"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Press Releases

U.S. Buys Moldovan Aircraft to Prevent Acquisition by Iran

THE UNITED STATES purchased 21 MiG 29 fighter aircraft from Moldova during October, pre empting Iran's efforts to acquire potential delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction. The capability of 14 of the Russian made aircraft to deliver nuclear weapons, although disputed by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, allowed the acquisition to be carried out under the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program.

Under an agreement finalized on October 10, the United States acquired 14 MiG 29Cs, described by U.S. officials as wired to permit delivery of nuclear weapons, six MiG 29As, one MiG 29B, 500 air to air missiles and all the spare parts and diagnostic equipment present at the Moldovan air base where the aircraft were stationed. In return, Moldova will receive a cash payment, humanitarian assistance and non lethal excess defense articles such as trucks. Although the value of the package was not disclosed, Reuters reported on November 5 that Moldovan Finance Minister Valeriu Chitan said the cash payment equaled about $40 million. New aircraft of comparable capabilities cost approximately $20 million to $25 million apiece.

The MiG 29Cs would have qualitatively improved Iran's air force by providing it with a more advanced fighter than its older model MiG 29s, a goal Tehran has sought since the Gulf War. With about 30 Russian made Su 24s, a sophisticated low altitude bomber, and both Scud and Scud variant missiles, Iran already possesses other systems more suited to deliver nuclear weapons than the MiG 29Cs.

Moldova informed the United States in late 1996 of Iranian inquiries regarding the availability of the fighters and subsequently of an Iranian inspection of the aircraft. The Clinton administration, which considers Tehran to be vigorously pursuing the acquisition and development of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, initiated negotiations with Moldova in February 1997 to prevent the sale.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright certified Moldova (along with the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) on March 4, 1997, as eligible for the CTR program, which provides assistance to states of the former Soviet Union in implementing denuclearization initiatives, securing fissile materials and preventing proliferation. The United States and Moldova concluded on June 23 a CTR "umbrella" agreement authorizing future cooperative activities.

According to a report in Ria Novosti, a Russian newspaper, Sergeyev claimed that the Soviet military had removed the "hardware" permitting delivery of nuclear weapons in 1989. The difference between the U.S. and Russian definitions of "nuclear capable" is apparently largely semantic, reflecting whether the appropriate arming hardware has to accompany the necessary connecting wiring for the equipment.

In late October, U.S. crews partially dismantled the fighters and transported them aboard C 17 cargo jets to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where the fighters will be reassembled, analyzed and used for training purposes. The MiG 29Cs are the first ever obtained by the United States and U.S. officials expect these models will provide additional insights into the capabilities of the MiG 29 class, which remains an important element in the active air forces of many former Eastern bloc nations and their client states.

Moldova retained six MiG 29C fighters, but intends to sell them to a state not considered "rogue" by the United States, thereby eliminating its entire air force in an effort to cut costs. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies' The Military Balance 1997/98, the states of the former Soviet Union (not including Russia) currently have 284 MiG 29s in their active forces, but a Defense Department (DOD) official estimated that the newer model MiG 29Cs number in the "tens." DOD officials said the United States is not starting a MiG buying spree, but will continue to take steps to prevent rogue states from buying advanced weapons.

Following Summit, Clinton Looks To Activate Sino-U.S. Nuclear Accord

CLAIMING THAT China has made a marked improvement in its non proliferation behavior, President Bill Clinton announced on October 29 during his summit meeting in Washington with Chinese President Jiang Zemin that he will soon submit to Congress the package of certifications needed to activate the never implemented 1985 Sino U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement. The president's announcement marked a milestone in the administration's much criticized policy of engagement with China, and capped two years of intense diplomatic efforts to improve China's non proliferation credentials. Once in effect, the bilateral nuclear accord could mean billions of dollars worth of new contracts to U.S. firms eager to enter China's potentially enormous nuclear market.

For the 1985 agreement to take effect, the president must make two certifications regarding the security and future use of U.S. origin materials and a third verifying that, on the basis of all available information, China is not assisting any non nuclear weapon state in acquiring nuclear weapons and that Beijing has provided "clear and unequivocal assurances" that it is not currently providing such assistance and will not do so in the future. Also required by law is a report to congressional leaders detailing the history and current developments in China's non proliferation policies and practices.

At a background briefing following Clinton's announcement, senior administration officials identified five areas where changes in Beijing's proliferation behavior justified the president's decision to provide the certifications. The most dramatic of these changes occurred during the summit when the two sides reached agreement on a document stating that China would not engage in new nuclear cooperation with Iran, and would end all such cooperation once it completes two nuclear projects now underway: the construction of a "zero power" research reactor at the Esfahan Nuclear Research Center and a plant that will produce the zirconium cladding used in nuclear fuel elements.

Even though Iran is a member of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is entitled to peaceful nuclear cooperation, the Clinton administration has sought to prevent all international nuclear trade with Tehran on the grounds that even peaceful nuclear activities will aid Iran's clandestine efforts to acquire nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT. The summit pledge may finally put to rest fears that China would provide Iran with a uranium hexaflouride conversion facility, technology necessary to enrich uranium. However, the exact nature of Beijing's commitment regarding Iran is still unclear because China's "authoritative written communication" was provided on the condition it not be made public. U.S. officials said the secrecy was necessary to get the specific reference to Iran, but stated that members of Congress would be able to review the actual document.

Second, U.S. officials highlighted China's continued adherence to its May 1996 pledge not to provide assistance to nuclear facilities that operate without monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Beijing made the pledge to avoid U.S. sanctions that could have resulted from its 1995 sale to Pakistan of 5,000 ring magnets, used in enrichment of uranium. At the summit, U.S. officials raised concerns about "contacts" occurring between certain Chinese and Pakistani individuals, but came away convinced that China had not violated its commitment.

Third, on October 16, Beijing joined the Zangger Committee, a 31 nation nuclear suppliers' arrangement whose members condition the supply of nuclear specific materials and technology on the presence of IAEA safeguards at the transferred items' destination. The Zangger Committee also provides NPT member states with the "trigger list" of materials and technologies requiring IAEA monitoring as a condition for supply.

Fourth, U.S. officials pointed to the adoption in September by China's State Council, or cabinet, of a set of comprehensive export control regulations for nuclear materials and technologies as well as a commitment by Beijing to add new regulations on dual use items by mid 1998. The new Chinese regulations follow months of vigorous diplomacy and working level meetings with U.S. officials who provided copies of U.S. laws and suggested approaches the Chinese might consider in creating an effective export control system that would meet the requirements for U.S. certification.

Finally, the Clinton administration argued that China's growing support for and participation in major multilateral arms control agreements deserves recognition. Since joining the NPT in 1992, Beijing has promised to adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), supported the indefinite extension of the NPT, and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Beijing has also supported efforts to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty at the UN Conference on Disarmament, the recent strengthening of the IAEA's inspection authority, and the U.S. led effort to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons potential.

During the summit, U.S. officials also sought additional assurances from China that it would stop selling advanced anti ship cruise missiles to Iran. Since the mid 1980s, China has been Iran's principal supplier of such systems, reportedly providing Tehran with 25-50 C-802s, more than 200 C-801s, and 100 HY-2 "Silkworms" together with the technology to make more indigenously. Although they failed to gain such a pledge, a State Department official said, "We have reason to hope the last shipments have taken place." Chinese officials in the past have linked conventional weapons sales to Iran with U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and Beijing's refusal to forswear such sales may allow Beijing to take credit for responsible behavior without giving up any of the diplomatic leverage provided by the potential sale of such weapons.

Opponents of the president's certification decision have drawn attention to China's refusal to end its peaceful nuclear trade with India and Pakistan and join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). A body similar to the Zangger Committee, the NSG requires "full scope" safeguards (monitoring of all of a nation's nuclear facilities), as a condition for supply, rather than the application of safeguards only at the particular facilities where nuclear items will be sent (as required by the Zangger Committee). Critics argue that even though U.S. laws do not require membership in the NSG as a condition for nuclear cooperation, the president should have insisted that China accept the more comprehensive NSG standard for nuclear trade to avoid tacit endorsement of a double standard among nuclear suppliers.

Congressional opponents of certification, which include three key committee chairmen—Senator Jesse Helms (R NC) of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Shelby (R AL) of the Intelligence Committee and Representative Benjamin Gilman (R NY) of the International Relations Committee—have also asserted that China's checkered proliferation record makes its commitments unreliable, and that any U.S. nuclear contracts resulting from certification should be deferred at least a year to see if Beijing is standing by its promises.

In letters to the president, congressional opponents of certification noted that as recently as May the United States sanctioned Chinese companies for transferring chemical weapons precursors to Iran, and in June a CIA report named Beijing as "the most significant supplier" of proliferation technologies and advanced weapons in the last half of 1996.

Congress has also been troubled by Beijing's sales of anti ship cruise missiles to Iran and reports that Tehran's longer range missile programs are receiving technical assistance from Chinese entities, possibly in violation of the MTCR.

Nevertheless, Clinton administration officials, recalling their victory in June in the debate over China's most favored nation trading status, remain confident that Congress will not reverse the president's decision. Under the 1985 congressional legislation approving the Sino U.S. nuclear accord, Congress has 30 days (while in session) to review the president's certification before any licenses for exports can be issued. To reverse the president's decision, both houses would have to pass a joint resolution changing certification requirements by at least a two thirds majority, ensuring a sufficient margin to protect against a presidential veto.

United States Remains on Top Of UN Conventional Arms Register

AS IN PREVIOUS years, the 1996 UN Register of Conventional Arms, released on October 17, continued to be hampered by a lack of participation and inconsistencies in national submissions. Prior to the release of the final 1996 declarations, the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on the UN Register highlighted the regime's shortcomings in a report endorsed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but proposed few solutions to remedy the register's ills.

The register, designed to promote transparency in armaments, publishes information voluntarily submitted by states on their imports and exports in seven categories of conventional weapons—battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers. States are also invited to provide additional data on their military holdings and their procurement through national production, but less than one third (largely European countries) of the 90 reporting states volunteered information beyond the seven categories.

The 26 members of the GGE, selected by the UN Center for Disarmament Affairs to review the register's operation and explore its future development, met for three 1997 sessions (March 3 7, June 16 27 and August 4 15), but failure to achieve consensus on substantive changes to the register limited it to reporting its observations.

Participation in the register declined to 90 states from 96 in 1995. The GGE noted that at least 90 countries have participated each year and during the first five years of the register's operation 138 states have submitted at least one report, while 49 countries have never participated. As in past years, the leading exporters submitted reports while key importing states of the Middle East did not; only Israel and Iran participated from the Middle East. Exporting states claimed that 2,568 weapons were delivered to non participating states in the region in 1996, of which the overwhelming amount went to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States retained the distinction of being the top exporter, although its 1996 exports amounted to only 48 percent of 1995's. U.S. exports in 1996 totaled 2,342 pieces of equipment as opposed to the previous year's total of 4,843. (See table below. [Not available in web form at this time, please contact ACA for more information]) A 1995 transfer of 2,208 missiles and missile launchers to Greece accounted for much of the discrepancy between the two years.

Russia and Germany, the second and third leading exporters, respectively, in 1995, also reported fewer exports in 1996. Russia's total exports declined from 708 total items in 1995 to 544 in 1996, while Germany's total exports dropped 50 percent to 187. The United Kingdom surpassed Germany, more than doubling exports to 509 in 1996. China and France also increased their exports from 1995, but their reported exports were still relatively low at 137 and 136 items, respectively, in 1996. Other notable changes from 1995 involved an increase of 614 items exported from the Netherlands, of which 590 were ACVs to Egypt, and Turkmenistan's transfer of 1,271 pieces of equipment (mostly tanks and ACVs) to Russia, which Russian data did not confirm.

A total of 26 countries noted exports of 6,489 weapons, while 38 countries claimed imports totaling 3,720 weapons in the 1996 register. A mere 32 percent of the transactions were reported by both parties involved. For example, Hungary reported receiving 520 missiles and missile launchers from Russia, and Pakistan noted accepting 526 from the United States, but neither exporter declared these transactions. The GGE attributed such inconsistencies to the lack of a common definition of a transfer and differing national practices in reporting and processing transfers. In order to diminish inconsistencies between national submissions, the GGE recommended that each nation establish a point of contact to clarify and facilitate reporting and that the deadline for reporting be moved back from April 30 to May 31 to allow states more time to submit information.

Resolving the major discrepancies will require greater participation, a goal the GGE characterized as of "paramount importance." However, the League of Arab States contends the register does not "adequately meet their security needs" and is "neither balanced nor comprehensive" in its present form. Arab states demand an expansion of the register's categories to include weapons of mass destruction and "high technology with military applications" to provide a more accurate portrayal of world military forces. Other developing states have lobbied for including small arms categories or at least an expansion of the existing categories, such as lowering the caliber of artillery systems from 100 millimeter to 75 millimeter to capture lighter weapons, which they consider more relevant to their security concerns. The GGE explored these proposals, but disagreed over whether to recommend such changes as feasible or useful.

Egypt later presented, on October 27, a resolution to the UN First Committee calling for an expansion of the register to include weapons of mass destruction.

U.S., Russia Seek Compromise Over Disputed Computers

AT THE END of October, the United States and Russia appeared to be nearing a solution to their standoff over the future of six American supercomputers improperly acquired by Moscow's premier nuclear weapons labs. The compromise was suggested during an informal conversation between Energy Secretary Federico Peña and Viktor Mikhailov, head of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM), at the September 29 October 3 general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. Mikhailov reportedly proposed that the four Silicon Graphics "Power Challenge L" deskside servers at Chelyabinsk 70 and two IBM machines—a 16 processor RS 6000 at Arzamas 16 and an SP 2—could be moved to non military locations in Russia and operated under U.S. monitoring.

Washington previously insisted Russia return the computers, but State Department spokesman James Rubin said October 27 that the United States is now willing to accept a solution which would shift them to civilian uses. However, Rubin warned that "Russian refusal to cooperate in finding a mutually acceptable solution would jeopardize joint U.S. Russian cooperation" and could lead to tighter "U.S. export controls vis à vis Russia."

The Russian acquisition of the U.S. made supercomputers was announced January 13 by Mikhailov, who told reporters that the new machines at Arzamas and Chelyabinsk were 10 times more powerful than any Russia had ever possessed, and that they would be used to help maintain the safety and reliability of Russia's nuclear arsenal in the absence of nuclear testing. High performance computers are used to assess the reliability of nuclear weapons by mathematical modelling of nuclear explosions under various conditions and comparing the results to expected values and nuclear test data.

Of the six high performance computers, the IBM RS 6000 may be the most powerful, capable of 10,000 million theoretical operations per second (MTOPS), while each of the Silicon Graphics machines operates at 3,000 to 4,400 MTOPS depending on the number of processors. The computing speed and whereabouts of the IBM SP 2 are unknown. By comparison, a commercial desktop computer, using a high end Intel Pentium II microprocessor, is capable of about 300 MTOPS.

Moscow succeeded in purchasing the U.S. computers after the Commerce Department turned down two requests in October 1996 from IBM and the Convex Company, a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard, to sell supercomputers to Arzamas 16. (See ACT, March 1997.) Russian officials claim that, during negotiations for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1995, U.S. negotiators hinted that U.S. computer technology would be made available to Moscow's scientists if Russia signed the treaty. The Clinton administration counters that U.S. supercomputers were never offered to Russia and, while the United States is willing to participate in unclassified scientific exchanges, official policy is not to assist Russia in maintaining its nuclear stockpile.

Based on an October 27 report in The New York Times, it appears the IBM machines were purchased by Moscow based computer re seller Ofort under false pretenses in the fall of 1996 from IBM dealers in Germany. Ofort declared a Russian software firm called Pangea as the intended end user, but Pangea and Ofort are both partly owned, the Times reported, by Jet Info Systems—the middleman for the previously rejected sales.

Officials from Silicon Graphics claim not to have known that their buyer, the All Russian Scientific Research Institute for Technical Physics at Chelyabinsk, was a nuclear weapons lab, and insist they were duped, having been told the computers would have non military uses. Both sales, in which the burden was on the sellers to determine the credentials of the end users, are the subject of criminal investigations by the departments of Commerce and Justice.

Disturbed by reports of U.S. made supercomputers showing up in Russian and Chinese military facilities, the House adopted on October 28 the fiscal year 1998 defense authorization act which included an amendment that would tighten some of the high speed computer export controls which the Clinton administration relaxed in 1995. The Senate is expected to take up the measure shortly. Under current policy, U.S. manufacturers can sell to states of proliferation concern—the so called Tier 3 countries of China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, some Eastern European and all Middle Eastern countries—computers capable of up to 2,000 MTOPS for military or proliferation related end users, and up to 7,000 MTOPS for civilian users without obtaining prior approval from the Commerce Department.

The proposed congressional changes would require a 10 day interagency review period of any proposed sale of a computer capable of at least 2,000 MTOPS to a Tier 3 country. Other provisions would require annual post shipment verification by the Commerce Department for all computers above 2,000 MTOPS exported to Tier 3 states, and would give Congress six months to review presidential changes to the computer export control thresholds, and four months to examine changes to the Tier 3 list of countries.

CIA Says Seismic Event Near Russian Test Site Not a Nuclear Explosion

IN EARLY NOVEMBER, the CIA announced that the August 16 seismic event located in the general area of the Russian nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya was not a nuclear explosion. The CIA determination ended speculation as to whether Russia had abandoned its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and violated international law by defeating the "object and purpose" of the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty, which it has signed. Despite this announcement, however, the agency has not concluded whether the seismic event was an earthquake or an explosion.

The controversy surrounding the seismic event became public in late August when The Washington Times reported that U.S. officials suspected that Russia had conducted an underground nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya. (See ACT, August 1997.) Although Russia had strongly denied conducting such a test, there was no consensus within the U.S. government at that time as to either the nature of the event or its location. As the U.S. investigation proceeded, however, it became clear that the seismic event did not occur at Novaya Zemlya but rather 130 kilometers away below the bottom of the Kara Sea. Even though the location lent strong support to the view that the seismic event was an underwater earthquake, the U.S. government took more than two months to rule out the possibility that it could have been a nuclear explosion.

According to the November 4 CIA statement summarizing the conclusions of an independent panel convened by Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to review the seismic event, Russia had conducted nuclear weapons related experiments at Novaya Zemlya in mid August. The panel concluded, however, that the seismic event, "was almost certainly not associated with the activities at Novaya Zemlya and was not nuclear." Nevertheless, it asserted that, based on the seismic data, "experts cannot say with certainty whether the Kara Sea event was an explosion or an earthquake." The panel also maintained that the activity at Novaya Zemlya, and the simultaneous event in the Kara Sea "demonstrate the difficulty of accurately identifying and assessing weapons experiments or tests with very low yields."

The panel consisted of Richard Kerr, former deputy director of central intelligence; Sidney Drell, a Stanford University physicist; Roger Hagengruber, vice president of Sandia National Laboratory; and Eugene Herrin, a Southern Methodist University physicist.

Although the U.S. government has announced that the seismic event was not a nuclear explosion, its reluctance to characterize the event as an earthquake is at odds with the views of many respected seismologists. For instance, Lynn Sykes, a professor at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said October 20, "a strong consensus has developed among experts in the seismological communities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway and Canada who are concerned with nuclear verification that the event of the 16th was, in fact, a small earthquake."

Russia and Iran Join CWC; Membership Total Reaches 104

IN EARLY NOVEMBER, the reach of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) extended considerably when Russia, possessor of the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons, and Iran, suspected by the United States of pursuing offensive weapons programs, deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN secretary general.

President Boris Yeltsin deposited Russia's instrument November 5 after nearly eight months of parliamentary deliberations. On October 31, the Duma (lower house of Parliament), had approved the treaty by a vote of 288 75, with two abstentions. The upper chamber, the Federation Council, unanimously approved the accord five days later.

Iran's November 3 ratification, which surprised some observers, leaves several Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Syria, still outside of the regime.

Under the terms of the treaty, Russia and Iran are required to submit data declarations on their chemical weapon stockpiles and relevant facilities within 60 days from their dates of ratification. They must also be prepared to accept intrusive inspections by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—the treaty's implementing body—at any site which a state party suspects of housing chemical weapon activities.

The CWC, which bans the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons and mandates their destruction, will enter into force for Russia on December 5. Thus, instead of being a full voting member for the entire second Conference of States Parties (CSP) from December 1 to 5, Russia will only be able to vote on the last day of the meeting. The CSP reviews compliance with the treaty and is expected to take up several substantive matters, including how much financial responsibility a state will bear for inspections on its territory, a primary concern for Russia.

Because Russia was not among the 87 "original states parties" (those ratifying before the treaty's April 29 entry into force), Russian participation in the OPCW will, initially at least, be limited. Moscow will not immediately gain a position on the Executive Council—the governing body of the OPCW. Unless one of the five council member states from Russia's region (Eastern Europe) relinquishes its seat, Moscow will have to wait until the next election cycle in May 1998 to gain representation on the council.

During the six months of treaty operation prior to Russian ratification, Russian inspectors and staff were absent from the ranks of the OPCW. In November, processing for employment of Russians will be initiated by the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW, which is responsible for the treaty's inspection regime.

Russia's membership adds a degree of legitimacy to the OPCW and substantially advances the universality of the treaty. President Bill Clinton, in a November 5 statement released by the White House, called the completion of Russian ratification, "an important step forward in achieving our mutual arms control objectives." By joining the CWC, Russia brings the total number of states parties to 104 (64 signatories have yet to ratify), and commits itself to destroying its 40,000 ton stockpile of blister and nerve agents within 10 years—with an option for a five year extension—at an estimated cost of $5 billion to $6 billion, according to Russian officials.

The Duma's ratification contained language reflecting a Yeltsin administration pledge that roughly 20 percent of destruction costs would be offset by international assistance. According to Russian officials, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Italy and the European Union have indicated a willingness to assist with the destruction program.

The United States has allocated $171.9 million through fiscal year 1998 for chemical weapons destruction projects and an additional $22.2 million through fiscal year 1998 for demilitarization of chemical weapons production facilities in Russia. Germany has also assisted with Russian chemical weapons destruction, contributing an estimated $20 million by the end of 1997.

U.S., Russian Missile Commanders Agree to New Transparency Measures

GENERAL EUGENE Habiger, commander in chief of U.S. Strategic Command, and Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, head of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, have agreed to an exchange of officers for the purpose of observing each other's nuclear command and control procedures. In a November 4 Defense Department briefing, Habiger outlined the nature of these exchanges and indicated that, on the basis of his observations and conversations with high level Russian officials during his October 22 28 visit to Russia, he is confident that Moscow's nuclear arsenal is safe and secure.

During his trip, Habiger examined a nuclear weapons storage facility at Kostroma, a rail mobile SS 24 ICBM base located approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Habiger said he was impressed with its safety and security procedures and was assured that Kostroma was "representative" of ICBM bases throughout Russia. As an example of these security measures, he said access to nuclear weapons in Russia requires the presence of three people, whereas the United States has a two person policy.

Under the proposed exchanges, which could begin within the next few weeks, a team of four or five Russian specialists would visit a U.S. ICBM base to observe the safety and security procedures instituted at nuclear weapon storage facilities. A team of U.S. specialists would also have similar access in Russia. Habiger and Yakovlev also agreed to establish a so called "shadow program," under which Russia would send the equivalent of a wing commander, a squadron commander, a flight commander and a missile crew member to the United States to shadow their respective counterparts for a one week period. A similar U.S. team would pay a reciprocal visit to a Russian missile base.

Habiger said he also had access to various Russian nuclear command and control centers, from the national level down to the unit level. In an apparent effort to alleviate lingering concerns about an accidental or unauthorized Russian nuclear launch, he stated that these centers seek to function in a "fail safe" mode, whereby any one of the centers (even at the unit level) can inhibit the launch of an ICBM.

During his Pentagon briefing, Habiger also discussed Russia's plans to modernize its strategic nuclear forces. He said the single warhead SS 27, which will constitute the backbone of the Russian ICBM force under START II, is expected to achieve initial operational capability around the middle of 1998. Habiger noted that Russia laid the keel for a new class of ballistic missile submarines (known as the Borey) in the fall of 1996, which is expected to become operational around 2005. As for its bomber force, he said Russia has a research and development program for a new air launched cruise missile and that new Blackjack bombers may come on line in the near future.

Habiger noted that the Russians did not modernize their strategic forces during the 1980s when the United States was moving forward with systems such as the B 2 bomber, the Trident submarine and the corresponding D 5 ballistic missile. As a result, he pointed out that Russia is pushing hard for a START III agreement in part because the service life of its systems, including the SS 18 ICBM, is "coming to an end."

Iraqi BW Program May Be Key to Standoff with UN

IRAQ'S BIOLOGICAL weapons (BW) program has emerged as a key factor in Baghdad's latest confrontation with the United Nations, and the United States in particular, with the chief UN weapons monitor suggesting UN inspectors may be getting closer to uncovering Iraq's BW potential.

The standoff continued through the first week of November after a high level UN delegation failed to convince Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to drop his October 29 demand that American UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspectors leave the country and UNSCOM cease overflights of U.S. operated U 2 aircraft used for verification activities. The UN Security Council immediately rejected Baghdad's demands, and Iraq threatened to shoot down the aircraft and turned away UN inspection teams due to the presence of American inspectors.

In a November 5 letter to the Security Council's president, Qin Huasan of China, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler complained of Iraq's blockage of inspections and its moving of dual use items away from the view of UNSCOM monitoring cameras during the standoff. Butler warned the council that, in the absence of inspections, it would take Iraq "only a matter of hours to adapt fermenters to produce seed stocks of biological warfare agent."

During a November 5 interview on the "Lehrer Newshour," Butler said he questioned the timing of Iraq's October 29 ultimatum, given recent progress between Baghdad and UNSCOM. "I think one of the possible reasons why they did that was maybe because we were getting closer to putting the finger on their very serious biological capability," Butler said.

On October 16, Butler told the Security Council that Iraq's BW program remains "the area of deepest and ongoing concern" to UNSCOM. Ten days earlier UNSCOM had released a biannual report on Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions mandating the destruction and future monitoring of prohibited weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems. Although the report noted "significant progress" in the missile area, resolving concerns that Iraq was possibly retaining a small force of prohibited missiles, and "important progress" in the chemical weapons program, the report was critical of Iraq's failure to fully disclose information on its proscribed BW program and Baghdad's continuing interference with inspections and the monitoring regime.

In response, the Security Council on October 23 approved Resolution 1134, which "condemned" Iraq's actions but fell short of language favored by the United States and Britain that would have imposed a travel ban on Iraqi officials associated with non compliance. Five council members—Russia, China, France, Egypt and Kenya—abstained from the vote, and some observers cited the apparent rift in the Security Council as one of the reasons Hussein issued his October 29 ultimatum.

An incomplete picture of Iraq's BW program has existed since UNSCOM was established in 1991, the same year Iraq acceded to the Biological Weapons Convention, which bans the use and production of BW weapons. Baghdad denied having an offensive program until 1995, when UNSCOM acquired evidence to the contrary and the defection of a high ranking Iraqi military officer compelled Iraq to admit to an extensive BW program that continued after the Gulf War. Although Iraq has submitted a number of full, final and complete disclosure (FFCD) reports on its BW programs, UNSCOM has not accepted any of the six official versions or four drafts intended to reveal the full scope of Iraq's BW research, weaponization and testing.

Following the submission of Iraq's latest FFCD on September 11, UNSCOM convened a panel of 15 BW experts in New York from September 29 to October 3 to review the declaration against past submissions and evidence gathered by UN inspectors. The panel called the problems arising from Iraqi non compliance "numerous and grave," and listed 11 areas of concern, ranging from weapons accounting to the defensive tone of the FFCD on the question of military involvement in the program.

One panel member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted that out of over 600 pages in the FFCD, only four to five pages addressed military involvement. "We will not gain a good insight into the BW program until the doctrine is revealed and the reasons for deception are presented in a credible fashion," the participant said. According to the panel, quantitative assessments of the program's "scale and scope" are not possible without such information.

UNSCOM's October 6 report termed Iraq's latest FFCD submission unsatisfactory and said it contained "no significant changes" from the previously rejected version that was submitted in June 1996. Specifically, the report said that unaccounted for anthrax growth media was sufficient "for the production of over three times more" than amounts stated previously. However, the panel member said actual anthrax production figures are significantly higher than three times the 8,500 liters declared by Iraq in October 1995.

In contrast to the BW program, UNSCOM reported a greater degree of success in the missile area in its October 6 report, saying it had accounted for 817 of 819 "imported combat missiles." In addition, all "declared operational missile launchers, both imported and indigenously produced," have been identified.

The report also cited progress in the chemical weapons area, including destruction by UNSCOM of large amounts of agent, precursor chemicals, munitions and production facilities. However, some 550 mustard agent filled artillery munitions declared by Iraq remain unaccounted for, and there are continuing questions regarding Iraqi research and production of the third generation nerve agent VX. UNSCOM believes that Baghdad may have produced much more of the agent than previously reported and continues "significant efforts" to conceal the program. To date, 614 tons of declared VX precursor chemicals remain unaccounted for by UNSCOM.

In addition, full verification of proscribed missile warheads, especially chemical and biological weapon warheads, remains unresolved. While its declarations have varied over the years, Iraq now declares that it produced 80 such warheads (50 with chemical weapons, 25 for BW and five that UNSCOM has confirmed were consumed in trials). According to the biannual report, UNSCOM was able to confirm the destruction of 30 additional chemical warheads, but notes that "it is impossible to confirm the destruction of all of the [remaining] 45 special warheads because of the absence of data from Iraq." UNSCOM also suspects that "a number of additional special warheads" may exist.

Iraqi compliance in the nuclear weapons area is covered by the International Atomic Energy Agency in a separate report to the Security Council. In a November 9 interview on "Face the Nation," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, "The nuclear file is the closest to being closed. But we are concerned there are still some components there."

Parties Complete Weapons Reductions Under Balkan Arms Control Accord

THE FORMER warring parties in the Balkans conflict have eliminated nearly 6,600 heavy weapons from their active forces to meet final reduction requirements under the June 1996 Agreement on Sub Regional Arms Control. Although an official assessment of the 16 month reduction period, which ended October 31, will not be announced until November 21, the State Department has called the process a "near total success."

Modeled after the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the agreement, a key goal of the 1995 Dayton peace accord, establishes numerical ceilings on tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), combat aircraft, attack helicopters and artillery that the parties could possess. Unlike the CFE Treaty, which imposed equal limits on two blocs of states, the sub regional agreement allocated ceilings according to each party's population on a ratio of 5:2:2 among Serbia (which forms the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia along with Montenegro), Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia's limits were further divided on a ratio of 2:1 between two entities—the Muslim Croat federation and the Bosnian Serbs. (Because the actual weapons holdings for the parties were never officially released, estimated reduction requirements are derived from non governmental estimates.) (See table below)

Balkan Arms Ceilings (1995 Estimates1/Agreement Ceiling)
Country or Entity Combat
ACVs Artillery2
Serbia 280/155 110/53 1,300/1,025 1,000/850 4,000/3,750
Croatia 20/62 30/21 400/410 300/340 1,700/1500
Bosnia and Herzegovina --- /62 --- /21 --- /410 --- /340 --- /1,500
  • Muslim-Croat
0/41 12/14 135/273 80/227 1,500/1,000
  • Bosnian Serbs
40/21 30/7 330/137 400/113 1,600/500

SOURCES: Agreement on sub-Regional Arms Control; International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1995/96; and other sources.
NOTES: 1. Declared holdings were not made public. 2. Artillery pieces are all those with diameters of 75 millimeters or greater, including mortars.

While the ceilings for Serbia and Croatia corresponded closely with their actual holdings, thereby obligating them to make minimal reductions, the Bosnian Serbs have reduced their holdings in all five categories of "agreement limited armaments" (ALA) by more than half and in the case of artillery by two thirds, from 1,600 pieces to 500. Because the Muslim Croat federation's holdings were substantially less than its ceilings (except in artillery, which had to be reduced by 500 pieces), the federation will be able to more than double its numbers of tanks, ACVs and combat aircraft. The reductions comprised over 700 tanks, 80 ACVs, 60 combat aircraft and more than 5,700 pieces of artillery. According to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and State Department officials, the parties destroyed an overwhelming portion of their items; some weapons were exported, converted to non military purposes or placed on static display.

Originally, allegations of under reporting, particularly by the Bosnian Serbs, threatened to undermine the agreement, but throughout the implementation period all parties voluntarily increased their reduction responsibilities. The parties, which completed 185 inspections during the reduction process, are expected to conduct more than 50 inspections between November 1 and March 1 to verify compliance with the new ceilings. After this validation period, the parties will be obligated to accept an annual quota of inspections equaling 15 percent of their "objects of inspection" (any formation, unit, storage and reduction site with ALA) for the unlimited duration of the agreement.


'Train and Equip'

Occurring simultaneously with the arms reduction process, the controversial U.S. led "train and equip" program provided the Bosnian federation with $250 million worth of armaments ($100 million from the United States), including 45 M 60A3 tanks, 15 utility helicopters and 80 M 113 armored personnel carriers. Brunei, Egypt, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates also contributed equipment, funding or training.

The Clinton administration initiated "train and equip" to provide the Muslim Croat federation with a defensive capability to ensure a stable military balance within Bosnia. Critics of the program, which include most U.S. European allies, assert that the program is creating a qualitatively superior federation force that will seek to redress its grievances through force if the international presence is withdrawn.

Ambassador James Pardew, the U.S. special representative for military stabilization in the Balkans, disputes such allegations, claiming that the Bosnian Serbs still hold the advantage because of their continued close relationship with Serbia and that, despite the federation's newer equipment, its forces lack sufficient training to constitute an effective counter against the Serbs. "Equipment is important, but it is only so much metal if you don't know how to use it effectively," Pardew said. He further stressed that "train and equip" reinforces the arms control agreement since continuation of the program is dependent upon the federation's compliance with the agreement.

However, critics argue that the program reflects the fundamental shortcoming of the sub regional agreement: any party may import new equipment or improve its force's skills as long as numerical ceilings are not exceeded. Other critics point out that the war was primarily one of small arms and small artillery—equipment not included or deliberately exempted from the agreement—and the agreement therefore does little to control the weapons that would be used if hostilities resume.

Michael O'Hanlon, a military and arms control analyst at the Brookings Institution, believes that taken independently, the arms control aspect of Dayton and "train and equip" were a success, but when factored in with lingering tensions and the lack of any real political settlement, notably the agreement over how much refugee resettlement to allow, aspects of both could be "incendiary."

With the arms control provisions of the Dayton accords now completed, attention may turn toward the accord's call for the negotiation, under OSCE auspices, of a larger regional arms control agreement encompassing more of the states in and around the former Yugoslavia. An OSCE official said that the current parties are "anxious" to start such negotiations, but other states in the region have refused to commit to the talks, and ambiguity surrounding the Dayton accord's provisions could stall the process.

U.S., Russia Sign Agreements On Plutonium-Production Reactors

VICE PRESIDENT Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met in Moscow September 22 23 for the ninth session of the U.S. Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation, commonly known as the Gore Chernomyrdin Commission. During this session, the sides completed a set of agreements to convert Russia's three remaining plutonium producing reactors so that they no longer produce weapons grade plutonium. At a joint press conference in Moscow, Gore said the agreements make "a major contribution to the advancement of our non proliferation interests."

In June 1994, the United States and Russia signed an agreement under which Moscow would shut down the three reactors at Tomsk 7 and Krasnoyarsk 26, former secret nuclear cities now called Seversk and Zheleznogorsk, by the year 2000. (See ACT, July/August 1994.) Russia, however, would not allow the accord to enter into force until alternative sources of energy had been found, arguing that the "dual use" reactors provide most of the heat and electricity for the surrounding cities. After completing an alternative energy feasibility study in 1995, the United States and Russia determined that conversion of the reactor cores was the best way to meet civilian energy needs while also halting the production of weapons grade plutonium. Since then, the sides proceeded with the design and engineering phase of the core conversion project.

Under an agreement signed by Gore and Chernomyrdin on September 23, Russia is required to modify the three reactors by December 31, 2000. The modified reactors will continue to operate until they have reached the end of their normal lifetimes, taking into account safety considerations. In an effort to reduce Moscow's stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the sides agreed that fuel for the modified reactors will incorporate uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, the agreement prohibits the United States and Russia from restarting any plutonium producing reactors that have already been shut down. The United States shut down all 14 of its plutonium producing reactors by 1989, while Russia has ceased operating 10 of its 13 reactors. The agreement, which enters into force immediately, further stipulates that any plutonium produced between now and the completion of the core conversion (as well as any HEU recovered after conversion) cannot be used in nuclear weapons.

In order to help ensure compliance with its provisions, the agreement contains a detailed annex on verification measures. In plutonium producing reactors that have already been shut down, for example, the United States and Russia will be permitted to install seals and other agreed monitoring equipment to provide assurances that the reactors cannot resume operation without being detected.

In addition, the Department of Defense and the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) signed a separate Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) implementing agreement to facilitate core conversion of the reactors. In fiscal year 1997, Congress appropriated $10 million in CTR assistance for this project.

In a side letter to the implementing agreement, the Department of Defense stated that it intends to provide up to an additional $70 million in CTR assistance for core conversion purposes. The total cost of the project, which will be divided between the United States and Russia, is expected to be about $150 million.

The United States and Russia also signed two other agreements related to the core conversion of the plutonium producing reactors. The Department of Energy and MINATOM signed a memorandum of understanding dealing with liability concerns, while the chairmen of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Authority of Russia issued a joint statement emphasizing the importance of nuclear safety issues.


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