19-21 SEPTEMBER 2006 - VISIT TO RUSSIA BY THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
1.Twelve NATO legislators AND several members of the Russian State Duma met in Moscow on 19-21 September to discuss the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Iran's nuclear policy, anti-terrorism, the redirection of former weapons scientists, space programmes and space safety, future energy solutions and other important issues. The Science and Technology Committee (STC) delegation, led by Committee Chairman Michael Mates (UK) and General Rapporteur Pierre Claude Nolin (CA), also visited the Russian Cosmonauts Training Center "Zvezdny gorodok" ("Star City") and the Kourchatov Atomic Energy Institute. Mrs Lubov Sliska, First Deputy Chair of the State Duma and Head of the Duma delegation to the NATO PA, opened the first session at the State Duma. In her welcoming remarks she underlined the importance of exchanging views between Russia and NATO countries as the majority of existing international security challenges are relevant to all parties. She suggested that cooperation in the field of competence of the STC could be particularly fruitful since issues of non-proliferation of WMD-related material and technologies are of highest concern both to Russia and to the Alliance.
2.Mrs. Sliska and Oleg Rozhkov, Representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that their country's foreign policy philosophy is based on the notion that current international problems should be solved using existing international mechanisms or even by launching new ones. Therefore, Russia supports the strengthening and universalisation of the non-proliferation agreements such as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). As an example of a new initiative, the Russian participants noted the importance of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, announced by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George Bush on 15 July 2006. The Initiative is designed to enhance cooperation and increase the capacity of all willing partner nations to combat this threat.
3.With regard to nuclear non-proliferation, Russia believes in the future of the NPT and urges a reinforcement of the powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a universalisation of the application of the Additional Protocol. It is essential that both objectives of the NPT - non-proliferation and steady nuclear disarmament - are being pursued. At the same time, the Russian authorities seem to endorse initiatives of international nuclear co-operation with India, which is not a member of the NPT. Replying to the question by Cristian Buzea (RO) if Pakistan could expect to be treated the same way as India, Mr Rozhkov pointed out that it will take time to restore the international community's confidence in Pakistan, shaken after the revelation of the illegal network of A.Q.Kahn. Jérôme Rivière (FR) made a comment that the provisions of the NPT should not be considered as fixed and unalterable. The Treaty was drafted to reflect the balance of powers that existed decades ago. Therefore, the NPT could be reinforced by being adapted to the new realities.
4.The restrictions alone will not solve all proliferation problems. In today's world, one can witness a clear "nuclear renaissance" and an increased interest in nuclear fuel cycle technologies. This natural trend derives from the existing concerns over potential energy problems in future. Thus, the fact that the number of countries developing nuclear capabilities (including uranium enrichment) will inevitably increase, has to be accepted. Russian authorities maintain that nuclear non-proliferation should be considered as an objective in itself and not as a tool to attain political goals. Nuclear non-proliferation efforts should not obstruct the development of peaceful nuclear programmes, Russian representatives stressed.
III.SECURITY OF RUSSIA'S WMD SECTOR
5.Daniil Kobyakov, an expert at the independent PIR Centre think tank, discussed the achievements and flaws of the G8 Global Partnership (GP) and other threat reduction programmes designed to increase the security of and disposal of WMDs and related material in the ex-Soviet republics. There are four priority areas of GP: 1) utilization of retired nuclear submarines; 2) destruction of chemical weapons (CW) stockpiles; 3) protection and utilization of fissile material; 4) redirection of former weapons scientists.
6.In general, the utilization of decommissioned nuclear submarines is a success story. 197 submarines await utilization, which is proceeding as planned. Mr. Kobyakov, however, pointed out that decommissioned submarines in the Pacific fleet receive far less attention than those harboured in the North of Russia. With regard to CW destruction, problems are much more serious. Russia has the world's largest stockpile of chemical agents - approximately 40,000 tonnes. However, so far only approximately 3% of all chemical agents have been destroyed. It is therefore very uncertain that Russia will achieve its objective to destroy all of its CW stockpile by 2012. Russia is somewhat disappointed in its GP partners in this respect as the contributions of international donors are far less significant than initially pledged. Mr. Kobyakov urged the NATO legislators to support ratifications of multinational CW destruction projects in their respective parliaments.
7.As far as safe storage of nuclear material is concerned, Russia receives considerable assistance from the United States. Currently, only half of the storages have received proper security upgrades. One of the most outstanding issues - the sensitive 'access issue' - has been virtually solved, Mr. Kobyakov said. The foreign inspections are being granted access 45 days after they notify the Russian side. Andrey Korolev, Vice-Chairman of the Non-Proliferation agency of the Kourtchatov Atomic Energy Institute, described how, in early 1990s, the Kourtchatov Institute experts learned to protect nuclear material kept at their Institute, and then imparted their knowledge to Russian military facilities. Senator Nolin questioned the level of security of nuclear and radiological material in Russia by quoting the authoritative US expert William Potter, who stated that numerous cases of leakage or smuggling of such material occurred in Russia in recent years. Russian speakers, however, expressed their disagreement with Mr. Potter's assessment asserting that no noteworthy leakage was detected in Russia even in turbulent times of the early 1990s.
8.There is a clear consensus in Russia that Moscow will not support any sanctions against the Iranian regime. Isolation of Iran will not bring any positive results. On the contrary, sanctions might force Iran to officially withdraw from the NPT. Besides, economic or political sanctions would not be effective, whereas military actions against Iran should not be considered, even hypothetically. Russian officials believe it is necessary to avoid an escalation of tension in this already vulnerable region at all costs. According to another MFA Official, Alexander Shilin, the international community still has time for diplomacy as nuclear technologies are extremely sophisticated, and Iran would face tremendous technical difficulties trying to achieve nuclear weapon capability. Mr. Rozhkov admitted that Iran is a difficult partner and that it might have abused its rights as a member of the NPT. He hypothesized that Iran might be developing a potential of nuclear weapons production (not nuclear weapons themselves), but this is understandable due to the fragile security situation around Iran.
9.Alexander Fomenko (RU), a member of the Russian State Duma, accused the West of seeking to replace the current Iranian regime. He pointed out that Iran is not an aggressive country and that it cannot pose any threat neither to the US nor Israel, since the Iranian leaders know that the American retaliation would be devastating and overwhelming. He also urged not to underestimate the fact that Iran is a theocratic state and that Islam is a serious hindrance to the development of nuclear weapons. Anton Khlopkov, independent analyst, Mr. Fomenko and other Russian speakers also suggested that Iran could abandon its industrial-scale uranium enrichment plans, provided the US government agrees to recognise the current Iranian regime. Lord Jopling (UK) and other members of the STC, however, expressed their belief that a policy of indulgence would send a wrong signal and undermine the credibility of the NPT.
10.Members of the STC visited the Headquarters of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) in Moscow. The ISTC is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the nonproliferation of weapons and technologies of mass destruction. Founded in 1992 by the European Union, Japan, Russian Federation, and the United States of America, the ISTC coordinates the efforts of numerous governments, international organizations, and private sector industries, providing weapons scientists from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States with new opportunities to redirect their talents towards peaceful scientific research. Since 1994, the ISTC has provided over $590 million in project funding support to over 58,000 scientists and technical team members at 765 institutes in Russia and CIS.
11.The meeting was an opportunity for NATO parliamentarians to learn more about ISTC scientist redirection efforts and current activities in the fields of nanotechnologies and future energy solutions. In his opening remarks, ISTC Executive Director Norbert Jousten noted that the ISTC is exploring different methods to enhance complementary project and programmatic activities with the NATO Security Through Science Programme. Mr. Jousten further noted that the ISTC hopes to build on previous collaboration with NATO to find other areas of mutual interest that will foster international security and the sustainability of scientist redirection.
12.During the meeting with representatives of Russian think tanks, Mr. Kobyakov also discussed the issue of scientists' redirection. He argued that the existing programmes are not always adequate. For example, a large portion of funds go to low- and medium-rank employees, whereas it could be worthwhile to concentrate on long-term projects for the qualified scientists.
13.NATO delegates also heard presentations from senior ISTC staff regarding current efforts in renewable energy and fuel cells, as well as nanotechnologies and nanomaterials. In particular, the presentations described project activities and goals in these areas and how the ISTC is working with a broad range of institutes and partners to advance fundamental research and encourage sustainability through commercial development.
14.Rafael Gimalov (RU), member of the State Duma delegation to the NATO,PA, addressed the issue of reinforcing the international space law. He noted that the existing space agreements are outdated and need to be changed as the states are no longer the only actors that engage in space-related activities. He claimed that the disguised arms race is taking place in space and there is no international agreement to explicitly cover this issue. Placing military assets in space would make even a non-nuclear weapon a strategic one. Military activities in space would particularly exacerbate the problem of space debris.
15.The latter issue was extensively discussed by the NATO PA delegation at the Russian Cosmonauts Training Center "Zvezdny gorodok" (Star City). The representatives of the Russian Cosmos Agency testified that the international community is taking the issue of space debris seriously due to the fact that activities in space are increasingly indispensable in many areas of life, including agriculture, environmental policies, weather forecast, disaster support, medicine, education, regional integration and other fields. However, military tests and civilian activities in space have led to an accumulation of thousands of pieces of space garbage. Further accumulation of garbage may lead to accidents or catastrophes. Since 1998, the International Space Station had to change its orbit six times in order to avoid deadly collisions with pieces of space junk. Several international initiatives were launched to mitigate the generation of additional space debris, including the creation of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, an international governmental forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to the issues of man-made and natural debris in space. Mr. Gimalov suggested that the NATO PA could also contribute to international efforts in this field.
16.At "Zvezdny gorodok", members of the STC also visited the facilities of the centre and were briefed by Russian cosmonauts themselves about the nature of their work in space.
17.Vladimir Evseev, an expert from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, discussed the prospects of the development of Russia's strategic nuclear forces. In his presentation, he discarded the claims that Russia's strategic forces are rapidly degrading and will become insignificant by the middle of the next decade. On the contrary, he argued, Russia has developed realistic and sustainable plans of modernisation of its strategic forces, based on Topol-M and Bulava ballistic missiles. By 2015, Russia will possess up to 1,500 nuclear warheads. These numbers are likely to increase, Mr. Evseev warned, if NATO decided to expand further eastwards and to deploy its strategic assets in Central and Eastern Europe.