the Muslim world.
"It is hard to predict what the reaction ... could be like but such a development of events may inflame the entire world, and this is something that must not be allowed to happen," Baluyevsky said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier the military option of the standoff was still on the table.
The European Parliament proposed Wednesday to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, including Israel, and admitted the possibility of a military resolution of the conflict.
Unlike Iraq, Iran has nuclear facilities all over the country located underground, including facilities near the town of Natanz about 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) from the border with Israel, which has a fleet of F-15I warplanes capable of flying about 4,500km without refueling. In 1981, Israel destroyed suspected nuclear facilities in Iraq in an air strike.
Head of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee Mikhail Margelov hopes that Russia will manage to set up constructive dialogue with the Iranian delegation due in Moscow on February 20 to hold talks on Iran's nuclear issue. Margelov believes that for Iran to enrich uranium for its nuclear energy industry on Russian soil is the optimal way to solve the conflict peacefully and avoid sanctions.
The official is doubtful that an attempt at using force against Iran will be undertaken, at least in the foreseeable future. In his opinion, it is quite clear at this point that no sanctions against Iran will be able to stop its nuclear program. Thus, considering that Iran continues to assert its commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Russia is in turn being consistent at propagating negotiations, Margelov concluded.
The Republican faction in the US Congress intends to punish Russia and China for their diplomatic support of Iran. Economic and diplomatic measures to pressure them are being planned. This idea is actively being promoted by Republican Senator Sam Brownback, who is regarded as one of the candidates to participate in the 2008 presidential race.
US irritation in connection with the diplomatic support given to Tehran by Moscow and Beijing has evidently reached its highest limit. Some influential US legislators no longer deem it necessary to display calm and are openly proposing to punish Russia and China for their pro-Iranian and, thus, anti-American policy. Sam Brownback, a key Republican senator from the state of Kansas, spoke out on this issue Tuesday (14 February). He declared in the course of a speech to the Heritage Foundation organization in Washington that Russia and China have too much riding on commercial relations with Iran to help the West in curbing the Iranian leadership's nuclear ambitions.
"The countries that are sending the wrong signals today are Russia and China. Part of the problem is that Iran has successfully bought UNSC vetoes from China and, possibly, Russia," Brownback said in his speech. The senator did not confine himself to criticism and suggested a program to influence Moscow and Beijing. According to him, in the present situation the United States should pressure countries which support Iran. (Passage omitted)
It is not yet clear from Brownback's speech yesterday along which lines it is proposed to exert pressure on Moscow and Beijing. The senator made it clear that such a measure of punishment as squeezing Russian and Chinese companies from the US market is not ruled out.
"No company in the world is going to treat lightly the prospect of exclusion from the US market in exchange for contracts with the Iranian leadership," Brownback declared. Reuters points out in this connection that Russia is a major supplier of weapons to Iran today, while Beijing has struck energy deals worth a total of $100 billion with the Iranian leadership.
It is entirely likely that Brownback will undertake some actions in keeping with his plan also along the lines of Congress. Such activity could well mark the start of his 2008 presidential campaign, about which there is increasingly frequent talk in US media today.
As reported earlier, in the upper house of Congress the senator heads the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission). On Brownback's initiative hearings were held in the commission 8 February on the question of whether Russia is worthy of its G8 chairmanship if it is persecuting nonstate organizations. In addition to the permanent members of the Senate commission, the session was attended also by Daniel Fried, US assistant secretary of state for Eurasian affairs; his colleague in the foreign policy department, Barry Lowenkron of the Bureau of Democracy and Human Rights; and so-called experts on Russia -- Allison Gill, director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch; Andrew Kuchins, former head of the Carnegie Moscow Center; Nicolai Petro, professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island; and Andrey Piontkovskiy, director of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies.
Senator Brownback delivered a program speech during the hearings, from which it followed that our country does not conform to the key principles of the Helsinki Agreements -- that is, it is suppressing citizens' freedoms, oppressing the media, inflating the staff of the special services, and centralizing power. In other words, it is moving away from democracy toward autocracy.
These conclusions of Brownback's were confirmed by expert witnesses. Andrey Piontkovskiy, in particular, brought out an entire theory that the Russian president simply does not trust the United States. "Putin sincerely believes that the Islamic terrorists operating in Russia are being directed by powerful governments which set themselves the goal of weakening Russia," the expert declared during the hearings, a transcript of which has in its possession.
However, Brownback's commission did not pass any tough decisions or even resolutions at the beginning of February. Lyudmila Alekseyeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, explained at the time in conversation with that this is the usual situation. According to her, the Helsinki Commission does not usually adopt any resolutions. However, she did emphasize that "the final statement by commission head Brownback may be taken into account in the future during the elaboration of policy on Russia by both houses of Congress."
6. RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER COMMENTS ON PLANS FOR NUCLEAR TALKS WITH IRAN
BBC Monitoring International Reports
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Iran's representatives have sent a request to Moscow for them to be received on 20 February for talks on the Russian proposal to establish a venture to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory.
"The proposal was made within the context of Iran's talks with the European troika as part of a package of proposals on settling the situation," Lavrov said at a news conference in Vienna today.
"We are ready to discuss the details with them and to explain everything. But all this remains within the context of renewing talks. For this purpose, Iran needs to make an effort to return to the moratorium on enrichment activities," the minister said.
"After confidence in Iran has been restored, after the IAEA resumes its activity in this country, I believe it will become possible to go back to issues concerning Iran's right to develop the energy sector," Lavrov said.
The problem "needs to be brought back to the negotiating table and it is necessary to ensure opportunities for the IAEA to continue its work in Iran in full", he said.
Iran must not leave the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Lavrov said.
He also spoke out in favour of Iran returning to the framework of the additional protocol to the agreement with the IAEA. "Everything needs to be done so that the work of professionals - IAEA experts - continues," Lavrov said.
He said that not on a single account did sanctions help to deal with the situation. Lavrov spoke in favour of carrying out a collective analysis of the problem, of working out a solution and of implementing it within the scope of efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem.
7. PRESS CONFERENCE WITH KONSTANTIN KOSACHEV, CHAIR OF THE STATE DUMA COMMITTEE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Official Kremlin International News Broadcast
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Moderator: Good day. Moskovsky Komsomolets and our press center welcome you. We must tell you that this is the first time Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, is here at Moskovsky Komsomolets. And this is a real event for us. We hope this is also a big event for you too.
Kosachev: Certainly for me.
Moderator: Thank you. Since different aspects of our country's foreign policy and problems on the agenda are quite complex, we think we are going to have an interesting discussion. We invite all of you to take part in it. We didn't work out any protocol of this meeting as to whether you should start asking questions right away or not. Let us leave this to Konstantin Iosifovich. If he wants to make some opening remarks, we will certainly accept that.
Kosachev: Let me say something as the genre requires, especially since the topic was announced as Russia's presidency in the G8 and the Council of Europe. But I would like to give more time to your questions.
As for Russia's presidency in the G8, I would like to note one circumstance, which I think is important and which has been noticed by the press. There has been some talk as to whether Russia has become a full member of the G8, except its financial part, legitimately and whether the G7 could do its job without -- (audio break) -- now.
Suffice it to take the most acute problems facing the world now and an answer will be obvious. What kind of problems are these? Speaking of the current situation, it's Iran with its nuclear program and Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections in the Middle East. It is clear that if it were not for Russia's special position and special role, the world would, including our G8 partners, be in a dead end now because the only thing the world, as represented by the architects of modern foreign relations, i.e., the US and the EU can react to such non-trivial situations with is a blockade, the rejection of contacts or a threat of using force or the use of force.
I think both blockades and the use of force would be absolutely pointless both in the case of Iran and the new leadership of Palestine. For the US there may be some internal political project. The incumbent US administration, especially given obvious failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, has to show its determination and commitment to ideals and the declared goals. We can understand that. For Europe, the same policy would be less understandable and less acceptable, but Europe has unfortunately not had the will to act on its own. At least the experience with Iraq and disagreements with the US over Iraq are perceived rather negatively in Europe than positive.
So, these are two obvious and concrete situations. And there are two more global topics that have been declared by Russia as its priorities during its presidency. These are energy security and the fight against infectious diseases. Both topics are very acute topics for the modern world, including the G8. While in the case of Iran and Hamas, the focus was on non-proliferation and the struggle against international terrorism, energy security and the fight against pandemics are perhaps, and not perhaps but certainly are topics number three and number four that concern the entire international community. If we separate these topics and remove Russia, it will be quite clear that one can achieve more or less tangible results only within his own national boundaries by starting to extract his own oil and gas or by shooting migrant birds along the national border, as some of my colleagues in the State Duma suggested. But this will not solve the problems.
By mere chance, by chance I mean that Russia took over presidency by schedule, and yet I think this is a unique chance for Russia, and we have a much more coherent, serious and, if you like, more challenging but on the other hand more potent agenda for our presidency. In this regard, our predecessors, including Great Britain last year, had to think up the agenda to some extent and look for topics that would be equally comfortable for all G8 members. Russia didn't have to think up any topics because they are on the surface. And most importantly, all of these topics require solutions, and these solutions must be adopted without delay this year. I think Russia has the potential to demonstrate its ability to adopt constructive decisions.
Q: The Iran crisis is very topical now, even more topical than our G8 presidency. In your opinion, where is the limit for Iran? Whose position will be decisive, that of Moscow or Washington? I mean the aggravation of this crisis. Thank you.
Kosachev: The Iran crisis rests on two factors, in my opinion. One of them is the imperfection of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty regime. In its current form, the treaty permits activities related to civilian nuclear energy to the limit that debars each particular country from the opportunity of development of nuclear warheads by a time-span of three months only. Three months to the red line. If that line is crossed, that country is regarded as that having violated the treaty, but after IAEA experts register that violation of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, in theory, three months is enough after that to start the development of nuclear weapons. This is the technology. Naturally, this is the treaty's imperfection. For the first time ever that happened in North Korea, which was a party to the treaty, engaged in all programs allowed by the IAEA, while at the same time, as it turned out, it implemented programs that are not allowed by the IAEA. Still, when this came to the surface, it was too late.
Something similar is happening with Iran now, because Iran -- I would like to stress that clearly -- according to all reports prepared by IAEA experts, has not gone beyond the framework of allowed activities. IAEA experts have not established a single fact of such violations. There are questions that still remain unanswered, and they concern not the current stage of Iran's nuclear program, but certain stages prior to the current stage: where have the centrifuges come from? Where have traces of enriched uranium come from on those centrifuges? And many other questions. Iran has given exhaustive answers to some questions, while unfortunately it has not answered other questions. Naturally, this is a cause for suspicion. But in formal terms, Iran has not violated the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and until IAEA experts have drawn relevant conclusions, have laid claims to Iran, everything will be in the range of suspicions, but not in the range of evidence.
Second, the second basic factor that led to the emergence of this problem. It is double standards, notorious double standards applied by some countries that are parties to the treaty in recent years. I mean the situation with, first and foremost, Israel's nuclear program and, to a lesser extent, nuclear programs of Pakistan and India. Those three countries are known to have never been parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In my opinion, the fact that appropriate reaction of the international community was lacking to nuclear programs implemented by those three countries, the lack of that clear reaction gave a wrong signal to other countries. If Israel is allowed to do that, why cannot Iran engage in those activities? This is, perhaps, the conclusion once made by the Iranian leaders, especially given with account of the fact that there is an obvious conflict between Israel and Iran.
Finally, there is the third factor, which does not have this system nature, perhaps. It is the United States' operation in Iraq. I think that the rapid fall of the Saddam regime again sent a wrong signal to many, including in Iran, perhaps, that Iraq was attacked and lost the battle because it did not possess nuclear weapons. Therefore, they find that the only way to avoid Iraq's fate is to develop their own nuclear weapons. I repeat, this is a false signal. But I am afraid, many might have perceived the situation in Iraq this way.
Iran's moves, if they really work on the creation of nuclear weapons, cannot be justified by anything, including what I have just mentioned. I think Russia's position in this respect is not different in any way from the position of all those involved in this situation. Like others, like the United States, like the European Union, like China, we are certainly not interested in Iraq turning into a nuclear power. There are no differences here. But the thing is that we have tried to go to the end along the path stipulated by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It calls for political consultations, political negotiations and other moves can only be discussed after those negotiations lead nowhere. In our opinion, those opportunities have not been used up yet. The fact that negotiations in Moscow will be held, even if not on the initially agreed dates, gives me the hope that we will be able to find solutions, even if those hopes are waning rapidly.
I find that Tehran's recent moves have been illogical and inadequate to the gravity of the situation. Even the form in which we in Russia find out about whether or not Iranian negotiators will come here in Moscow -- from the mass media, rather than by traditional channels -- is certainly unacceptable. As far as I know, today's reports in the press about someone of the Iranian leadership having stated their readiness to come to come to Moscow on February 20 rather February 16 are still not a fact of official diplomatic correspondence between Moscow and Tehran -- this is very disappointing. Moreover, and this is perhaps the most important issue, we cannot but be upset by the fact that Iran is not making it clear whether uranium enrichment outside its territory is acceptable to Iran or not.
Iran had some negative experience in this regard at the beginning of the 1970s when Iran discussed a similar project with France before the Iranian revolution, and it invested about $1 billion in a joint venture. Then the revolution occurred, and the money and production facilities remained in France, and Iran got nothing. I can understand why Tehran is suspicious about any proposals that do not give it complete control of the project.
On the other hand, I do not think that this is an impasse because Russia, together with other potential parties to this process, can give Iran all guarantees that this process will not depend on political, economic, military or some other factors. I think engaging a third, a fourth or a fifth party in this process as a guarantor or as a participant could be an interesting option. Such a country could receive enriched uranium from this joint venture for the needs of its own civilian nuclear energy industry.
But all these are topics to be discussed at the negotiations, and I do hope the negotiations will take place before March 6. This is a critical deadline. I think any shift in time, one way or the other, will not make a lot of difference. What is important is that when the Board of Governors meet on March 6, the international community should get a clear and definitive answer whether Iran accepts or rejects our offer.
Q: Two questions. One is about Iran. Is there any split in the Iranian government? Let's assume that there are some people in the government who have better relations with Russia but the other part, for example, the President, has a somewhat different perception of relations with Russia. And second, you said Russia's presidency in the G8 is a very good -- that these problems give Russia a good chance to show that it can offer good solutions to complex problems. But in the case of Iran it is still not clear whether there will be a solution with regard to Hamas. How serious may the consequences be for Russia and Putin if Russia fails to solve this problem?
Kosachev: Specialists told me there are 15 versions of the word "yes" in the Persian language, and 13 of them mean rather not than yes. I don't know whether it's true or not but that's what I was told. So, many of the statements made by Iranian leaders are indeed controversial and sometimes mutually exclusive.
The new Iranian president, Mr. Ahmadinejad, doesn't seem to be a very experienced politician. In his public statements, he often allows himself to be carried away and says things that were not properly explored by experts as it should be done when it comes to statements made by top officials. Here is the latest example. Last Friday, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran would secede from the NPT, but on Saturday the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman denied this. I take this as a classical example.
So, there is a lack of coordination in the Iranian leadership's rhetoric. But I think this reflects high, rather than low, quality of Iran's diplomacy. I think that Iranians are deftly playing with different parties, probing the reaction of the international community to possible actions. They express a point of view, then register the reaction and decide what chances of success such a step might have and what may happen if it becomes Tehran's official policy.
But I personally do not see any signs of internal fight within the Iranian leadership, especially if we remember that the Iranian president is number two in the Iranian hierarchy. The top figure is the spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Homeini. I think the final say belongs to him. And in this respect Iran's spiritual leadership appears to be a factor that cements the Iranian position.
On your second question, I would not want you to get the impression that Russia, as the G8 president, will assume all responsibility for events in the world because they are going to develop by unpredictable scenarios. Neither the US nor the EU nor Russia can fully control any situation. This is always a multi- component factor. Ultimately, the success or the failure of the efforts to resolve a crisis in the world means the success or the failure of the collective efforts of the G8, the UN and other structures involved.
So for Russia the success or the failure of political projects will have no negative consequences. But the success of such political projects will certainly have positive effects. In other words, I see it as a situation that will give Russia very serious additional advantages in terms of how it positions itself in the world but will have no visible flaws or drawbacks.
Q: Could it be possible that Russia's problems with Iran stem from the fact that Russia has no authoritative negotiator who would be respected in Iran, someone like Primakov? Could it be possible that Iran doesn't simply see anyone with whom to negotiate? And second, you said Russia makes a substantial contribution to the G8 and resolution of conflicts in the world, but on the other hand, you say that Russia's position on Iran doesn't really differ much from the positions of other G8 countries. So, I don't quite understand the situation where the President invites Hamas leaders to Moscow, thus putting the rest of the world on guard. In other words, what I am saying is that Russia more often creates strain than offers constructive solutions.
Kosachev: Yevgeny Primakov is undoubtedly a very authoritative figure in the world, including Iran, and one of the leading Russian specialists in regional problems and an individual who has ramified personal contacts in the regions.
On the other hand, I would not overestimate the role of personality in history in this particular case, because I think it concerns issues that are so important for Iran that they cannot depend too much on whether or not there is a negotiator on the other side. Naturally, Iran proceeds from other countries' positions. There are grounds to say that Russia may be a comfortable negotiating partner for Iran or not. Who represents Russia in this negotiating process is a matter of secondary importance, I think. I do not know of any case in our contacts with Iran or any other country when our negotiators' competence, reliability and authority would be called into question.
The best forces, diplomatic forces, scholars, are now employed in Russia's efforts concerning Iran, and their level is certainly not inferior to that of Yevgeny Primakov.
As for your second question, I have not said that Russia's position is absolutely identical with that of its partners. I said our interests, our goals coincided, our strategy was similar, but tactics were different.
Q: May I ask you a question in English. I am sorry we are late, so, somebody might have asked already. Iran has postponed negotiations with Russia, which is -- (inaudible) -- do you think there is any possibility that Iran is pretending to negotiate and just buying time? That's question number one. And second question is, what if nothing comes out at the talks between Iran and Russia by March 6, what would be the position? Do you agree with the sanctions?
Kosachev: There were two questions about Iran. I will speak very briefly because I have already answered these questions. I have no reasons to make conclusions as to how much the Iranian position is actually a desperate search for a way out of this situation or a mere imitation of this process. However, it is absolutely obvious that there is a deadline, and that is March 6. Iran is well aware of this, and any game played around negotiations with Moscow will either lead nowhere or produce some result. But in this case, Iran is running a race against time. Prior to the latest extraordinary meeting of the Board of Governors, where the March 6 deadline was set, Iran could play with the international community as long as it wanted. This is why Russia supported the idea of reporting Iran to the Security Council and setting March 6 as the date when Mr. ElBaradei is to deliver his report. There is a sort of road map now. I will use this term here. And this road map is well known to Teheran. I do hope that Teheran is not playing games and is indeed looking for a solution.
Second, Russia's position will depend entirely on the contents of Mr. ElBaradei's report. Unless we know the contents of the report or how serious the claims IAEA experts have come up with against Iran are, we will not be able to determine our own position because otherwise it would be a position based on our understanding rather than the norms of international law. But international law, in this case the Non-Proliferation Treaty, expressly state the succession of actions to be taken in crisis. The fundamental element of this succession is a report of IAEA experts. The report will be presented on March 6. After it has been presented, we will decide on our own response to this report and our further actions.
Q: You mentioned March 6 so often that I wonder if you think that the situation may change after March 6?
Kosachev: Definitely. I think March 6 is the day when the IAEA director general will have to present his report. And I think after that at least several days will be required for assessing the report and defining political positions. They will have to be agreed on. But the situation may really change after March 6 in the sense that the handover of Iran's nuclear file to the Security Council for consideration is quite a realistic option, if Iran continue to reject any cooperation with the international community.
Moderator: Let me ask you one question. I want to ask you a question about our country's foreign policy, the participation of society, public associations, Russian citizens in the formation of that policy. Some time ago analysts tended to say that citizens preferred to be alienated from politics, from the authorities. What is the current state of affairs in this respect in Russia?
Kosachev: This is a very topical question, especially as two hours before this press conference I took part in the first meeting of the Public Chamber's commission on international cooperation and public diplomacy. It was the first meeting and I was pleased that we get yet another channel for civil society's communications with professional diplomacy. This channel certainly does not compete with parliament, but it certainly supplements parliament's functions.
I believe that the Federal Assembly is an institute expressing political will existing in society. The Public Chamber is an institute for expressing feelings existing in civil society. As a parliament member working in the State Duma for the second term, which means that I can draw comparisons, I have to admit that I am not satisfied too much with the quality of debates on foreign political issues in the State Duma. I have to say that in the previous Duma the range of opinions was much wider and every point of view would be voiced and heard.
Debates on foreign political issues are much less balanced today. I mean that the party, the faction I am member of, United Russia, adheres to centrist positions, which mostly correspond to the Russian President's positions in the foreign political sphere. Strangely enough, our opponents on foreign political issues are those adhering to what I describe as pseudo patriotism.
While Rodina, Communists, LDPR clash with each other on domestic policies, as soon as it comes to foreign policy, they strangely merge under the slogans of "Fatherland is in danger", "Russia is in the circle of enemies", "Betrayal of national interests" and the like.
I think the feelings in society are different. I believe that Russian society -- various points of view exist there -- rather tends to cooperate, interact, engage in dialog, than confront the rest of the world. This is a very important thing. I regret to see those nationalistic, pseudo patriotic cards being persistently played by many political forces in Russia.
A well-known definition: what is the difference between a patriot and a nationalist? A patriot loves his country, while a nationalist hates all other countries. So, in my opinion, everything is far from perfect with true patriotism in Russia today. I would like to wish our civil society to have substantially more levers of influence on Russian foreign policy. I want civil society to be heard better. I think the channel provided by the United Russia faction in the State Duma and the channel provided by the just formed commission for international affairs in the Public Chamber are very effective channels.
Moderator: Thank you. Let me thank Konstantin Iosifovich on your behalf and wish him success in his important activities. Thank you very much.
Kosachev: Thank you very much. Thank you, dear colleagues.
8. Moscow Threatened With New Pipe War. On Eve of Important Talks Russia and China Were Accused of Selling Their UN Votes to Iran
Artur Blinov and Andrey Vaganov
(for personal use only)
Russia and China are sending the wrong signals to Iran and must be seriously punished. This statement was made in Washington by influential US Senator Sam Brownback, who is aspiring to nominate his candidacy in the 2008 presidential election. The senator's threats were made on the eve of what could be Moscow's decisive contacts with Tehran over the question of its nuclear program.
Against the background of yesterday's statements by Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that "the introduction of sanctions against Iran will not resolve the problem of Iran's nuclear program," the US senator's words sound like a prediction of a confrontation between Washington and not only Tehran but also Moscow and Beijing.
According to Brownback, who was addressing an influential conservative research center -- the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) -- "part of the problem is that Iran has effectively bought vetoes from China and, very likely, Russia." In this connection, the senator believes, "tough measures" must be taken against both countries. They must be modeled on the sanctions that were applied to Moscow in the eighties to prevent it from constructing pipelines to West Europe.
"Like the Soviet Union in its time, Russia and China need international technical and managerial support to keep their activities going," the senator believes. Brownback links the effectiveness of such actions with the fact that "any international company is hardly going to regard with indifference its exclusion from the US market in exchange for its contracts with the Iranian government."
According to a Reuters Agency report, Brownback's speech to the AEI was backed up by reports from experts who called Russia one of the major arms suppliers to Iran and reported that Beijing has signed contracts with the Iranians to supply oil to China with a total value of $100 billion. They also maintained that both countries support Iran in the interests of their "strategic policy of countering US influence in the Near East and Central Asia."
Sam Brownback himself is making increasingly active use of the Iranian issue as his pre-election hobbyhorse. In his speeches he actively calls for "regime change" in Tehran and advances an entire action program for Washington in this area. The senator has proposed that the US Department of State should increase spending on promoting democracy in Iran from $10 million to $100 million a year and appoint "an envoy for human rights" in that country. In addition, he believes that the United States must demand that the World Bank stop lending to Iran.
The authors and sponsors of the draft "Iran Freedom and Support Act" -- 42 senators and 333 members of the House of Representatives -- have come out from analogous positions in Congress. But this is the first time a demand has been heard for "sanctions" directly against Russia and China in connection with the Iranian program.
These demands are rendered especially pointed by the fact that they were made literally on the eve of important contacts between Moscow and Tehran concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Thus, talks on this topic will commence in Moscow 20 February and will be headed by one of the deputy secretaries of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council. Later Rosatom (Federal Atomic Energy Agency) head Sergey Kiriyenko will pay a visit to Iran.
These talks are regarded by their participants as being extremely important for resolving the problem of the Iranian nuclear program, particularly in connection with the fact that the "Iranian dossier" may already be being tackled by the UNSC in March. This is what Kiriyenko himself told in this connection: "A conference of the cochairmen of the intergovernmental commission will take place in Iran. A government decision appointed me cochairman of this commission on the Russian side. We will discuss not only nuclear cooperation but also the entire spectrum of issues within our cooperation. I am planning to visit the nuclear station construction site in Bushehr. One of my aims is to specify the technological schedule and work deadlines."
The main trump card that Kiriyenko is taking with him to Iran is a proposal to set up a joint venture on Russian territory to enrich uranium for the Iranian nuclear program. "Our proposal for Iran to participate in what is essentially the creation of a prototype of a future international nuclear center for uranium enrichment is lying on the table. It is fundamentally important here that these are not some special demands being put to Iran. We are offering it the same form of cooperation in which any third country may also participate. Our proposal allows Iran to develop peaceful nuclear energy, while allowing the entire world to be guaranteed that this does not lead to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the Rosatom head said.
"The countries of the strategic alliance must take on the most dangerous nuclear redivisions. This is a guarantee of nonproliferation," Kiriyenko emphasized. "We believe that one such center is quite enough on Russian territory. In fact, there must be three to five of them in the world."
How serious are the accusations against Moscow and Beijing which Sen Brownback made in his speech, and are his threats to mount a new "pipe war" against them real? asked Professor Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of the United States and Canada and a well-known specialist in Russian-US relations, to answer these questions. The expert pointed out that Sen Brownback's speech reflects a political tendency -- the formation within the Republican Party of a more right-wing grouping than the present administration. It includes, in particular Senators John McCain and Sam Brownback, who intend to participate in the 2008 presidential election campaign.
As for trade and economic sanctions against Russia and China, in Kremenyuk's opinion this is an unrealistic idea. Particularly if you consider the scale of US-Chinese economic ties and the US need for energy resources. At the same time it is highly likely that forces which come out from positions of more robust treatment of countries which have not become US allies will accede to power in the United States in the future. These countries include Russia and China, which have not, in their opinion, justified Washington's expectations.
1. Energy's Bodman Asks for Increase in Nonproliferation Funding - United States seeks to augment cooperation with China, India and Russia
U.S. Department of State
(for personal use only)
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman spoke to Congress in support of the administrationï¿½s request for $1.726 billion for fiscal year 2007 to spend on projects to reduce the threat from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
He told the Senate Armed Services Committee February 16 that the Energy Department was seeking an almost 7 percent increase to carry out President Bushï¿½ commitment ï¿½to prevent, contain, and roll back the proliferation of nuclear weapons-usable materials, technology and know-how.ï¿½
The Energy Department already is working with more than 70 nations ï¿½to secure dangerous nuclear and radioactive materials, halt the production of new fissile material, detect the illegal trafficking or diversion of nuclear material and ultimately dispose of surplus weapons-usable materials,ï¿½ he said.
Bodman also said the United States is seeking to expand cooperation with China, India and Russia on these issues.
In addition, Energy Department officials are working with multilateral organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, ï¿½to further strengthen nuclear safeguards and improve the nuclear export control regulatory infrastructure in other countries,ï¿½ Bodman said.
He said a multilayered approach would help ï¿½identify and address potential vulnerabilities within the nonproliferation regime, reduce the incentive for terrorists and rogue states to obtain WMD, and limit terrorists access to deadly weapons and materials.ï¿½
Highlights of the nonproliferation and threat reduction program requests include:
ï¿½ International Security and Nonproliferation. More than $127 million is requested to meet and reverse proliferation by Iran and North Korea, as well as fund ongoing efforts to strengthen the IAEA. It also would be used to promote nonproliferation cooperation with Russia, China and India.
ï¿½ Research and Development. The $269 million nonproliferation and verification research and development request would fund technological advancements needed to detect and prevent the illicit diversion of nuclear weapons.
ï¿½ Global Threat Reduction Initiative. The new budget seeks $107 million to help identify, secure, recover, and/or facilitate the disposition of vulnerable nuclear and radioactive materials around the world. Funding will accelerate the recovery or elimination of some Russian-origin materials, eligible as part of the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Program.
ï¿½ Materials Protection, Control and Accounting. The department is asking for $413.2 million to accelerate security upgrades and to complete projects under way in Russia.
ï¿½ Plutonium Disposition. The administration is seeking $551 million to dispose of surplus Russian and U.S. plutonium and another $87 million to eliminate the U.S. surplus of highly enriched uranium.
ï¿½ Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production. The budget request seeks $207 million to keep construction projects on schedule for Russian fossil fuel plants.
ï¿½ Naval Reactors. $795 million is being sought to ensure the U.S. Navy has access to safe, militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants.
The full text of Bodmanï¿½s statement (PDF, 14 pages) as submitted for the record is available on the committeeï¿½s Web site.
1. Let's Save Millions, Let's Lose - the Country: Are the Armed Forces Needed in Space?
Sergey Aleksandrovich Kozinets
Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye
(for personal use only)
A decision has been made to eliminate "Svobodnyy" Cosmodrome. One more "useless" military facility will be no more and certain RF statesmen will breathe a sigh of relief: after all, there is a savings for the budget, and the television news will talk about how difficult the decision was, but how wise and, therefore, correct it was. But is that so?
THEY WERE BANGING THEIR HEADS AGAINST THE WALL
At that time, the question came up: Just what will you do with the garrison, the people and the infrastructure of the 27 th Missile Division that is being dispersed, intelligent, prudent people were found, who took everything into account, conducted a reconnaissance, assessed the situation and decided - there would be a cosmodrome here. I recall that this occurred in 1993. And the organization, which made that ludicrous and absurd decision, from the point of view of contemporary military experts, was called the Military-Space Forces. And it was in charge of all of outer space in the country. It is precisely thanks to it - the Military-Space Forces, - despite the exceedingly grim, at times complete absence of centralized deliveries of materiel and financing based upon the remainder principle (there were more important things than outer space...), that they managed to preserve the entire spacecraft launch structure, the command and tracking complex, and the main thing - the cadres, specialists of the highest class, who had been through the best school in the world (at that time) and through whose hands the Fatherland reached for the stars.
But the integration of the Military-Space Forces and the Missile-Space Defense Troops into the composition of the RVSN (Strategic Missile Troops) was occurring, and future Marshal Igor Sergeyev announced for all to hear that as a result the increase of the Strategic Missile Troops' effectiveness totaled 20-25 percent (with just what did he measure that effectiveness?). However, in so doing, according to the data that was presented in the very prestigious RVSN information handbook, approximately 18,000 officers of the former VKS (Military-Space Forces) were released. Who left? Those same specialists who are the best in the world were released. VKS Commander Vladimir Ivanov was sent into the reserve on his birthday in an especially "eloquent" manner. It is good that at that time the Russian Space Agency needed people and it was able to properly use quite a few of the servicemen-"cosmonauts" who had been thrown out of the ranks of the Armed Forces.
However, under these conditions, while working with all of their might to launch one and a half missile regiments (and I mean to say: a "Topol-M" regiment is better than some "Angara" or "Strela" regiment there), and while not receiving their salaries for 4-5 months (why pay them - are they not performing alert duty and are they not defending the peace of the Homeland?), the "cosmonauts" managed to preserve that foundation, thanks to which Russia still has the right to call itself a great space power.
Finally, a decision was made on the creation of the Space Troops at an historic RF Security Council session. Thousands of officers-"cosmonauts" rejoiced: now we will restore everything, replenish, place into orbit, install, introduce, strengthen and increase, accept into operation, and modernize. We will be able to do everything: "Angara" - please, "Strela" - be so kind, GLONASS (Global Navigational Support System) - please. What prospects unfolded: space operations - the operational art of the Space Troops, and the information component in the troop command and control and weapons control loop - are the key to victory in any war. Progressive officers saw the future of the Space Troops in the creation of the new, most promising branch of the Armed Forces. I was not making a slip of the tongue: since there is a new sphere for the conduct of combat operations - outer space - there must be a branch of the Armed Forces (and not a separate type of troops), which will also conduct combat operations in that sphere. All the more so that already today the Space Troops have outgrown the declaimed "support operations", not to mention the near future.
And here there was a new blow...
SOMETHING ABOUT "NON-RELEVANT FUNCTIONS"
What will occur as a result of the destruction of "Svobodnyy"?
The garrison of the former village of Uglegorsk, Amur Oblast, will frighten passersby with the black eye sockets of broken windows and a peeling sign with the barely recognizable space insignia: "Russia was, is and will be..." - that is the wretched lot of abandoned garrisons. And really this is no less than three dozen apartment buildings, a marvelous school, three kindergartens, an outstanding cultural center, two boilers, a military hospital and a civilian infirmary, a stadium, two automated telephone exchanges, a post office, a services center, a bakery, a fruit drink shop, a bath and laundry service, good, spacious motor vehicle servicing pits and storage facilities with approach roads, a frame saw and woodworking shop, a cafe, stores and so on and so forth. And there are also maintenance and launch complexes, an energy supply system, a water supply system with the purest water, which is obtained from artesian wells, the barracks and field training facilities, a network of highways and railroads, and so forth.
But the main thing is still something else. I ask that you forgive me but here I am compelled to recall something once again. Today outer space - that is radio-navigation, global relay and communications, troop combat command and control and weapons control, monitoring the nuclear situation, geodesy and geophysics, reconnaissance and, finally - missile attack warning (I have certainly forgotten something).
It is no accident that American doctrine very expressly reduces the conduct of combat operations to gaining supremacy in space. Everything is simple: to provide U.S. men and equipment with unhampered access to outer space and to deny that to the opposing side. The end justifies the means. And the theoretical basis of space operations has already been developed.
Who could that be, to whom is that necessary to deny access to outer space? Maybe that is Europe or Japan? Or, say, Brazil, Libya, Columbia, or Iran? In my opinion, it is understandable even to the uninitiated that such measures, for example, as the destruction or neutralization of the enemy's space systems and the denial of access to the information that is being supplied by space systems and through them are directed against the country that possesses these space systems. It is entirely clear about whom we are talking in this case.
At the same time, in addition a campaign has been launched for the so-called release of the RF Armed Forces from non-relevant functions with the elaboration of plans for the transfer of the ground command and control facilities to the Federal Space Agency and the transfer to it of the "Proton" Launch Complex at "Baykonur", with the planned subsequent departure of the Space Troops from there.
Incidentally, let's talk about the "non-relevant functions". Our predecessors, while not even suspecting that these functions were not relevant to them, opened the way to outer space for the world and forged our state's might. They created it, without having the good sense to know that the spacecraft command and control infrastructure, which still doesn't have an equal in the world, was not their affair. Let's ask the former officers, who had the opportunity to prepare and launch hundreds of spacecraft and to conduct hundreds of thousands of communications sessions with spacecraft, let's ask the captains of the floating command and tracking complexes. Let's ask the hundreds of thousands of people, through whose strivings the state's greatness was created, the state that was feared and respected, about the "functions that are not relevant to the Armed Forces". Can you guess what you will hear in response?
HAVING TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT - WE ARE CRYING
So, it is as if Russia doesn't need "Svobodnyy". Even then say: there's no money, there is bird flu on the lakes, and a benzene slick on the Sungari River... And what about the crews? What about the work of the military scientists, the doctors and candidates, the increase of the effectiveness indicators (incidentally, this time in very real numbers in contrast to the comrade marshal's numbers - in tonnes, rubles, and resource amounts), and financial-economic assessments?
I hear the indignant objections: "That is demagogy, and what has been done at 'Svobodnyy' during these 10 years, four launches - and that's it? What crews? What effectiveness?" But I will respond, what has been done is the main thing - the infrastructure has been preserved in serviceable, operational condition and in readiness to launch the work on its buildup. And whose fault is it that the cosmodrome's most advantageous location has not been in demand for 10 years?
I remind you: the cosmodrome is located a total of three degrees north of "Baykonur", which provides the capability to accomplish all of the programs here, which were being carried out in Kazakhstan. For comparison - "Plesetsk" is located another 12 degrees to the north. What does that mean? We can place into orbit a payload that is 1.3-1.5 times larger (to the issue on effectiveness) using the same launch platform from "Svobodnyy" as compared to "Plesetsk". Today how much does it cost in our country to place a one kilogram payload into geostationary orbit?
What is more, "Svobodnyy" was erected near the Trans-Siberian Railroad Mainline, on which are also such cities as Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. Continue? Furthermore, we should not forget that four separate command and tracking complexes are deployed in the Far East, which have at their disposal systems that are capable of supporting all of the launches from "Svobodnyy", regardless of the launch azimuth.
We must also touch upon such a delicate topic as the impact of the launch platforms' jettisonable parts. The Scandinavian Peninsula is the impact field during the launch of spacecraft from "Plesetsk" into reverse sun-synchronous and polar orbits (I stress, through direct ascent into orbit, without an orbital maneuver). Why does Finland, Sweden or Norway need our expended stages? And the need to conduct an orbital maneuver results in the reduction of the payload that is being placed into orbit. As for "Svobodnyy", here the impact fields are vast in the orbit inclination range of from 51 to 180 degrees and the land under them can be expropriated without any damage whatsoever for the national economy.
My imaginary opponent will object: How will we haul outsized cargoes, such as the "Start" missile-space complex, through your mountains? It appears to be difficult for outsized and heavier cargoes than for a mobile launch assembly and support vehicles.
And we need to think of how the construction of the cosmodrome would stir up the Far East. Imagine that multi-million ruble orders arrive at the dying enterprises of Amur Oblast and Khabarovsk Kray... There will be new technologies, new specialists and new specialties at Far East vuzs (higher educational institutions). Believe me, people will work day and night. Mister ministers and deputies, why don't you have a national idea? I will reveal a small secret in passing: the main mass of the people in our state dream not about wealth but about living in a strong, stable country that is confident in the future. And our people will not spare energy to do that.
A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE
Consequently, having lost Svobodnyy, the Space Troops, the Armed Forces and Russia will not acquire anything. On the contrary, the state's defense capabilities will decline, even if we are talking about the prospect (unused capabilities). And, in my opinion, the question of the reform (read reduction) of the Space Troops is already a national security issue.
I think that the time has come to also touch upon the military aspect of the issue. Let's return to space operations to do that. Besides everything else, weapons will also be used to deny access to outer space. With the naked eye, we see that the "Plesetsk" facilities will be destroyed by the first strike (air- and sea-launched cruise missiles and a massive air strike). And Russia will be left without outer space because there will be nothing with which to replace "Plesetsk" today (and, unfortunately, also tomorrow). It is not serious to count on "Baykonur" in this case.
"Svobodnyy" also wins here: danger threatens from the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan only in the event of the total defeat of the Pacific Fleet and the destruction of all of the Far East air defense systems. From the south - is our new ally China (I trust more the sincerity of its intentions than the NATO leaders' kind words) and India. From the north - there is 5,000-7,000 kilometers of tundra, taiga, hills and mountains.
Are more arguments needed?
Today the Space Troops are once again in jeopardy: the latest integration is drawing near, now already under the Air Force flag...
In conclusion, I want to appeal to Space Troops Commander Colonel-General Vladimir Popovkin. While understanding all of the difficulty and responsibility of the situation that has developed at the present time, I report: There are tens of thousands of officers in the Space Troops, from lieutenant to general (including at "Svobodnyy"), who love their troops and are proud of their affiliation to it and are prepared to serve in it. But I am afraid that we will not endure a second experiment with integration (read: the devastation of the troops).
2. Russian Northern Fleet Submarine Crews To Be Manned With Volunteers In 2006
(for personal use only)
Commander of Russia's Northern Fleet Vice Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said that submarine crews were expected to be manned with volunteers by 100 percent by the turn of 2006.
"The task has been set by Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Vladimir Masorin, and it will be discharged moreover so that the fleet has everything needed to this end," Vysotsky told Interfax-Military News Agency.
"On the whole a total of over ten submarine crews have already been manned with volunteers. These are the crews that go out to sea most frequently. However, the work is still underway since the fleet operates a considerable number of ships," he emphasized.
"We face a greater and more complicated objective of manning squad leader posts on surface ships with volunteers," he added.
At the same time he underlined: "Both cases are outside the scope of the special federal program, i.e. no additional funds will be allocated with this end in view."
Vysotsky also said that under the special federal program the Northern Fleet's marine battalion was fully manned with volunteers in 2005. "It was one of the priorities for 2005, and it was fulfilled," he said.
According to him, the current priority is to prevent a possible crisis, which may occur in 2007 in light of the transition to a one-year term of service. "First and foremost, it holds true for highly trained experts," he noted.
1. Kyrgyz authorities take emergency measures at nuclear disposal storage
(for personal use only)
Officials in Kyrgyzstan are taking emergency measures to prevent local people from looking for silicon in the area around a former uranium storage facility in the north of the country, the press service of the country's Ministry of Emergency Situations said Thursday.
According to the press service, experts from the ministry and the National Security Service have inspected a dump in the village of Orlovka in the Chui Region and a tailing pit nearby. The staff of the republic's center of hygienic supervision and disease control also visited the site.
"The exposure rate of the gamma ray dose at the deepest point of the excavations 10 meters from the tailing pit is about 1,500 micro-roentgens per hour," the ministry said. However, the storage facility, which is left over from a major Soviet-era enrichment plant, remained intact.
The experts said they had registered no increase in the radiation rate at the village dump, which corresponded to the republic's average rate of 25.5 micro-roentgens per hour.
Orlovka residents were reported to have started an excavation in search of silicon a week ago at the village dump and 10 meters away from the nuclear disposal storage. Their efforts covered some 120 square meters.
The hygienic supervision center has prohibited excavation work on the site, while the district administration has introduced tougher administrative measures and is instructing the local population on the risks of contagious diseases and accidents, the Health Ministry's press service said.
A health official said the silicon was not the source of the radioactivity.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations was unable to say why local people were looking for silicon.
At a plenary session on 16 February the Kazakh parliament's Senate (upper chamber) adopted the law ratifying an intergovernmental agreement with Russia on the activities of border representatives, an Interfax-Kazakhstan correspondent has reported.
The document was submitted to the president for signature.
As was reported, the agreement sets the legal basis for the work of border representatives on the Kazakh-Russian border in resolving issues concerning prevention of border incidents and their settlement in case of their onset, as well as and reinforcing joint measures in the fight against the smuggling of weapons and ammunition, drugs and psychotropic substances, currency and valuables, radioactive substances, as well as maintaining the state border regulations.
In accordance with this agreement signed in Astana in January 2004, border representative officials are issued with a written authorization enabling them to cross the Kazakh-Russian border and stay in border areas.
2. Belarusian Customs Seize EU-bound Radioactive Cargo From Russia
(for personal use only)
A radioactive cargo has been seized in (the Belarusian city of) Brest on the way from Yakutia (Russian Federation) to Czech Republic.
According to the Belarusian Emergency Situations Ministry, the iron container with a 3 t cargo of the ornamental semi-precious stone charoite (a rare mineral found in certain areas of Yakutia) was detained by the Western Buh customs office at the Brest-North railway station on 8 February.
On 9 February the experts of the Brest regional public health office measured the cargo's radioactive emission. The ionizing radiation on the surface of some of the stones amounted to 0.8 mSv per hour (the normal level is 0.2 mSv per hour).
At a distance of 3-5 m from the cargo the level of radioactive emission was normal.
The cargo has been moved to the customs temporary repository. No one has been affected by the radiation. The Belarusian State Customs Committee and Prosecutor-General's Office have opened an inquest into the case.
1. Radioactive Sources Safely Removed from Three African Countries
(for personal use only)
Under a global security initiative, an IAEA-supported operation has safely conditioned, packaged, and shipped radioactive neutron sources from three African countries to the United States for ultimate disposition.
The neutron sources were recovered from South Africa, Sudan and Cï¿½te dï¿½Ivoire before their repatriation in January 2006 to the United States, the country from which they originally came. The consolidated operation was carried out without using special arrangements and in conformance with the IAEAï¿½s international regulations for transportation of radioactive materials.
The sources were collected and stored by the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa. Experts from the USAï¿½s Off-Site Source Recovery Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the IAEA were on site to package the sources for transportation and ultimate disposal. The extent of cooperation was underscored by South Africaï¿½s acceptance of all the radiation sources, its interim storage of them, and its hosting of experts from the IAEA, Los Alamos, and representatives of 14 African countries on site to witness the conditioning and shipment of the sources.
The operation may pave the way for more consolidated approaches involving multiple countries to control old and used radiation sources and return them to the original supplying nation, said Mr. Mohamed Al-Mughrabi, a technical officer in the IAEA Waste Technology Section. The Section supported the operation in cooperation with the governments of South Africa, Sudan, Cï¿½te dï¿½Ivoire, and the United States.
"Repatriation of radiation sources and devices promotes both safety and security," he said. "It reduces the potential for inadvertent radiation exposures and the possible misuse of the sources to spread contamination."
He sees a continuing need for such operations. Manufacturers of radioactive sources and devices containing sources normally agree to accept their return, he explains. However, itï¿½s often the case that companies go out of business or the costs of return are too high for a developing country to bear. Thatï¿½s when international support is needed for conditioning, storage, and recovery operations that are technically safe and sound, he says.
The January shipment involved neutron sources whose supply originated in the USA. Such sources - which can contain plutonium, americium, or beryllium, for example - are used for research and in commercial gauges and instruments for applications in the agricultural, construction, petroleum and other industries.
The operation was funded by the US National Nuclear Security Agency through the IAEA Office of Nuclear Security. Its successful conclusion demonstrates how IAEA Member States can work together to reduce safety and security threats from unused radioactive sources. Additional missions in Africa and expansion of missions into Latin America are in the planning stages.
So far, alongside the United States, Hungary, France, and India are among IAEA Member States which have accepted and supported the return of sealed radioactive sources originally supplied through or by them.
1. RSA Hosts Senior Russian Nuclear Delegation To Explore Research Opportunities
South African Department of Science and Technology
(for personal use only)
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is currently hosting a senior Russian nuclear research delegation from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) on a visit to South Africa until 17 February 2006. This is aimed at strengthening existing as well as exploring new opportunities for nuclear research collaboration between South Africa and the JINR.
Dr Rob Adam, current Director-General of the DST and CEO-designate of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), in welcoming the head of the JINR delegation, Prof. Alexei Sissakian, said that "South Africa's ongoing co-operation with the JINR renders important support to the DST's efforts to strengthen the country's nuclear research capacities and will further enhance the development of human capital for the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) programme in particular".
The visit gives further and concrete expression to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between South Africa (through the DST) and the JINR in Russia in October 2005. According to Prof. Sissakian, head of the JINR, "The management of the JINR considers the visit as a watershed in terms of moving the relationship between the South Africa and the JINR forward following the historic signing of the MOU last year".
JINR, based at Dubna in the Russian Federation, is an international organisation established to advance cooperation in nuclear research and training for peaceful purpose among its member countries. The institute is a world leader in research in elementary particle physics and nuclear physics. It consists of 7 laboratories with more than 4 000 employees, including 1 000 dedicated scientists.
Collaborative activities falling within the ambit of the MOU include visits by South African researchers to the JINR and their participation in JINR training courses, as well as collaborative research between South African and JINR scientists.
Several South African research groups already collaborate with the JINR, including the Universities of Pretoria, South Africa, Cape Town, and the Western Cape, in areas such as thermonuclear research, nuclear and particle physics, quantum mechanics and non-linear optics.
In order to strengthen and expand this cooperation, the delegation is undertaking a number of site visits, including to the PBMR Design Centre, NECSA, as well as the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
For media enquiries contact:
Nhlanhla Nyide, General Manager: Science Communication, Department of Science and Technology, cell: +27 (0)82 871 6767, or Kristin Klose, Manager: Communication, Department of Science and Technology, cell: +27 (0)82 902 9503
For more information on the MOU contact:
Dr Neville Arendse, Chief Director: International Resources, Department of Science and Technology, cell: +27 (0)82 389 1595
2. Russia Drafting New Model for Running Nuclear Industry
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The Federal Nuclear Energy Agency (Rosatom) has drawn up an integrated model of a management system for the nuclear industry, the general director of the federal state unitary enterprise, the Atominform central research institute, Petr Shchedrovitskiy, told journalists on Wednesday (15 February).
The model is the first and fundamental part of a draft for developing a planning and management system for the activities of the nuclear industry and power engineering in conditions of administrative reform in 2005-2010.
"This work (on the management system) is to last several years, and it should lead to the more effective and large-scale adoption of methods for managing the industry, and also in the longer term to a change in the structure of Rosatom," Shchedrovitskiy said.
He also said that the Atominform central research institute "is coordinating the drafting of a programme for the development of nuclear power engineering aimed at increasing the proportion of nuclear power in the country's overall volume of electricity generation from 16 to 25 per cent by 2030."
He said that the introduction of an automated system of information backup for the nuclear industry will allow economic, administrative and information resources in this sphere to be more effectively managed.
1. Norway to allocate 110m crowns for Russian radiation security
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The Norwegian government plans to allocate 110 million Norwegian crowns ($16m) for the implementation of nuclear and radiation security programs in Russia in 2006.
The international environmental foundation Bellona, which favours increasing the financing of environmental programs by Norway, said to the Interfax news agency this figure is only 4 million Norwegian crowns higher than that allocated in 2005. The Murmansk-based Northern Radioactive Waste Handling Federal Enterprise (SevRAO) said the Norwegian town of Vadsï¿½ will be the venue of a meeting between Murmansk region Governor Yury Yevdokimov and Finnmark County Governor Gunnar Kjï¿½nnï¿½y on February 21-22.
SevRAO Chief Engineer Vladimir Khandobin said "the meeting is designed to sum up the results of the work for last year and set the primary goals for the upcoming period. The consideration of financial issues should be tied to the concept of environmental rehabilitation of the Andreyeva Bay," in which Norway is also involved, Interfax reported.
"A negative conclusion has been given as regards the operation of the berth of this former Northern Fleet base without its overhaul. Therefore, we need a project for its restoration and this is one of the priorities issues for us," Khandobin said. In addition, it is planned to launch the construction of infrastructure for removing spent nuclear fuel from the base and resolve a number of concomitant problems starting from 2007, he said.
1. Russian Nuclear Scientists Ready To Contribute to Anti-Terrorism Struggle
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The Russian Federal Nuclear Center possesses technologies that can be applied both in industry and in combating terrorism, the center's director Radiy Ilkayev said during a conference in Nizhny Novgorod with President Vladimir Putin attending.
"It's time technologies involved in nuclear weapons production be taken over by civil industry," he said.
The center has developed devices that can be employed against Stingers and other weapons used by terrorists, Ilkayev said.
"We are ready to produce these devices," he said.
A parallel computing center created at his institution is ready to supply computers with excellent software to all universities starting from 2006, Ilkayev siad.
"The efficiency of this machine is 100 times higher than that of its predecessor that was used in the creation of nuclear weapons. The new machine costs 400 rubles. We are ready to put them into serial production," he said.
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