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Proliferation: Russian Case Studies.

Hearing Before The Subcommittee
On International Security, Proliferation,
And Federal Services Of The Committee
On Governmental Affairs United States Senate
One Hundred Fifth Congress First Session.
June 5, 1997

Einhorn, Robert
Potter, William C.
Speier, Richard H.

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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee on the challenges and opportunities we face in obtaining Russia's cooperation in the nonproliferation field. Preventing the proliferation of dangerous weapons and technologies is among the highest priorities of our foreign policy. Russia by virtue of the weapons of mass destruction and other military and technological capabilities it inherited from the Soviet Union as well as its own international stature will be a key factor in the success of worldwide nonproliferation efforts. My objective today is to provide you with a snapshot of where we stand with Russia on these issues. We have made progress with the Russians over the past four years on our nonproliferation agenda. Russia recognizes that preventing the spread of destabilizing arms and technologies can protect Russian security interests. Russia is a strong supporter of the global nonproliferation regime, and has worked constructively with us to reduce the proliferation dangers credited by the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the same time, the exigencies of a monetized, largely privatized economy which no longer operates on the basis of command resource allocations have underscored the importance of foreign sales. Moreover, the uncertain and evolving nature of state controls in Russia has increased opportunities for some ``grey markets'' sales. These factors have at times contributed to serious U.S. concerns about Russian exports of arms and sensitive technologies to third countries. On the positive side, Russia has been a supporter of, and often a key player in the global nonproliferation regimes.
  • Russia strongly supported indefinite extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a recent agreement to give real teeth to IAEA safeguards, significantly expanding their reach to include access to information and locations that could be related to clandestine nuclear programs.
  • Russian assistance was critical to securing the adherence of Ukraine, Kazakstan and Belarus to the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states and in moving all nuclear weapons from these states to Russia.
  • As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, it continues to abide by the Council's embargo on the sale of arms to Iraq and Libya, and supports UNSCOM and IAEA efforts to uncover Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and prevent the regeneration of those capabilities.
  • Russia is a founding member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group that coordinates international export controls on nuclear equipment, materials and technologies. Russia has also supported measures for strengthening NSG controls, most important, the adoption of a policy requiring full-scope safeguards as a condition for nuclear supply and establishment of a dual-use control regime.
  • In 1993. Russia agreed to forgo the transfer of certain rocket technology to India and to abide by the Guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime. In August 1995, it was admitted to the MTCR.
  • Also in 1995, Russia agreed not to enter into and new arms contracts with Iran and to conclude existing contracts within a few years. In connection with becoming a founding member of the Wassenaar Arrangement--a multilateral regime committed to increasing transparency and responsibility in connection with transfers of arms and dual-use goods and technologies. President Yeltsin in Helsinki reaffirmed Russia's commitment to ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Russian parliament has indicated that it will ratify the Convention, most likely sometime in the fall. In addition, Russia has recently enacted a law which provides the legal basis for the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile and seems to be on a path which will eventually result in the destruction of the 40,000 tons of chemical munitions it acknowledges it holds.
  • Russia signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty last fall, has stopped producing fissile material for nuclear weapons and has joined the U.S. in calling for negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in Geneva.
  • Russia ratified the Biological Weapons Convention in 1975. President Yeltsin, however, has acknowledged the existence of a decades-old, offensive biological warfare research program. He issued a decree on April 11, 1992 prohibiting any illegal biological weapons activity in Russia. Though we do not doubt his sincerity, we continue to be concerned that the offensive BW program has not been entirely eliminated. Russia has also taken important steps to address the proliferation risks posed by the large stockpile of nuclear weapons and fissile materials it inherited from the Soviet Union, in many cases working jointly, with the United States.
  • Highly enriched uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons is being converted into commercial reactor fuel for use in U.S. nuclear power plants. Hundreds of weapons worth of uranium have already been transferred from Russia to the United States.
  • With U.S. support Russia has expanded the program to improve security at facilities where fissile material is located to now over 40 sites. Hundreds of tons of weapons-usable nuclear material are now subjected to substantially upgraded security.
  • With critical U.S. financial assistance, Russia is constructing a modern facility at Mayak for the safe, secure storage of fissile materials released from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.
  • Russia has committed to disposing permanently of its surplus weapons plutonium, and is working with the U.S. and France to develop technologies for converting plutonium weapons components into a form suitable for final disposition and international verification.
  • Russia has furthermore ceased use of newly-produced plutonium for weapons purposes. The U.S. and Russia are negotiating a cooperative arrangement to convert Moscow's plutonium production reactors so they no longer produce weapons-grade material.
  • Russia is working trilaterally with the U.S. and the IAEA to develop means of verifying that weapons-origin and other relevant fissile materials declared excess to defense need are not returned to nuclear weapons programs.
  • Russian law enforcement officials and scientists are working with their American counterparts to share information on illicit nuclear trafficking and improve laboratory analysis of nuclear materials seized from smugglers.
  • Through the International Science and Technology Centers and the Initiative for Proliferation Prevention, more than thirteen thousand former weapons scientists, the majority Russian, are engaged in peaceful scientific projects that reduce the risk they will be lured away by money from rogue or terrorist states. As it transforms its economy, Russia recognizes the need to establish an export control system comparable to those of other major industrial countries. It has committed to doing so in several international settings, has enacted the necessary legislation, and has set up the necessary internal mechanisms, including improved border controls and customs surveillance aimed at restricting unauthorized transfers of equipment and technology related to weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and others are helping Russia in this effort. There are still major challenges ahead, however, particularly in view of the economic pressures facing Russian industry and the responsibilities placed on new, untested Russian institutions charged with implementing export controls. At times, however, Russia has demonstrated an unwillingness to forgo profitable transactions for the sake of nonproliferation. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russian market share of defense exports dropped precipitously, primarily because Russia could no longer afford to sell defense-related equipment at below market prices. Russia is actively seeking to replace those markets with clients willing and able to pay hard currency. In addition, Russian firms, sometimes operating with little or inadequate oversight from Moscow, are targeted by states seeking to circumvent the more restrictive export policies of the U.S. and Western Europe. We can expect Russian exporters to continue to pursue aggressively market share and hard currency through arms and technology. While economic incentives are the principal reason for the export of sensitive goods and technologies. Russia can see the political value such sales bring in firming up ties with regional powers such as China, India and Iran. We have followed carefully the recent expansion of Russian trade in arms and proliferation-sensitive technologies with a variety of recipients. In the case of the growing relationship between Russia and China, which has become Russia's number one customer for conventional weapons and military technology, the questions raised are not directly proliferation-related because China already possesses the relevant capabilities. Moreover, we do not question the right of either party to engage in legitimate defense cooperation. Instead, we believe it is important to focus on the implications of such cooperation for the stability of the Asia-Pacific region, a concern we have raised, and will continue to raise, on a case-by-case basis with the parties involved whenever we believe it to be warranted. Our proliferation-related concerns with Russian exports have applied largely to Russia's nuclear and missile cooperation with certain states, primarily Iran. Russia maintains that it confines its cooperation with Iran to areas that are not of proliferation concern and do not threaten others. We have raised with Russia reports that call into question these assurances. We remain opposed to Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran, and have pressed Russian leaders at the highest levels to refrain from any such cooperation. Russia began construction of the first reactor at the Bushehr complex in 1995. While we remain opposed to the project, we have seen indications that Moscow has limited the scope and pace of its nuclear cooperation with Iran. President Yeltsin has stated that Russia will not provide nuclear technologies to Iran that are directly useful militarily including a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility. Russian leaders have also assured us that they would not supply Iran with a heavy water-moderated nuclear reactor. Such reactors raise particularly serious proliferation concerns because of their potential for plutonium production. We will continue to monitor this closely and will press Russian authorities on any reports we receive of cooperation between Russia and Iran in the nuclear field. We are especially concerned about reports of cooperation by Russian entities with Iran on long-range ballistic missiles. We take these reports very seriously. Iran's acquisition of a long-range missile delivery capability, coupled with its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, would pose a grave threat to U.S. forces and friends in the region, and to regional stability generally. Transfers would also be inconsistent with Russia's commitments to the MTCR, and could raise serious issues under U.S. sanctions laws. We do not believe that Russia has transferred any long- ranged missiles to Iran. But Iran is now not giving priority to importing complete missiles. Rather it is actively seeking various types of technical assistance and cooperation that would enable it to produce its own long-range missiles indigenously. It is reports of such technical interactions between Iran and Russian entities that concern us. We have raised such reports with Russia at the highest levels, including during President Clinton's recent meeting with President Yeltsin in Helsinki. The Russian leadership has told us that it does not support assistance to Iran's ballistic missile program. While we appreciate such assurances, we remain disturbed by the discrepancy between them and what reportedly is occurring. Given the far-reaching implications of this matter, we will continue to pursue it at the highest levels. We are also concerned by reports that Russian entities may intend to transfer surface-to-air missiles to Iran. President Yeltsin pledged in 1994 that Russia would not enter into any new arms contracts with Iran and would conclude existing contracts within a few years. In 1995, Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin made formal that commitment. At the time that the agreement with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin was reached, Russia informed us that one Kilo-class submarine was expected to be delivered to Iran, and that other old contracts including those for tanks, would be fulfilled. Prior to concluding the 1995 agreement we made certain that the contracts in the pipeline that would be concluded within a few years did not involve any new weapons systems, and would not alter the regional balance or compromise the ability of the U.S. and our allies to protect our mutual interests. Any transfers to Iran of advanced anti-aircraft missile systems would be inconsistent with the 1995 agreement. We raised this issue with Russia in March at the Helsinki Summit, and President Yeltsin reaffirmed his commitment to the 1995 agreement. The U.S. has not determined that Russia has transferred to Iran any advanced missiles, although we continue to monitor this carefully. In conclusion. Mr. Chairman, Russia has, for the most part, been a strong partner in the effort to prevent proliferation, as reflected in the constructive approach Moscow has taken on the international regimes as well as in the responsible manner with which it has dealt with the challenge of securing the fissile and other sensitive materials on its territory. The difficulties we have encountered have been in the area of questionable sales to certain countries of proliferation concern, particularly Iran. We believe the United States and Russia have a strongly shared security interest in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and other sensitive goods and technologies. But Russia's ability and determination to pursue its commitment to nonproliferation may sometimes be eroded by a combination of powerful economic pressures, the evolving relationship between central governmental authorities and an increasingly privatized and export-dependent industrial sector, and a relatively new, understaffed, and still- unproven system of export controls. Improved Russian economic performance and institutional reform will help alleviate these problems--but basic changes will not be achieved overnight. In the meantime, the Russian Government must take effective steps to ensure a more accountable and conscientious approach to export control. And it should better appreciate the risks of engaging in even seemingly benign cooperation with determined proliferators such as Iran. Encouraging Russia to adopt a more effective and responsible approach to cooperation with third countries will remain one of the Administration's highest nonproliferation priorities. We will continue to press our case at the highest levels, making clear that cooperation on nonproliferation matters is an essential element of the strong bilateral relationship both sides seek. Pursuing our nonproliferation agenda with Russia will involve both incentives and disincentives, including the implementation of our sanctions laws, whenever applicable. However, the use of certain ``sticks,'' such as cutting off or curtailing our assistance programs to Russia, would only be counterproductive. Not only would they be unlikely to achieve our nonproliferation goals: they would also undercut key programs to promote democratization and market reform, as well as to ensure that the process of disarmament takes place in as safe, secure, and accountable a manner as possible. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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    Nature of the Problem

    The main technical barrier to nuclear weapons proliferation, both for state actors and subnational terrorist organizations, has been the difficulty of obtaining weapons-usable fissile material. There is little doubt that this barrier has been eroded as a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the increased vulnerability to diversion of the successor states' vast inventory of nuclear weapons and inadequately safeguarded stocks of highly-enriched uranium (HEW) and plutonium.

    The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program has made a major difference in containing many proliferation risks in the region. Other serious dangers, however, remain and are deeply rooted in the difficult economic, political, and social conditions of the post-Soviet states. As such, they are unlikely to be resolved until progress is made in stabilizing the economy and restoring public trust in governmental institutions, law, and social justice. These changes will not occur quickly, and the United States will thus continue to face a variety of nuclear threats from the former Soviet Union for the foreseeable future.

    Given severe time constraints, rather than enumerate the many remaining proliferation challenges, I will focus on several that are less obvious and have received inadequate attention. I will then propose specific steps the U.S. government should take to mitigate these risks.

    Don't Assume that the Problem Outside of Russia Has Been Solved

    In November 1994 it was widely assumed that with the successful conclusion of Project Sapphire, the United States had removed the last substantial quantity of HEU from Kazakstan. That now is known not to be the case. Rather, in late 1995, Kazakstan notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that 205 kilograms of HEU remained at its Semipalatinsk nuclear research site. Although the weapons-usable portion of that batch of material finally was removed to Russia in Fall 1996, the unanticipated discovery of a cache of hundreds of kilograms of weapons-usable material is a useful reminder that we probably can expect to find further undeclared quantities of HEU in the non-Russian successor states. Likely locations include Georgia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia -- all of which have (or had) research reactors fueled with HEU.

    Anticipate Future Cases of Illicit Nuclear Trafficking

    The West has been extremely lucky regarding nuclear leakage from the former Soviet Union. Despite frequent sensationalist headlines to the contrary, it appears to have avoided an influx of militarily significant nuclear goods from the ex-USSR. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, one can identify only four confirmed cases in which more than minuscule quantities of HEU or plutonium have been exported from the former Soviet Union, and another three cases in which HEU or plutonium were diverted from Russian nuclear facilities, but were seized prior to export. At least four additional cases of diversion and/or export are of proliferation concern, but do not as clearly meet the standard of unambiguous evidence with respect to either independent sources to corroborate the diversion, or the size or enrichment level of the material. (See Appendices One and Two for a summary of the important characteristics of these cases).

    Perhaps most striking about this set of proliferation-significant cases is the preponderance of seizures involving definite or possible fresh fuel for naval propulsion reactors. Most of the suppliers of material in these cases appear to have been "insiders," working at nuclear research institutes or naval bases, or having previously worked at such facilities. None of the seizures to date provide any evidence of having a nuclear weapon's origin.

    One must be careful, however, about drawing conclusions from this small body of confirmed diversion and/or export cases. First, one legitimately may ask, "How confident should we be that proliferation-significant exports of NIS origin material have simply escaped detection? Given the underdeveloped state of export controls in the former Soviet Union outside of Russia and the virtual absence of any barriers to movement of sensitive goods and material between Russia and the other CIS states, it is entirely possible, although not proven, that significant amounts of nuclear material and technology already may have exited Russia via a number of southern routes (e.g., through the Caucasus or Central Asia).

    In addition, while there is no hard evidence that nuclear proliferants have illegally provided HEU or plutonium from the ex-USSR, there is indisputable evidence that would-be proliferants have been able to acquire key missile system components of Russian origin. The UN Special Commission on Iraq, for example, has documents which indicate that strategic gyroscopes from dismantled Russian SLBMs have been shipped to Iraq. Similar concerns exist regarding Ukrainian-lraqi missile contacts and contracts. Also disturbing is the continuing, largely unregulated trade by the post Soviet states in nuclear-related dual-use materials such as zirconium and beryllium. These activities and an environment of nuclear material plenty but nuclear worker poverty, caution against attaching too much importance to the apparent lull in reported seizures of proliferation-significant material in Europe.

    Take Measures to Reduce the Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

    To date, little U.S. nonproliferation assistance to the former Soviet Union has been directed specifically to mitigating terrorist threats at NIS nuclear facilities. These threats pertain not only to the seizure of nuclear material (or even larger and less secure stocks of chemical weapons agents), but also to attacks on or sabotage of civilian nuclear power plants and spent fuel storage sites.

    These are not hypothetical threats. In 1992, for example, an employee of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania planted a virus in the plant's computer systems that could have led to a major accident. The same plant in late 1994 received two bomb threats, one of which involved organized crime and led to the shutdown of the facility. More recently, a disenchanted employee of the Severodvinsk submarine facility whose salary had not been paid threatened to blow up a shop containing two nuclear reactors.(1)

    Although the Russians, in response to the Chechen conflict, have taken some steps to heighten security at civilian nuclear power plants, most civilian nuclear facilities are deficient in such basic defensive elements as intact perimeter fences, more than token armed guards, vehicle barriers, surveillance cameras, metal detectors at entrances, and control cages. Unfortunately, these gaps in perimeter defense are compounded by an approach to the terrorist threat that is fixated on Chechens. As the assistant director of one major Russian nuclear research center told me not long ago, there is little concern about perimeter defense against terrorists since "Chechens look different than us" and would be recognized before they could get close to the site. Even if they were recognized, it is problematic if much force could be marshaled quickly at the scene. Indeed, heavy firepower is more visible at most banks, nightclubs, and fur stores in the former Soviet Union than at many nuclear facilities.

    If security of fissile material is suspect at nuclear facilities in the fommer Soviet Union, it is even more vulnerable in transport. This problem results from the generic difficulty of safeguarding nuclear material (and warheads) in transit, compounded by the frequency with which fissile material is moved between facilities in Russia, the lack of sufficient dedicated nuclear transport vehicles, and less than clear lines of organizational responsibility for protecting material in transit. At one major nuclear facility near Moscow, for example, all transportation of HEU to other facilities is accomplished with a single truck -- one that would appear to be an inviting target for a terrorist or criminal group. Safeguarding transport of fissile material within many large nuclear complexes in Russia also is a serious problem given the frequency with which significant amounts of material is moved daily, often on uncovered or unescorted handcarts.

    Discourage State-Sanctioned Exports

    As troubling for nonproliferation efforts as nuclear smuggling are indications that in recent years Russia and other post-Soviet states have pursued imprudent, state-sanctioned exports of nuclear technology, equipment, and nuclear related dual-use commodities.

    In Russia, a tendency to emphasize profits over nonproliferation is evident in contracts to provide nuclear assistance to Iran, in agreements to assist the development of China's nuclear program (including provision of reactors and a uranium enrichment plant), and in plans to build two 1000 MWe VVER-type reactors at Koodankulam in southern India. The Indian deal, if implemented, is particularly serious as it would be at odds with Russia's pledge to insist upon full-scope safeguards (i.e., international safeguards on all facilities) as a condition of nuclear export.

    High-level political commitment to export controls also has been slow to materialize in Ukraine and the Baltic states, which only recently began to develop meaningful export control procedures and expertise. There have been a number of cases involving these states, for example, in which sensitive dual-use nuclear items were exported either in violation of established export control procedures or due to the absence of such regulations. Unfortunately, from the standpoint of nonproliferation, improving export controls remains a low priority issue for most of the post-Soviet states.

    Enhance the Security of Sub-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

    It typically is assumed in the West that, notwithstanding shortcomings in the civilian nuclear sector, physical security is high in the military domain. Although security at military facilities probably remains much higher than at most civilian sites, the situation is not good and is apt to deteriorate further before it gets better. Most vulnerable to theft are older sub-strategic nuclear weapons that are relatively small in size and lack "permissive action links" (PALs) to protect unauthorized use.

    The security of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Russia today is compromised by the lack of adequate storage facilities to handle the influx of warheads and by the continuing turmoil, economic hardship, and general malaise within the armed forces. Sub-strategic nuclear warheads are particularly vulnerable to theft by disgruntled past or present Russian Special Operations (Spetsnaz) soldiers, who are trained to use atomic demolition weapons and may have special knowledge of and even access to nuclear weapon storage depots. Tactical nuclear weapons for aircraft pose special risks since they are not kept at central storage sites.

    The problem of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Russia is magnified by Russia's growing reliance on nuclear arms as its conventional forces deteriorate. This dependency is reflected in Russia's abandonment in 1993 of its no-first use policy, and in the open discussion among prominent Russian military and defense industry figures of the need to develop a new generation of nuclear munitions for tactical and battlefield use. Some advocates of tactical nuclear weapons go so far as to contemplate Russian abrogation of the 1987 INF Treaty. The dangers in this shift of emphasis are compounded because of Moscow's reliance on a "launch-on-warning" nuclear strategy and by the deterioration of Russia's early warning system.

    What Is to Be Done?

    There is no shortage of good recommendations about what needs to be done to address these urgent proliferation problems, and a number of these suggestions actually have been adopted as U.S. policy. Let me suggest several additional steps that might be taken (2):

    1. Purchase all HEU from Non-Russian Successor States
    The United States should seek to reduce the quantity of fissile material which must be protected and the number of sites where fissile material is stored. As part of a program of consolidation and elimination, the U.S. should undertake to negotiate the purchase of all HEU known to reside at research facilities in the non-Russian successor states. Given the relatively small, but nevertheless significant, quantities of weapons-usable material at sites in Belarus, Georgia, Kazakstan, Latvia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, a uranium "buy-up" approach to the non-Russian republics represents a low cost, high return nonproliferation strategy.

    To the extent that HEU actually is being used by research facilities (as is the case at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Uzbekistan), the United States also should provide the small amount of money needed to convert the research reactor to run on low-enriched uranium. Plans for suchconversion already have been drawn up by Russian engineers and could be implemented at some sites in three-four months at about $1 million per reactor. Parenthetically, the principal obstacle to the HEU purchase plan is the difficulty of gaining interagency agreement in the United States. This difficulty is a product of the interagency battles that were waged during the ultimately successful operation of"Project Sapphire."

    2. Expand CTR Cooperation in the Area of Reactor Security
    Nuclear power plants in the Soviet Union were not designed to confront current terrorist threats which could lead to catastrophic accidents with global consequences. More attention should be given under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program to enhance reactor security as part of the larger effort to strengthen the national nuclear safeguards system. At a minimum, current MPC&A efforts need to be coordinated with work to upgrade the safety and security of the four dozen nuclear power reactors currently operating in five post-Soviet states.

    3. Negotiate Constraints on Sub-Strategic Nuclear Weapons
    Nuclear weapons of a non-strategic variety have not figured prominently in the arms control and disarmament agenda since the Bush and Gorbachev initiatives in the fall of 1991. Yet it is precisely this category of nuclear weapons that poses the greatest risk in terms of vulnerability to theft and early and/or unauthorized use.(3) A number of steps need to be taken, including the codification in a legally binding treaty of the 1991 Bush-Gorbachev declarations on the withdrawal of sub-strategic weapons.(4)

    4. Focus on Sustainability
    I believe it is vital to U.S. national security to continue to support the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. It is now time, however, to confront the problem of sustainability and the issue of facilitating the transfer of responsibility for MPC&A activities from the United States to the NIS, and especially Russia.

    A step in the right direction is the recently established MPC&A training center in Obninsk, Russia, which will reinforce indigenous MPC&A efforts by educating a new generation of specialists who will serve as both practitioners and instructors. Much more, however, must be done to create incentives in the post-Soviet states to foster indigenous safeguards efforts and to sustain those activities once they have begun.

    An influx of money alone will not solve the problem. A sustained educational effort is required to change attitudes and to instill a new nonproliferation and safeguards philosophy or culture. This is a task for which nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are particularly well suited to perform. Let me conclude, therefore, by calling for much closer cooperation between the U.S. government and NGOs in the provision of such educational assistance and in the pursuit of mutual nonproliferation objectives.

    1. For a more detailed discussion of these and other terrorist incidents in the former Soviet Union, see Oleg Bukharin, "Upgrading Security of Nuclear Power Plants in the Newly Independent States," The Nonproliferation Review (Winter 1997), pp. 28-39.

    2. An extended list of policy recommendations is provided in two recent publications: John M. Shields and William C. Potter, eds., Dismantling the Cold War: U.S. and NIS Perspectives onthe Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), especially pp. 385-405; and Proliferation Concerns: Assessing U.S. Efforts to Help Contain Nuclear and Other Dangerous Materials and Technologies in the Former Soviet Union (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997).

    3. On this point, see Bruce Blair, "Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Military Researchand Development, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on National Security," March 13, 1997.

    4. These steps are elaborated on by the author in "Unsafe At Any Size," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May/June 1997), pp. 25-27 and 61.


    Independent Consultant on Proliferation

    It is an honor to testify before the Committee this afternoon on the relationship between recent actions of the Russian Federation and missile proliferation. Of course, the views I will express are my own and not necessarily those of any organization with which I am affiliated.

    We are fortunate to be living in a time of world peace. But what kind of a peace is it? Ambrose Bierce, the great American cynic, defined peace as "a period of cheating between two periods of fighting".

    I spent ten years of my government career working on a set of export control rules and procedures to limit the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. These rules and procedures are called the Missile Technology Control Regime -- or MTCR. 29 nations are now formal members of the MTCR. But it appears that there is some cheating going on.

    Is Russia cheating? If so, what should we do about it?

    I shall address these questions by first summarizing the key rules of the MTCR, then outlining a chronology of recent actions by the Russian Federation, and then examining the implications for policy.

    The MTCR

    The MTCR is a non-treaty arrangement that has been in effect for 10 years. To understand its key rules I must ask the Committee to understand one phrase of MTCR jargon, "Category I systems." Category I systems are unmanned delivery vehicles capable of sending a 500 kilogram payload to a range of 300 kilometers. Category I systems consist of rockets and unmanned air vehicles of all kinds -- civilian and military, as well as their technology, their specially designed production equipment and certain major components, such as rocket engines and complete guidance systems.

    Civilian as well as military systems are covered because such items as space launch vehicles and reconnaissance drones are interchangeable with ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The founders of the MTCR set the parameters for Category I systems at 500 kilograms and 300 kilometers because 500 kilograms is the weight of a relatively unsophisticated nuclear warhead and 300 kilometers is the strategic distance in the most compact theaters where nuclear-armed missiles might be used. Category I systems include Scud missiles as well as those of greater capability.

    Category I systems are the target of the MTCR's rules for export restraint. But other, dual-use items are also controlled by the MTCR -- so-called Category II items, such as rocket fuels, composite materials, and lesser components -- because they can contribute to missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

    The MTCR has three key rules:

    First, there is a strong presumption to deny export approval for Category I systems. On the rare occasions when Category I systems are exported, the supplier government -- and not just the recipient -- must take responsibility for ensuring the end use. This presumption of denial applies to all systems of Category I capability, regardless of purpose.

    Second, there is also a strong presumption to deny export approval for any missile -- regardless of range and payload -- or for any Category II item if the item is intended for the delivery of mass destruction weapons. This presumption of denial applies to intentions, regardless of the capabilities of a missile.

    And third, there is a flat prohibition against exporting complete production facilities or complete production technology for Category I systems. In a non-proliferation regime it makes no sense to create new suppliers of the most sensitive items.

    All members of the MTCR agree to abide by these rules. But the United States, since late 1990, has supplemented these rules with legislated sanctions against foreign entities that contribute to the proliferation of Category I systems. These sanctions have been effective in encouraging export restraint by some governments. But, by law, the sanctions do not apply to transfers approved by any of the 29 members of the MTCR.

    So these are the key rules of the MTCR: (1) a strong presumption to deny exports of Category I items, regardless of purpose; (2) a strong presumption to deny exports of other items if they are intended for the delivery of mass destruction weapons; and (3) a flat prohibition on the export of complete production facilities or technology for Category I systems.

    Chronology of Russian actions

    Now I shall summarize relevant actions by the Russian Federation starting in 1993, the year that Russia formally agreed to abide by the guidelines of the MTCR. I will be happy to share with Committee staff the basic data that I used.

    Two caveats are necessary before I outline this chronology: First, I must emphasize that this chronology is drawn exclusively from reports in the public domain. These reports suggest a clear pattern of Russian behavior, but I cannot guarantee their accuracy. If the Committee wishes to pursue this matter, I understand it will have access in a closed hearing to the agencies in the Executive Branch responsible for intelligence and for negotiations with Russia.

    Second, when we talk about actions of the Russian Federation, we must remember that Russia is still getting its act together and that it is certainly not a monolith. Some elements of the Russian government may disapprove of specific exports -- or may not even know about them. The entity benefiting from an export may be acting independently, may be the winner in a split decision by the government, or may be carrying out a coordinated government policy. So, although the MTCR makes the Russian government responsible for missile-related exports, actual government control may or may not be in place.

    1993. Russia, faced with U.S. sanctions for the export of Category I rocket engines and their production technology to India, agrees in July to halt the transfer of the technology, to limit the export of hardware, and to abide by the rules of the MTCR without yet becoming a full member of the regime. In return, the U.S. agrees to make Russia a partner in the space station project and to allow satellites with U.S. components to be launched by Russian rockets. This U.S. concession is reckoned to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Russian space program. But Russian transfer of rocket engine technology to India -- which is supposed to have ceased -- is reported to continue for another six weeks until all aspects of the agreement are formally in place, resulting in the transfers being 60-80% completed.

    1994. There are no public reports of Russian Category I exports. But the U.S. government is concerned about Russian activities -- including Category II exports to China, India, and Libya; the Russian transport of missile equipment from North Korea to Syria; and reports of Russian missile experts in such countries as China, North Korea, and Iran. For these reasons the U.S. refuses to approve full Russian membership in the MTCR. The criteria for MTCR membership have never been made public. But official U.S. testimony states that they include the ability to control missile-related exports and the actual cessation of actions inconsistent with the MTCR.

    1995. The U.S. catches Russia aiding Brazil in the development of a Category I space launch vehicle but waives the imposition of sanctions. At the June Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting, the U.S. agrees to support full Russian membership in the MTCR -- presumably because the U.S. believes that Russia has met the criteria for membership. In August the other members also approve, and Russia becomes a full member. One month later, in September, a Russian Lieutenant General is quoted in the Russian press as saying that, if NATO expands eastward, Russia will export nuclear and missile items to Algeria, India, Iran, and Iraq. Two months after that, in November, Russian missile guidance equipment -- salvaged from submarine-launched ballistic missiles with ranges in the thousands of kilometers -- is transferred to Iraq. U.S. officials say that this transfer may not have been authorized by the government of the Russian Federation.

    1996. In January, well connected Russians renew the threat to link U.S. behavior to Russian restraint in missile exports. In February, some six months after Russia has joined the MTCR, an official of the Russian Duma Defense Committee states on the record that, if NATO expands eastward, Russia will export missiles to China and India. By February, Russian firms are concluding contracts to help Iran produce liquid-fueled ballistic missiles. Starting in May the U.S. protests to Russia and Ukraine over discussions with China to supply SS-18 ICBM technology -- a possible violation of the START I Treaty as well as of MTCR pledges. During this year, some entity in Russia makes an "illegal" export -- so termed by the Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee -- of eight Scud launchers and 24 to 32 Scud missiles to Armenia. Mr. Chairman, it is one thing to talk about "loose nukes", where individuals may attempt to steal small amounts of plutonium in their coat pockets. But it is quite another thing to envision "loose Scuds", where dozens of complete missiles and their launchers are illegally spirited out of Russian control.

    1997. Israeli officials, speaking on the record, report that Russia is helping Iran produce SS-4 type missiles with a range on the order of 2000 kilometers. SS-4's are banned by the INF Treaty, and transfers of their production technology are banned by the MTCR. Because of the inaccuracy of these missiles, they can only be effective with mass destruction payloads. Israel reports Russian transfers of SS-4 components as well as production technology and announces an Iranian test of an SS-4 rocket engine. Israel also reports that Russia is willing to stop these transfers if Israel will enter economic arrangements advantageous to Russia. The U.S. is reported to raise these matters with Russia at a Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting. In spite of the Israeli reports of a Russian quid-pro-quo offer, a senior U.S. source speculates that the transfer may be "beyond the control" of the Russian government. And unidentified U.S. officials say the intelligence on these transfers is weaker than the intelligence on other Russian Category I transfers to Iran -- specifically, transfers of Scud missile production technology, which are also banned by the MTCR.

    Implications for policy

    I shall now discuss some policy implications that follow if these reports are substantially accurate.

    If the reports are true, Russia has exported Category I missiles and has exported missile items intended for the delivery of mass destruction weapons in spite of the MTCR's "strong presumption to deny" such exports. If the reports are true, Russia may have exported complete Category I production technology to Iran in spite of the MTCR's flat prohibition against doing so. If the reports are true, Russia is either incapable of controlling such exports or is unwilling to control them -- or both -- in spite of such capability and willingness being key criteria for membership in the MTCR and key elements of the 1993 U.S.-Russian agreement for space cooperation.

    If the reports are true, the policy implications are as follows:

    (1) Space cooperation. Because Russia has violated the 1993 bargain under which the U.S. has agreed to make Russia a partner in the space station project and to approve Russian launches of Western satellites, the U.S. is no longer obligated to continue this space cooperation.

    (2) MTCR membership. Because Russia has failed to fulfill key criteria for MTCR membership, continued Russian membership is no longer in the interest of the regime. Membership criteria are important because, once in the regime, a member can cause mischief through access to information exchanges, a veto on regime decisions, increased access to missile-related technology, and protection from U.S. sanctions. The regime has no procedures for expelling a member. But international security -- with or without Russia in the regime -- promotes Russian national security. So it may be appropriate for the Russian Federation itself to leave the regime until it is capable of and willing to abide by its rules.

    (3) Sanctions. Because Russia is a member of the MTCR, current U.S. law exempts from sanctions those Russian entities making exports approved by the Russian government. Congress need not open up the question of whether sanctions should apply to MTCR members other than Russia. But with respect to Russia, the Congress may want to consider whether such sanctions are necessary to change the cost-benefit calculus of Russian exports. One way to apply sanctions would be to require Presidential certification of Russian behavior consistent with the MTCR. Legislation could require that the President make such a certification before the U.S. can approve the continuation of space cooperation with Russia or imports or exports of MTCR-controlled items from or to Russia.

    (4) Intelligence. Because a key assumption of National Intelligence Estimate 95-19 was that Russia would not egregiously violate the MTCR, the conclusion of that NIE -- that North America would not face missile threats from additional nations before the year 2010 -- needs to be reassessed. The NIE described exports from countries such as Russia as a "wild card", and the independent panel reviewing the NIE criticized the assumption of Russian compliance. The fact is that the Russian behavior that I have described blows the NIE's assumptions to smithereens.

    Mr. Chairman, the U.S. and Russia have a great many common interests. Moreover, the Russian Federation is not a monolith. For these reasons, it is important to target U.S. actions against those Russian entities benefiting from Russian contributions to missile proliferation. It is important not to link other, completely separate elements of the U.S.-Russian relationship to missile non-proliferation issues.

    But, having said this, we are faced with four years of reports of Russian missile proliferation. We cannot afford to tolerate cheating against basic rules of international security. We need remedial action.

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