"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

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former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Missile Proliferation

Russia Holds Second GCS Conference

Continuing to build upon a concept it proposed in June 1999, on February 15 Moscow hosted the second conference on its Global Control System (GCS) initiative to combat missile proliferation. Governments from over 70 countries sent high-level representatives, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan—all states of missile proliferation concern. The United States was the only member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an arrangement among 32 countries aiming to stem missile proliferation, that declined to send a representative.

At the first GCS conference in March 2000, Russia outlined the framework for a multilateral regime consisting primarily of an international missile prelaunch notification agreement, a system of incentives for "stimulating and encouraging" states to forgo the possession of missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, and an international forum devoted to continually addressing missile non-proliferation issues.

According to an official familiar with the discussions, at this year's conference GCS participants discussed an international code of conduct on ballistic missile non-proliferation that was first aired at MTCR meetings last year. Unlike the MTCR's restrictions on missile suppliers, the proposed code would tackle ballistic missile non-proliferation from the demand side, placing limitations on states seeking to advance their missile capabilities. Details on the code are not yet public.

According to the official, India and China—both states outside the MTCR regime—seemed willing to consider such a code of conduct, but only under the auspices of the United Nations.

While not attending the conference, Washington agreed last September, in a joint statement with Moscow, to work "on a new mechanism" to integrate the Russian GCS proposal, the missile code of conduct, and the MTCR's existing framework. (See ACT, October 2000.) A U.S. official said that Washington does not support elements of the GCS proposal outside the context of the MTCR.

While the method for building on this year's meeting remains unclear, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that the conference's participants suggested "a gradual practical elaboration" of the GCS, which may include bringing the proposal to the UN.

S. Korea, U.S. Agree on Missile Guidelines, MTCR Membership

Alex Wagner

After five years of consultations with the United States, South Korea announced on January 17 that it would develop new guidelines extending the permitted range of its missiles to 300 kilometers, increasing its military capabilities while still allowing it to apply for membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The same day, the United States declared it would support Seoul's immediate membership in the MTCR.

The MTCR is a voluntary regime of 32 states that seeks to limit missile proliferation by restricting its members' exports of missiles—and missile technology—capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers or more. While this threshold typically applies only to MTCR members' missile-related exports, since 1993 the United States has required all new MTCR members—except nuclear-weapon states—to forgo possession of all missiles exceeding the regime's export threshold. Since all MTCR decisions, including membership, must be approved by consensus, new MTCR members must meet the U.S. requirement in order to join the regime.

The new guidelines will allow South Korea to build missiles capable of reaching most targets in North Korea, including Pyongyang. The guidelines also allow Seoul to build missiles with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers for research purposes and to develop rocket boosters of unlimited range for civilian purposes. Once it becomes a member of the MTCR, South Korea will be able to obtain civilian rocket technology from other regime members.

South Korea restricted its missile range to 180 kilometers in a 1979 agreement with the United States, in which Washington offered technology to support Seoul's prescribed missile systems. Wary of advances in North Korean missile capabilities, Seoul notified the United States in 1995 that it wished to adjust these restrictions, and bilateral negotiations ensued.

Amid the ongoing negotiations, in the fall of 1999, press reports claimed that South Korea was developing missiles that violated the 1979 arrangement—charges that South Korean and U.S. officials strongly denied at the time.

In October 2000, South Korean media reports indicated that a deal was imminent, but the South Korean embassy in Washington said that the parties were still working out "the modalities of the announcement." It appears likely that the parties postponed announcing a deal until after then-President Bill Clinton decided not to visit North Korea to work out a separate missile deal, since U.S. endorsement of longer-range South Korean missiles could have disrupted those negotiations.

While the new deal still has the potential to exacerbate thawing U.S. and South Korean relations with Pyongyang, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher described the new guidelines as striking "the right balance" between strengthening South Korean security and "respecting regional stability and global non-proliferation principles." Washington plans to support South Korea's MTCR membership at the group's March intersessional meeting in Paris.

Russian Arms and Technology Transfers to Iran:Policy Challenges for the United States

Michael Eisenstadt

In the past decade, Russia has become Iran's main source of advanced conventional arms, an alleged supplier of know-how and technology for its ballistic missile and chemical and biological warfare programs, and its sole source of civilian nuclear technology. Despite sustained U.S. efforts to halt these transfers, they continue, raising unsettling questions about Moscow's intentions, the depth of its commitment to arms control, and the future of U.S.-Russian relations. How the United States deals with this challenge could have far-reaching implications for the stability of the Middle East and the fate of the international non-proliferation regime.

Iran has been seeking to enhance its military capabilities for more than a decade now, in an attempt to increase self-reliance, strengthen deterrence, and achieve the status and influence that it believes is its due. Self-reliance in all areas of national life—but particularly in the military sphere—is a fundamental tenet of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Thus, Iran has built up its military-industrial base to reduce its reliance on foreign arms suppliers and increase its military potential. Iran also wants to be able to deter potential threats from Iraq, the United States, Israel, and, more recently, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan. Finally, Tehran's efforts to modernize its armed forces and acquire weapons of mass destruction are driven by a desire to bridge the gap between its military weakness and its image of itself as a regional power and the standard bearer of revolutionary Islam. To these ends, Tehran has turned to Russia—the only country that can provide it with arms in the quantity and the quality that it desires.

The security relationship forged by Russia and Iran over the past decade is something of an historical anomaly—the two nations have traditionally viewed each other with suspicion. In the 19th century, imperial Russia dominated Persia, annexing territories that had historically belonged to the Persian empire, and with Great Britain conspired to divide the country into spheres of influence. Soviet policy, though generally cautious, was not completely free of such imperial impulses, but with the onset of the Cold War, relations with Iran improved somewhat. Trade increased, and Iran even bought small quantities of arms from the Soviet Union. However, following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, relations grew strained. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—who reviled both the Soviet Union and the United States—pursued a foreign policy of "neither East nor West" that put Moscow at arms length. For its part, Moscow feared that Tehran would export its Islamic revolution to the Muslims of the Soviet Union.

In June 1989, within weeks of the Ayatollah Khomeini's death, the then-speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, visited Moscow, opening a new chapter in relations with the Soviet Union. After pledging non-interference in each other's domestic affairs (allaying Soviet concerns about the export of Tehran's brand of radical Islam to the Muslim Soviet republics), the two sides negotiated a major arms deal and agreements on trade, economic, and scientific-technical cooperation (including the "peaceful use of atomic energy").

In the decade that followed, Moscow and Tehran frequently found themselves on the same side of various issues of common concern. When this was not the case, they nonetheless proved able to work through their differences. Throughout this period, Tehran tread softly in areas of concern to Moscow, repeatedly deferring to Russian sensibilities in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In particular, Iran's restrained response to Moscow's bloody suppression of a Muslim separatist movement in Chechnya underscored, for Russian policy-makers, the relatively benign thrust of Iranian policy in Russia's backyard.

Thus, a de facto alliance emerged. Moscow came to see Iran as a responsible partner in the pursuit of stability in the Caucasus and Central Asia; a potentially lucrative market for arms and technology produced by its still massive, but cash-starved, military-industrial complex (especially important after Iraq—a major customer—was subjected to a UN arms embargo following its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait); a means by which to continue to exert some influence in the Middle East; and an ally in the fight against American "hegemony." Conversely, Tehran came to see Russia—still a key actor on the international stage, if no longer a superpower—as a partner to its efforts to break out of its international isolation; a reliable source of arms and advanced technology for its armed forces; and an ally in its efforts to counter U.S. influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf. To be sure, the interests of Russia and Iran are not identical, but their shared interests have consistently outweighed their relatively minor policy differences.

However, for both parties, cooperation is driven as much by fear and mistrust as it is by opportunism and shared interests. Moscow sees arms and technology transfers as a means of securing a foothold in Iran—to ensure that the relationship will survive a rapprochement between Tehran and Washington—and as an insurance policy against Iranian meddling in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and perhaps among Russia's own Muslim population. Ironically, Tehran may see the missiles it is developing with Russian help as a source of leverage over Moscow in the event of a return to the hostility that has historically characterized relations between the two sides. For both sides, cooperation is at least in part a means to neutralize the latent threat posed by a former (and perhaps future) adversary by creating a shared stake in good relations.

Russia's arms and technology transfers to Iran have created diplomatic and security headaches for Washington, as Tehran develops some fairly sophisticated military niche-capabilities and builds ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that threaten U.S. interests and allies in the region. Even more troubling for Washington, it has been able to do very little about it and its options seem limited.

Conventional Arms

Under the Shah, Iran depended on the United States and the United Kingdom for nearly all its arms. Following the 1979 revolution and the subsequent seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, relations soured, and the United States halted all arms sales to Iran. In September 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, sparking a bloody, eight-year war. To avert an Iranian victory that could have had a destabilizing impact on the region, in 1983 Washington organized an international arms embargo on Iran that greatly complicated Iran's efforts to replace its wartime losses and sustain its war effort. As a result, Iran emerged from the war greatly weakened, much of its military inventory having been destroyed or captured.

In 1989, Iran launched an ambitious effort to rebuild its war-ravaged armed forces and transform itself into a regional military power. Its military wish list reportedly included 100-200 combat aircraft; 1,000-2,000 armored vehicles; several submarines; and as many as a dozen missile boats. The United States regarded Tehran as a source of instability in a region of vital strategic importance and was alarmed by the magnitude of the purchases Iran was reportedly contemplating. Accordingly, Washington urged its allies to continue honoring the ban on arms sales to Iran imposed during the Iran-Iraq War. Of the major suppliers, only Beijing and Moscow were willing to sell large numbers of conventional arms to Iran, and only the latter could provide many of the modern arms Tehran desired.1

The first major arms agreement between Iran and the Soviet Union, which provided the basis for several future arms contracts, was negotiated during Rafsanjani's June 1989 visit to Moscow.2 Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited these contracts but implemented them only in part as a result of disagreements with Tehran over the Soviet debt and Iran's financial problems. Short of money and with Russia insisting on cash payments, Tehran could afford to buy only a fraction of what it had hoped to acquire.

U.S. concerns about the impact of these potentially large arms transfers on Persian Gulf stability led the United States to press Russia to put a halt to them. Russian President Boris Yeltsin pledged to do so in September 1994; this commitment was formalized in an agreement between Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore in June 1995, in which Russia promised it would fulfill existing contracts by the end of 1999 and would not sign any new ones. Russia's embrace of this commitment was facilitated by the fact that Iran lacked the funds to pay for several of the contracts it had already signed. What funds it did have were apparently spent mainly on missiles and the means to produce weapons of mass destruction (much of it in Russia).

Major Russian weapons systems transferred in the decade following the 1989 arms deal included 422 T-72 tanks, 413 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled artillery; SA-5 and SA-6 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs); 12 Su-24 and 24 MiG-29 fighters; and three Kilo-class submarines, along with advanced torpedoes and mines. Most of these items were transferred in the early- to mid-1990s.3 Of these, the transfer of the Kilo-class submarines and advanced torpedoes and mines caused the greatest concern to Washington. These systems enhanced Iran's sea-denial capability in the Persian Gulf region and enable Tehran to threaten the flow of the 20 percent of the world's oil that passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Notwithstanding the Gore-Cherno-myrdin agreement regarding conventional arms transfers, Russian and Iranian officials reportedly met in early 1997 to discuss new arms deals. These supposedly involved the possible sale of eight Su-25 attack aircraft; 25 Mi-17 transport helicopters; hundreds of T-72 tanks; 500-1,000 SA-16/18 Igla shoulder-launched SAMs; several battalions of SA-10 and SA-12 SAMs; air-surveillance radars; and several other items.4 Five Mi-17s were indeed eventually transferred to Iran starting in January 20005 (in contravention of the 1995 Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement), while in November 2000, an Israeli newspaper reported the imminent departure of a shipment of 700 SA-16/18 Igla missiles for Iran; it is not clear whether this transfer actually occurred.6

These recent transfers may be a sign of things to come. Iran's economic situation has improved somewhat in the past year, thanks to a disciplined and sustained effort to repay its short-term debt obligations and the recent turnaround of world oil prices. This has allowed for a 50 percent increase in the Iranian defense budget in 2000-2001 over the previous Iranian fiscal year.7 Russia's decision to inform the United States in November 2000 that it considered the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement null and void may harbinger major new conventional arms deals. Indeed, last December, at the conclusion of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev's visit to Iran (the first of its kind since the 1979 revolution), he declared that Russia and Iran had concluded a "new phase of military and technical cooperation."8

Ballistic Missiles

The Iran-Iraq War convinced Iran's clerical leadership that an indigenous missile production capability and a strong missile force were essential to the country's security. Several times during the war, Iran exhausted its supply of missiles, in large part because North Korea—its principal supplier—was often unable to keep up with demand. Daily missile strikes on Tehran toward the end of the war had a particularly devastating effect on Iran's morale; more than a quarter of the city's population fled to the countryside each night, contributing to Iran's decision to seek an end to the war in the summer of 1988. The 1991 Persian Gulf War further underscored the survivability of mobile missiles and their growing importance in modern warfare. As a result, Iran has sought the capability to produce everything from short-range to intercontinental systems.

The backbone of Iran's strategic missile force consists of 300 Shahab-1 missiles (North Korean Scud-Bs, with a range of 320 kilometers); 100 Shahab-2 missiles (North Korean Scud-Cs, with a range of 500 kilometers); a handful of Shahab-3 missiles (a locally produced version of the North Korean Nodong-1 with some Russian content and a range of 1,300 kilometers); and some 200 Chinese CSS-8 missiles (SA-2 surface-to-air missiles modified for ground-to-ground use, with a range of 150 kilometers). Some of these may be armed with chemical and perhaps biological warheads.

Iran is also reportedly working on a Shahab-4 missile, which it claims is a satellite-launch vehicle (reportedly based on the Soviet SS-4, it is said to have a range of 2,000 kilometers), and a Shahab-5 (reportedly still in the concept phase, with an estimated range of 5,000-10,000 kilometers). Iran's missiles can reach major population centers in Israel, Turkey, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and the smaller Arab Gulf states.

Iran's efforts to develop an indigenous missile production capability date to the mid-1980s. However, it has experienced major problems and delays in its efforts to achieve self-sufficiency, due to shortages of funds, special materials, key production technologies, and highly trained personnel—particularly skilled managers capable of overseeing large, complex projects. As a result, it has had to lean heavily on North Korea, China, and Russia for assistance.9 Iran can now produce Shahab-1 and -2 missiles on its own, and it is in the final stages of developing the Shahab-3. To date it has conducted three Shahab-3 flight tests (in July 1998, July 2000, and September 2000), though only the second is believed to have been a success.

Since 1994-1995, various Russian individuals and entities have been assisting Iran's missile programs. After obtaining convincing evidence of these activities in early 1997, Washington began pressing Moscow to stop the flow of missile know-how and technology to Iran. Since early 1997, U.S. and Russian officials have met numerous times to discuss this issue.

However, progress has been limited and often short-lived. From mid-1997 through mid-1998, these efforts yielded positive results: a significant decrease in the transfer of know-how and technology, accompanied by a dramatic strengthening of Russian export controls with the issuing of a Russian executive decree in January 1998 and the passing of implementing legislation in May of that year. By mid-1998, however, assistance to Iran's missile programs resumed.

The United States responded by sanctioning a total of eight Russian entities that had allegedly aided Iran's missile program (seven in July 1998 and one in January 1999), though many had no business dealings with the United States and were therefore unaffected by the sanctions. Nonetheless, many of the major firms involved early on in the transfer of know-how and technology are believed to have halted such activities, though they have apparently been replaced by smaller companies and individuals providing mainly technical assistance, according to a U.S. government official. On February 7, CIA Director George Tenet testified to the Senate that "the transfer of ballistic missile technology from Russia to Iran" in 2000 "was substantial and...will continue to accelerate Iranian efforts to develop new missiles and to become self-sufficient in production."

Ambassador Robert Gallucci, who represented the United States in talks with Russia on this topic, has written, "The assistance in question is sometimes material shipped from a Russian entity to Iran that may be used for parts of a ballistic missile, maybe for the warhead, maybe for the fuselage. Sometimes components are shipped that may have to do with guidance. These entities have also been training Iranians in Russia in the development, design and manufacture of ballistic missiles." According to Gallucci, Russian assistance was "extremely important in shortening the amount of time in which the Iranians would be able to develop, manufacture and deploy their own MRBMs [medium-range ballistic missiles]," and he says that Russian assistance will speed the deployment of the Shahab-3 and the development of longer-range missiles.10

The Shahab-3—and to a much greater extent, the Shahab-4—remain dependent on technology transfers from North Korea and Russia. For instance, North Korean and Russian entities may produce critical engine components for the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4, respectively, that Iran is currently unable to produce on its own.11 The Shahab-3 is expected to enter operational service soon, and a cutoff of Russian aid is unlikely to halt the deployment of this missile, though it could hinder efforts to upgrade the basic model. A cutoff could, however, have a decisive impact on the Shahab-4 and -5. Continued Russian assistance will also be crucial should Iran choose to incorporate penetration aids on its missiles, as the expertise and experience necessary for the design and development of anything more than the most rudimentary countermeasures against missile defenses probably is beyond the means of Iran's scientific-technical community.

From Iran's perspective, the Shahab-3 (and subsequently the Shahab-4) will provide a variety of new capabilities. The Shahab-3 will enable Iran to target Israel, Turkey, and Egypt, and in the now-unlikely event of an U.S.-Iranian confrontation, the knowledge that they are within range of Iranian missiles could influence decision-makers in Cairo and Ankara during a crisis. Moreover, U.S. missile defenses could have problems intercepting a Shahab-3 flying a depressed or lofted trajectory against targets in the Gulf region. Likewise, the Shahab-4, if and when it becomes operational, will be capable of flying depressed or lofted trajectories against Israel, Turkey, and Egypt, complicating the defense of these countries, and it will be able to reach southern Europe by following an optimal minimum energy trajectory. Finally, due to their greater range, Iran will be able to launch these missiles from more secure launch sites in the interior of the country, thus complicating efforts to locate and destroy the missiles before launch.

For now, however, the main value of these missiles is political. They serve as a symbolic surrogate for the non-conventional capabilities that Iran possesses, but cannot brandish, due to its arms control commitments. Moreover, the fact that Iran possesses missiles capable of hitting targets throughout the region will alter the risk calculus of potential adversaries. While these missiles are of uncertain reliability and accuracy, most adversaries will likely assume that the Iranian missiles will perform in wartime as intended, as the potential price of being wrong will be too great. Adversary decision-makers will therefore act with appropriate caution. As Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani has stated, the Shahab-3 provides Iran with a "real deterrent punch."12

Chemical and Biological Warfare

Iran's chemical and biological warfare programs were initiated in the mid-1980s in response to Iraq's extensive use of chemical weapons (CW) during the Iran-Iraq War. An estimated 50,000-100,000 Iranians were injured and 5,000-10,000 were killed as a result of Iraqi CW use. Moreover, there is reason to believe that, had the war continued, Iraq would have used CW against Iranian civilian population centers and biological weapons (BW) against its water supplies. This experience, compounded by the apathetic international response to Iraqi CW use, has left deep wounds in the Iranian national psyche. As a result, Iran has devoted significant resources to its chemical and biological weapons (CBW) capabilities, to serve as a deterrent and to provide it with the means to respond in kind to CBW threats.

Iran is believed to have stockpiled several hundred tons of chemical agent in bulk and weaponized form, including nerve, blister, choking, and blood agents. It produces bombs and artillery rounds filled with these agents and probably has deployed chemical missile warheads. Less is known about its biological warfare program, although according to published intelligence assessments, Iran has probably produced small quantities of BW agent; some of this may have been weaponized.

Russian individuals and entities have reportedly assisted Iran's chemical and biological warfare programs. According to Tenet's February testimony, "Russian entities are a significant source of dual-use biotechnology, chemicals, production technology, and equipment for Iran. Russian biological and chemical expertise is sought by Iranians and others seeking information and training on BW- and CW-agent production processes."

Beyond this statement, there is little if any additional information in the public domain concerning Russian assistance to Iran's CW effort, though there have been a number of credible published reports concerning Russian assistance to Iran's BW program. Iran has been described by Russian BW researchers as the country most aggressively recruiting scientists from Russia's vast, crumbling biological warfare complex. These efforts reportedly began shortly after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and according to one report, Iran has succeeded in luring at least five scientists to work in Iran, signing arrangements with others that allow them to conduct research for Iran while remaining in Russia. The Iranians have reportedly shown special interest in infectious diseases, anti-crop and anti-animal agents, and genetic engineering techniques. However, because so little is known about Iran's BW program, it is not possible to assess the impact of whatever assistance may have been rendered by Russian scientists.13

Civilian Nuclear Technology

According to public U.S. intelligence assessments, Iran is pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons despite the fact that it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is worth noting that Russian intelligence assessments dating from the mid-1990s (the last time such assessments were published) are basically in accord with U.S. judgment.14 However, Russian officials categorically deny that the civilian nuclear technology they are providing Iran could aid an effort to build nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear program dates to the era of the Shah, who initiated efforts in the civilian as well as the military spheres. Both were shelved following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but in 1984 Tehran revived the civilian program and with it the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions. For nearly a decade and a half, Iran has been trying to acquire materials and civilian nuclear fuel-cycle technologies that could be of use to a clandestine nuclear weapons program, including fuel fabrication and reprocessing capabilities from Argentina; research reactors from Argentina, India, China, and Russia; nuclear power plants from Russia and China; gas centrifuge technology from Switzerland and Germany and a gas centrifuge enrichment plant from Russia; a uranium conversion plant from China or Russia; and a laser isotope separator from Russia that can be used for enrichment.

Thanks to Iran's financial woes and a sustained U.S. effort to deny Tehran access to nuclear technology, Iran has had little success in building up its declared civilian nuclear infrastructure, though its efforts to acquire fuel-cycle-related facilities will undoubtedly continue. Iran has also been seeking materials and components that could be used to build nuclear weapons. In 1992, Iran apparently tried (unsuccessfully) to acquire a cache of highly enriched uranium from a facility in Kazakhstan; its agents have reportedly continued shopping for fissile material on the black market since then. In 1998, Iran reportedly acquired some tritium, which is used to build boosted weapons, from Russia, while in 1999 an Iranian living in Sweden was caught trying to smuggle thyratron tubes to Iran.15

The centerpiece of Iran's overt nuclear effort is its civilian nuclear power program, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). As a first step toward realizing its long-term goal of relying on nuclear power for 20 percent of the country's electricity needs, Iran intends to complete the unfinished German nuclear power plant begun in Bushehr in 1975 but halted by the 1979 revolution. In August 1992, Moscow agreed to finish the Bushehr power plant, and in January 1995, as part of a broader nuclear cooperation accord concluded at that time, Russia signed a contract to install one VVER-1000 reactor in Bushehr for a cost of $800 million and to train Iranian personnel and provide low-enriched uranium fuel to run it. Washington unsuccessfully lobbied Moscow to cancel the reactor deal (though Moscow eventually agreed to take back the fuel for reprocessing). The United States did, however, succeed in persuading firms in the Ukraine and the Czech Republic not to supply components to the reactor, thus complicating Russian efforts to complete the power plant at Bushehr.

The Bushehr reactor has faced several other major obstacles, including questions about the structural integrity of the original foundation and containment structure (which was bombed during the Iran-Iraq War and exposed to the elements for many years), the viability of installing Russian reactor hardware into structures configured for German components, and Iran's financial problems. These problems have delayed the program; initially slated to be completed by 1999, the first VVER-1000 at Bushehr is not expected to be finished before 2003. Iran and Russia have also discussed the construction of two or three VVER-440/213 reactors and an additional VVER-1000 at Bushehr. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeniy Adamov announced in January of this year that his ministry is starting work on a "feasibility study" for at least one of these.

U.S. officials claim that Iran's interest in nuclear power is driven—in large part—by a desire to gain access to Russia's vast nuclear complex in order to facilitate the acquisition of know-how, technology, and materials for its clandestine nuclear weapons program. However, while objecting to Russian assistance to Bushehr, they downplay its significance as a source of plutonium for a clandestine weapons program since the fissile material there would be safeguarded and Iran would probably use Bushehr to burnish its bona fides as an NPT signatory in good standing.

But should an Iraqi nuclear breakout or a crisis cause Iran to violate or withdraw from the NPT, the presence of large quantities of spent fuel at Bushehr would pose an acute proliferation risk. Experience in Iraq in 1990 and North Korea in 1993 shows that states will violate their NPT commitments or withdraw from the treaty when they believe their vital interests require them to do so. Officials from Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy scoff at the idea that reactor-grade plutonium could be used to build a bomb, but in 1962 the United States successfully tested a bomb using reactor-grade plutonium to see if it could be done.

The Bushehr reactor is not the only element of Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation to which U.S. officials have objected. As part of the January 1995 nuclear cooperation accord, Russia also offered Iran 2,000 tons of natural uranium, help establishing a uranium mine, low-power (less than 1 megawatt) training reactors, a gas centrifuge enrichment plant, an option to purchase a 30-50 megawatt light-water research reactor, an APWS-40 nuclear-powered desalinization plant, and training for 10-20 AEOI employees annually (at the graduate student and Ph.D. level).

The United States was particularly concerned with the offer of a gas centrifuge enrichment plant and research reactor, which it believed could greatly assist an Iranian nuclear weapons program. During a May 1995 U.S.-Russia presidential summit in Moscow, Russia agreed to drop all components of the agreement not directly connected to the Bushehr power plant. This commitment was formalized during a December 1995 meeting between Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.

In recent years, various Russian entities have held negotiations with Iran concerning the transfer of dual-use fuel-cycle-related technologies, including heavy-water research reactors, uranium conversion plants, and most recently, a laser isotope separator. Two entities allegedly involved in such talks—NIKIET and the Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology—were sanctioned by the U.S. government in January 1999. Moscow argues that, because Iran is a member of the NPT in good standing, it should not be denied nuclear fuel-cycle-related technology. Due to U.S. pressure, Russia has agreed not to go forward with these deals—at least for now. However, because Iran is a potentially lucrative customer for Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, it is unlikely that Russia has abandoned efforts to sell fuel-cycle-related technology to Iran.

Indeed, in recent Senate testimony, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn stated that, despite Moscow's promises, many government-affiliated entities have continued "extensive cooperation" with Iran on nuclear projects beyond the Bushehr plant and that this assistance "has accelerated in the last few years." According to Einhorn, "Much of this assistance involves technologies with direct application to the production of weapons-grade fissile materials…and could significantly shorten the time Iran would need to acquire weapons-usable fissile material."

As Iran's sole supplier of nuclear technology, Russian assistance remains crucial to Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Russia could aid this process by transferring to Iran technologies used to produce fissile material or by unwittingly allowing Iranian agents the access needed to acquire fissile materials diverted from Russia's massive nuclear complex.

Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would have a dramatic impact on the strategic environment in the Middle East by altering the regional balance of power and encouraging further proliferation in the region and beyond. An Iranian nuclear breakout would also undermine international non-proliferation norms, put U.S. forces in the region at risk, and pose a direct threat to U.S. friends and allies. For these reasons, preventing such an eventuality is a critical U.S. interest.

What to Do?

Russian arms and technology transfers to Iran are among the most serious proliferation challenges facing the United States today. While Russia's conventional arms transfers and assistance to Iran's civilian nuclear program do not violate any international non-proliferation regime, at least some of its arms transfers (advanced naval mines, torpedoes, and Kilo-class submarines) and most of its activities in the nuclear arena seem imprudent—to say the least. And in aiding Iran's civilian nuclear program, Russia is violating a broad international norm, as it is the only country in the world now engaged in open-ended nuclear cooperation with Iran.16

Russian aid to Iran's missile and CBW programs, however, would clearly violate various international arms control regimes. Some of the aid in the CBW arena involves the transfer of dual-use materials and technologies, but there are indications that more sinister dealings are taking place, including the recruitment of scientists from Russia's massive BW complex. But it is unclear whether the activities of these scientists are officially sanctioned.

On the other hand, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that assistance to Iran's ballistic missile program occurs, by and large, as a matter of policy. This has been going on for more than five years now, and, while U.S. pressure may have at one time caused a temporary cessation of activities and caused some individuals and entities to cease cooperating with Iran, other individuals and entities have come forward to take their place; the assistance continues unabated. Furthermore, reports (in both the Russian and Western press) that the Russian Security Service has facilitated at least some transfers of missile know-how and technology strengthens the impression that there is official support for these activities.

The occasional zigzags in Russian policy regarding arms and technology transfers to Iran may be due to a number of factors, including the twists and turns of politics in Moscow; delight in occasionally sticking a finger in Washington's eye; U.S. pressure and a desire not to imperil ties with Washington; Iranian counter-pressure and a desire not to imperil ties with Tehran; and the temptation to profit from its tremendous investment in its military-industrial complex while avoiding blatant violations of its various arms control commitments.

The most powerful explanation for these arms and technology transfers is that they serve a number of key Russian interests. They provide an income stream for the cash-starved military-industrial complex, avert Iranian meddling in Russia's domestic affairs and its near-abroad, and build up Iran as a limiting force on America's global power. These are arguments that both bureaucrats in Moscow and underpaid scientists employed by state-funded institutes can agree on. And they are powerful rationalizations for scientists who may independently sell their services to Iran. Certainly, the political and economic environment in Russia today is conducive to such activities.

To be sure, the policy of transferring arms and technology to Iran does not enjoy unanimous support in Moscow. Some fear that Iran's missile and WMD programs have the potential to someday threaten Russian interests—perhaps even Russia itself. But supporters of the policy apparently reason that arms and technology transfers may be the best way to forestall a deterioration in relations with Tehran;17 that Iranians are anyhow incapable of building long-range missiles and nuclear weapons; and that, even if they succeed, Russia would retain overwhelming strategic superiority that would be sufficient to deter threats from a distant, hostile Iran. Though Russia is hardly the first country to use arms and technology transfers as part of a policy of engagement vis-à-vis former adversaries, Moscow is playing a high-risk version of this game. It remains to be seen whether this gambit will succeed.

Several policy implications flow from this assessment. First, because Moscow provides arms and technology to Tehran not just to earn cash, but also to advance important security interests, Russia seems unlikely to halt its arms and technology transfers to Iran in response to economic sanctions or inducements of the kind that have been considered to date (e.g., sanctioning Russian entities involved in proliferation, threatening funding to the International Space Station, or lowering or raising quotas for Russian commercial space launches). Furthermore, Washington's willingness to take stricter steps—should it be decided that this is what is needed—will depend, in part, on the general trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations as set by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in the coming months.

Second, experience shows that publicity, persistent pressure, and high-level attention can yield modest results. Here, timely leaks that highlight irresponsible Russian actions, accurate and timely intelligence that facilitates preventive diplomacy, and a good working relationship between U.S. and Russian leaders, combined with sustained interest and involvement on the part of the American president, are critical to success.

Finally, while U.S.-Russian cooperative security programs will not halt purposeful technology transfers to Iran or others, they can still protect against unauthorized diversions by proliferators. Thus, U.S. funding for these programs should not be cut in order to "punish" Russia for its arms and technology transfers to Iran, as has been suggested by some in Washington; these programs remain in the U.S. interest, though funding should certainly not go to entities or firms that wittingly assist proliferators such as Iran.

U.S. options vis-à-vis Iran are also rather limited. Tehran is unlikely to agree to curb conventional arms purchases (given the relatively small size and limited capabilities of its armed forces) or abandon efforts to build a robust missile force, which constitutes the backbone of its strategic deterrent and is not limited by any arms control regimes to which Iran is party. As for weapons of mass destruction, Iran denies that it is engaged in any activities proscribed by the various treaties it is party to (the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the NPT).

Iran's motives for acquiring missiles and WMD are varied and complex. Its quest for self-reliance and regional influence are partly rooted in the values of the Islamic Republic and thus will not be easily altered. Tehran's clerical leadership seems relatively united in its desire to acquire WMD, and, while some reformers may be concerned about the impact of such policies on Iran's foreign relations and economy, their hard-line conservative opponents are currently on top in Tehran. It will not be possible to explore the possibility of a "grand bargain" with Iran regarding its WMD programs until domestic political alignments in Tehran change and U.S. and Iranian representatives can sit down together to discuss these issues. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon, but, in the meantime, steps such as people-to-people contacts and track-two diplomacy should be taken to facilitate an eventual resumption of official contacts.18

U.S. policy toward Iran has scored one unambiguous achievement: it has succeeded in imposing significant costs and delays on Iran's efforts to build up its conventional, missile, and WMD capabilities through such traditional tools as export controls, demarches, arm-twisting, and economic sanctions. It has thwarted several major conventional arms deals and countless smaller ones. It has cut off Iran from Western arms and technology sources, forcing it to rely on less-advanced suppliers, such as North Korea, China, and Russia. U.S. efforts were also instrumental in thwarting a large number of prospective deals concerning technologies useful for the development of WMD—particularly in the civilian nuclear arena. Due in large part to U.S. prompting in the 1980s, U.S. allies in Europe have imposed tight restrictions on the transfer of many types of dual-use technology to Iran while banning the transfer of arms or nuclear technology outright.

However, U.S. efforts to urge Russia, North Korea, and China to adopt restrictions on arms and technology transfers to Iran have met only with very limited success. North Korea is still supplying missiles and missile production technology. China is still supplying conventional arms and materials and technology for Iran's CBW program, though it has pledged to halt aid to Iran's ballistic missile and civilian nuclear programs. Russia, however, still provides conventional arms and technology for Iran's missile and WMD programs.

The United States should seek to build on its successes, by continuing with the methods that have worked. Sanctions have been a particularly important policy tool. Iran's economy has been its Achilles' heel and the main obstacle to the realization of its military ambitions. Iran's economic woes—which have been exacerbated by U.S. sanctions—have repeatedly forced Tehran to pare back and delay the procurement of arms and technology. Lacking the funds to sustain a major, across-the-board military buildup, Iran has had to content itself with selectively enhancing its military capabilities. Despite recent improvements in Tehran's economic circumstances, the economy remains the main constraint on Iran's efforts to acquire arms and technology from Russia—though it is a less significant factor than it was just a few years ago.

As long as there remain reasonable grounds for suspecting that Iran is violating its arms control obligations, the United States should maintain sanctions on Tehran. The unilateral rescission of various executive orders that restrict trade and investment in Iran as part of a policy of "engagement" might yield short-term economic benefits for U.S. business but would likely do long-term damage to the security of the United States and its allies. These sanctions are an important source of leverage for the United States and should not be lifted without quid pro quos from Iran that address Washington's proliferation concerns.

Russian arms and technology transfers to Iran remain a policy challenge for which there are no simple solutions. But the problem must be actively managed—at the presidential level—lest it get worse. This is a lesson that the new Bush administration will hopefully take to heart, for while it may be difficult and frustrating to deal with the problem of preventing proliferation from Russia, it is preferable to dealing with the challenges of a nuclear Iran armed with long-range missiles.

Russian-Iranian Nuclear Cooperation Accord

January 8, 1995

Protocol of negotiations between Professor V.N. Mikhailov, Minister of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, and Director R. Amrollahi, Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

From January 5-8, 1995, Minister of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, Prof. V.N. Mikhailov, visited Iran at the request of the Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Director R. Amrollahi. During this visit, negotiations concerning cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy were held. The two parties expressed their satisfaction with the results of the visit and reached the following agreements:

1. The present protocol establishes that the contract for completing the construction of Block No. 1 at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), which was signed by the Russian firm Zarubezhatomenergostroy and by the Atomic Energy Organization on January 8, 1995, shall be carried out by the parties.

2. The parties exchanged letters in which the principal questions concerning cooperation on completing construction of Block No. 1 at the Bushehr NPP in Iran were decided.

3. To utilize Iranian personnel, as much as possible, especially for completing Block No. 1 at the Bushehr NPP.

4. The subsequent delivery of fuel for Block No. 1 at the Bushehr NPP will be done as stipulated and at world prices.

5. Within a month, the Russian side will instruct the corresponding Russian organization to submit a proposal for the training of Iranian personnel, so that after a preliminary period of operation, Block No. 1 at the Bushehr NPP can be run exclusively by Iranian personnel.

6. The parties instruct their competent organizations to prepare and sign:

  • in three months, a contract for delivery of a light water reactor for research with a power of 30-50 MWt from Russia;
  • in the first quarter of 1995, a contract for the delivery of 2,000 tons of natural uranium from Russia;
  • in the first quarter of 1995, a contract for the preparation/training for Atomic Energy Organization of Iran scientific personnel, 10-20 (graduate students and Ph.D.'s) annually, at Russian academic institutions;
  • within six months time, a contract for the construction of a uranium mine in Iran, after which negotiations will be conducted on the signing of a contract for the construction of a centrifuge plant for enrichment of uranium according to conditions, which are comparable to conditions of contracts concluded by Russian organizations with firms in other countries.
  • 7. The parties have agreed:
  • On cooperation in the construction of research reactors of low power (less than 1 MWt) in Iran for instructional purposes. Over a six month period, the Russian side will transfer a technical-commercial proposal to the Iranian side on this matter;
  • To examine the issue of cooperation on the construction of a desalination plant in Iran;
  • To carry out meetings, no less frequently than once a year, on the high level of Russia's MINATOM and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran for the organization of operational control for the implementing of cooperation, especially for the work in connection with the construction of Block No. 1 at Bushehr NPP.
  • The discussions were carried out in a friendly manner.

    Two copies of the present protocol were signed in Iran, January 8, 1995, one each in Russian and Persian.

    V.N. Mikhailov

    Minister of Atomic Energy

    Of the Russian Federation

    R. Amrollahi

    President of the Atomic

    Energy Organization of Iran

    Translated by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Russian Entities Alleged to Have Assisted Iran's Missile Program
    Entity Alleged Activity Action Taken
    Baltic State Technical University Training of Iranian personnel Denied U.S. funding (March 1998), sanctioned by the United States (July 1998)
    Bauman Technical University Training of Iranian personnel  
    Europalas 2000 Attempted transfer of special steel via Azerbaijan Sanctioned by the United States (July 1998)
    Federal Security Service (FSB) Facilitated travel of Russian specialists to Iran  
    Glavkosmos Transferred dual-use missile production technology Sanctioned by the United States (July 1998)
    Grafit Research Institute Transferred graphite ablative materials to Iran Sanctioned by the United States (July 1998)
    INOR Scientific Center Transferred special mirrors, composite materials, foils, and metals to Iran Sanctioned by the United States (July 1998), restrictions lifted (April 2000)
    Kominterm Plant (Novosibirsk) Missile specialists traveled to Iran under false documents Suspicions not substantiated, sanctions not imposed
    MOSO Company Attempted transfer of special steel via Azerbaijan Sanctioned by the United States (July 1998)
    Moscow Aviation Institute Training of Iranian personnel Denied U.S. funding (March 1998), sanctioned by the United States (January 1999)
    NPO Energomash Transferred SS-4 engine technology Suspicions not substantiated
    NPO Trud Transferred engine components, documentation, and engine test equipment; contracted to manufacture engine turbopumps Lattermost effort thwarted; no recent signs of activity with Iran
    Polyus Science and Research Institute Transferred missile guidance technology and assisted with design of Shahab-3 guidance package Sanctioned by the United States (July 1998), restrictions lifted (April 2000)
    Russian Space Agency According to Israeli intelligence, Director Yuri Koptev facilitated technology transfers  
    Rosvoorouzhenie Arms Export Agency According to Israeli intelligence, recruited Russians to assist Iranians and facilitated several technology transfers  
    Tikhomirov Institute Unclear Suspicions not substantiated, sanctions not imposed
    TsAGI Central Aerohydrodynamic


    Contracted to build wind tunnel; transferred model missiles and missile design software Denied U.S. funding (March 1998), no recent signs of activity with Iran
    Sources: Fred Wehling, "Russian Nuclear and Missile Exports to Iran," The Nonproliferation Review, Winter 1999, pp. 134-143; "The Russian List," The Iran Brief, March 2, 1998, pp. 9-10; The Washington Times, various articles; and interview with senior U.S. government official, February 23, 2001.

    Note: This table provides a snapshot of alleged activities based on information primarily from the 1997-1998 timeframe. Some firms listed here may have been involved in activities with Iran on a one-time basis; others may have been involved on an ongoing basis. In general, however, many of the major firms involved very early in the transfer of know-how and technology to Iran have bowed out and have been replaced by smaller companies and individuals providing mainly technical assistance, according to a senior U.S. official.


    The author would like to thank Liat Radcliffe, Rachel Stroumsa, and Ashraf Zeitoon for their research assistance in preparing this article.

    1. Iranian arms buyers also approached several Eastern European states. However, due to U.S. pressure, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the Czech Republic rebuffed the Iranian approaches, as did Poland—after selling about 100 T-72 tanks to Iran.

    2. According to a seemingly authoritative Russian account, Moscow and Tehran signed four major arms contracts between 1989 and 1991 that were the basis for nearly all conventional arms transfers during the 1990s. Igor Korotenko, "Russia and Iran Renew Collaboration; Tehran May Take Third Place in Volume of Russian Arms Purchases," Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, January 12, 2001.

    3. These estimates are based on several sources, including Shlomo Brom and Yiftah Shapir, eds., The Middle East Military Balance: 1999-2000 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000) pp. 188-189; IISS, The Military Balance: 2000-2001 (London: Oxford University Press, 1999) pp. 132, 139; the UN Register for Conventional Arms, various years.

    4. Bill Gertz, "Russia Sells Missiles to Iran," Washington Times, April 16, 1997, p. A1; Bill Gertz, "Russia Told U.S. Air-Defense Arms Not Sold to Iran," Washington Times, April 17, 1997, p. A9; Korotenko, "Russia and Iran Renew Collaboration" op. cit.

    5. "Russia Resumes Arms Sales to Iran," Iran Times, January 21, 2000, pp. A1, A4.

    6. Orly Azulay-Katz and Eytan Amit, "Hundreds of Missiles En Route From Russia to Iran," Yediot Aharonot, November 24, 2000, p. 6.

    7. International Monetary Fund, Islamic Republic of Iran: Recent Economic Developments, July 12, 2000, pp. 112-113.

    8. Scott Peterson, "Russians Tighten Ties to Iran," The Christian Science Monitor, January 26, 2001.

    9. In November 2000, China announced that it would not help any country develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It remains to be seen whether they will live up to this commitment.

    10. Robert Gallucci, "Iran-Russia Missile Cooperation: The United States View," in Joseph Cirincione, ed., Repairing the Regime: Preventing the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, D.C.: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000), pp. 186, 188.

    11. Bill Gertz, "North Korea Sells Iran Missile Engines," Washington Times, February 9, 2000, p. A1; Robert D. Walpole, testimony before the International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services Subcommittee of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, September 21, 2000; David Hoffman, "Russia Says It Thwarted Attempt by Iran to Get Missile Technology," Washington Post, October 3, 1997, p. A35.

    12. "Iran to Test Motor for New Space Rocket," Agence France Presse, February 7, 1999.

    13. Amy E. Smithson, Toxic Archipelago: Preventing Proliferation for the Former Soviet Chemical and Biological Weapons Complexes (Washington, D.C.: The Henry L. Stimson Center, 1999), p. 17; Judith Miller with William J. Broad, "Bio-Weapons in Mind, Iranians Lure Needy Ex-Soviet Scientists," The New York Times, December 8, 1998, p. A1.

    14. A New Challenge After the Cold War: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Moscow: FIS, 1993), translated in JPRS-TND, March 5, 1993, p. 28; Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Problems of Its Prolongation, (Moscow: FIS, 1995), pp. 56-59.

    15. Though a dual-use item, these may be used in the explosive package of a nuclear weapon. Susanna Loof, "Swedish Student Suspected of Smuggling Nuclear Weapon Technology to Iran," AP Worldstream, October 11, 1999.

    16. In October 1997, China told the United States that it would not sign any new contracts regarding civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran once two projects of limited proliferation concern that were then underway (a zero-power reactor and a factory to produce zirconium cladding for fuel rods) were completed.

    17. Brenda Shaffer, Partners in Need: Russia and Iran (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, forthcoming).

    18. Portions of this section are drawn from Michael Eisenstadt, "Can the United States Influence the WMD Policies of Iraq and Iran?" The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 63-76.

    Michael Eisenstadt is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

    Agreement to End INF Inspections Signed

    Meeting at the 26th session of the Special Verification Commission (SVC), representatives of the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed an agreement December 14 that regulates completion of inspections under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The SVC is a forum for discussing INF Treaty-related issues.

    While the INF Treaty is of unlimited duration, the agreement will facilitate the completion of "continuous portal monitoring," which allowed the parties to keep tabs on what entered and exited U.S. and Russian intermediate-range missile assembly plants, according to the State Department. Those plants are located in Magna, Utah, and Votkinsk, Russia. Monitoring will cease at midnight May 31, 2001, as called for by the treaty.

    According to a U.S. government official, while the monitoring regime will end, countries will be able to continue to verify compliance through "national technical means" (satellite surveillance, for example) and other "data collection" methods. Furthermore, while INF inspections will cease, monitoring will continue at Votkinsk under the START I agreement. No START monitoring is conducted at Magna.

    The INF Treaty, which entered into force June 1, 1988, banned all ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. The treaty was negotiated by the United States and Soviet Union. After the latter's dissolution, the United States informed the 12 successor states to the Soviet Union that it considered them all bound by the provisions of the treaty. Four of those states—Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan—and the United States actively participate in regular meetings of the SVC.

    In related news, Russia has complained in recent sessions of the SVC that the U.S. "Hera" missile violates the INF Treaty. The missile, composed of the two upper stages from a defunct three-stage Minuteman II missile, is used as a target for U.S. theater missile defense testing. According to U.S. government officials, Washington was initially "puzzled" by the Russian complaint, but Russian officials have persisted in raising it during the past year. Ambassador Steven Steiner, U.S. representative to the SVC, said that the United States feels use of the Hera booster system is in full compliance with its obligations under the INF Treaty.

    Agreement to End INF Inspections Signed

    U.S. to End Limit on Russian Space Launches

    Citing the Russian government's progress in stemming proliferation of missile technology to Iran, the Clinton administration opted not to renew a seven-year-old agreement that restricted the number of international commercial launches by Russian space-launch service providers. The December 31 expiration of the U.S.-Russian Commercial Space Launch Agreement effectively opens the door for Russia to carry out an unlimited number of commercial launches.

    State Department spokesman Philip Reeker emphasized in a December 1 press briefing that the agreement "has been used effectively to encourage Russian cooperation in curtailing the transfer of sensitive missile technology to Iran, [as] part of our nonproliferation program." Reeker said that ensuring the Russian Space Agency's continued "measurable progress" in curbing the sale of missile technology to Iran was a "top priority." A State Department official noted that the department is "still concerned" about Russia's involvement with Iran's missile program.

    In 1999, Congress included language in the FY 2000 National Defense Authorization Act that encouraged increasing the quantitative limitations applicable to Russian commercial space launch services, as long as Russia "demonstrates a sustained commitment to seek out and prevent" further proliferation of missile equipment or technology to "Iran or any other country."

    Signed in 1993, the agreement originally allowed for 16 launches per year, but was amended in 1996 to allow up to 20.

    Moscow responded positively to the news the United States had allowed the agreement to expire. The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement December 7 that said dropping the quota "opens new opportunities for strengthening mutually advantageous bilateral cooperation in . . . peaceful space exploration," according to Itar-Tass, the state-run news agency.

    The expiration of the launch quota should also yield substantial financial benefits for Lockheed Martin in its role within Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International (LKEI), the joint venture that executes Russian launch service contracts. With no restrictions on launches, LKEI stands to gain market share. Each launch brings approximately $70 million in revenue.

    U.S. to End Limit on Russian Space Launches

    Slovakia Completes Destruction of SS-23s

    Slovakia destroyed the last parts of its six remaining Soviet-era SS-23 intermediate-range ballistic missiles on October 27. The dismantling of the technologically obsolete missiles, which was begun in May, has been a long-standing U.S. policy objective and received U.S. funding. (See ACT, June 2000.)

    The SS-23 "Spider" missile was banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union, which eliminated all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Slovakia acquired the 400-500 kilometer range SS-23s following the 1993 dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which had acquired the missiles from the Soviet Union. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, which also received the missiles from the Soviet Union, all disposed of their SS-23 systems years ago. The Slovak missiles reached the end of their service lives in 1998, but financial constraints prevented their destruction at that time.

    Presiding over the final destruction of the missiles in Slovakia, John Holum, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that Slovakia had made "a huge contribution toward realizing the goals of the INF Treaty and to improving European security."

    Slovakia Completes Destruction of SS-23s

    U.S. - DPRK Missile Talks Make Little Progress

    The United States and North Korea were unable to reach an agreement to end Pyongyang's indigenous missile development and missile-related exports during a seventh round of missile negotiations November 1-3 in Kuala Lumpur. It appears unlikely that the talks resolved enough outstanding issues to warrant a visit by President Bill Clinton before the end of his term, as proposed by North Korean Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok during his October discussions with high-level U.S. officials in Washington. (See ACT, November 2000.)

    Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn characterized the discussions with his North Korean counterpart Jang Chang Chon as "detailed, constructive, and very substantive" in a November 3 statement. Although Einhorn noted that the United States and North Korea "continued to expand common ground," he emphasized that "significant issues remain to be explored and resolved."

    At a November 15 press conference in Brunei prior to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, special adviser to the president on North Korea, told reporters that progress on the missile issue had indeed been made and that the negotiations had achieved "positive clarification" on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's discussions with Chairman Kim Jong-Il in October. Albright told reporters October 24 that Kim had pledged not to conduct any further tests of the Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile.

    Despite the State Department's positive spin on the results of the missile talks, many observers had believed that more substantial progress would be made in the discussions, leading to the first-ever trip by a sitting U.S. president to North Korea. Nevertheless, in a November 20 interview with CNN, Clinton said that "it's conceivable that there could still be a trip" to meet with Kim. Clinton opted not to continue to North Korea after his six-day trip to Vietnam, which had been considered the most likely time for a visit.

    U.S. - DPRK Missile Talks Make Little Progress

    Time to Reason Why

    December 2000

    By Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

    By the time this is read, the United States should have a president-elect who will have neither a popular mandate nor a working majority in Congress. While this will make it difficult for the president to take new initiatives, it may have the consolation of limiting his ability to take controversial, damaging actions. Under these circumstances, President Bill Clinton's wise decision not to deploy a limited national missile defense (NMD) gives the next president adequate time to think long and hard before making an NMD deployment decision that would endanger three decades of negotiated arms control.

    One of the interesting features of the recent dreary election campaign was the almost complete absence of reference to the NMD deployment issue. When asked, Vice President Al Gore hedged his position by asserting support for a limited national missile defense while associating himself with Clinton's four criteria for deployment: technological readiness; status of the threat; cost; and impact on national security, including arms control and relations with other countries. Moreover, he emphasized the need to deploy within the framework of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

    For his part, Governor George W. Bush criticized the Clinton administration's NMD proposal and called for a much more robust system to protect not only all 50 states but also U.S. friends and allies. While not revealing what kind of system he envisaged, he made clear that he would withdraw from the ABM Treaty if Russia did not modify it to allow deployment. Despite the major differences between the candidates, the press did not pursue the issue because of perceived lack of public concern or interest.

    If elected, Gore should have little incentive to deploy in the coming year and probably during his presidency. He has stated that he would follow Clinton's four criteria in making his decision. And there is no chance that any of these criteria (except possibly cost) can be met next year. While the technological basis of the system should improve with time, the system's inherent inability to provide an "effective" defense, as called for by Congress, against even a limited threat will also become more apparent. The perceived threat from "states of concern" will very likely diminish or even be eliminated by vigorous diplomacy, to which Gore is committed. There is little prospect that Russia will be persuaded to amend the ABM Treaty to permit a system it sees as a slippery slope that might threaten its security or that China will be convinced the system is not primarily directed at its minimum deterrent. While he would presumably continue research and development, it is hard to foresee developments that would persuade Gore to authorize actual deployment.

    If Bush is elected, a deployment decision next year will also be difficult, despite his enthusiasm for NMD, for the simple reason that there is nothing to deploy. As he has not even identified the nature of the system he has called for, a year will hardly be adequate to define the system's architecture and the additional research and development required. Bush and his advisers should be troubled when they discover that it will take more than a decade before his system can possibly be operational. He will also quickly learn that Russia will not amend the ABM Treaty to permit deployment and that the concerns of the NATO allies and China will not be easily assuaged. Bush should think long and hard about a deployment announcement that would seriously weaken U.S. security internationally and produce nothing but problems to show his domestic constituency in the next four or even eight years.

    After examining the issue from a position of responsibility during his first year, Bush and his advisers might at one extreme decide to follow the example of President Richard Nixon, who, after campaigning for a ballistic missile defense, negotiated the ABM Treaty. At the other extreme, Bush might follow the advice of some of his current advisers to move toward a world without arms control where the United States could pursue NMD. Or he might follow the example of President Ronald Reagan, who continued to advocate and throw money at his Strategic Defense Initiative but never authorized either deployment or withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.

    Without a clear mandate, whoever wins the presidency will have to choose his actions carefully to establish leadership and unify a deeply divided electorate. A highly controversial decision to deploy an NMD will not contribute to this objective. Clinton's decision has given the new president ample time to consider the problem objectively as part of the nuclear policy review both candidates have proposed. Above all, the future president must take a holistic view of U.S. security and not take unnecessary and provocative actions that would do far more harm than good in protecting U.S. security.

    By the time this is read, the United States should have a president-elect...

    Albright Visits North Korea; Progress Made on Missile Front

    November 2000

    By Alex Wagner

    Concluding an unprecedented visit to Pyongyang on October 24, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had apparently signaled a willingness to end testing of the Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile. Albright and Kim met for two days of discussions covering North Korea's missile program, nuclear transparency, normalization of relations, and a possible trip to Pyongyang by President Bill Clinton. Albright is the highest-level U.S. official ever to travel to North Korea and the first U.S. government representative to meet with Kim.

    During an October 24 press conference, Albright said she and Kim "discussed the full range of concerns on missiles," including North Korea's indigenous program, its exports to states like Pakistan and Iran, and Kim's reported proposal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease missile testing in exchange for foreign launch of North Korean satellites. (See ACT, September 2000.) The United States had cited North Korea's advances in missile technology as the primary rationale for a national missile defense and Pyongyang as the principal exporter of missiles to so-called states of concern.

    According to Albright, while attending a celebration of the 55th anniversary of North Korea's communist party, Kim said there would be no more tests of the Taepo Dong-1 missile. When an image of the missile flashed across the stadium, Kim "immediately" turned to her and "quipped that [the 1998 test of the Taepo Dong-1] was the first satellite launch and it would be the last." When asked whether the statement was "an unqualified pledge…not to test missiles," Albright said, "I take what he said on these issues as serious in terms of his desire and ours to move forward to resolve the various questions that continue to exist on the whole range of missile issues."

    Albright described her talks with Kim as "serious, constructive, and in-depth" and said that Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn will follow up on missile issues with the North Koreans November 1-3 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Since September 1999, North Korea has voluntarily foregone missile testing while talks with the United States proceed, a moratorium that Pyongyang reaffirmed after the United States eased economic sanctions in July. North Korea conducted its only test of the Taepo Dong-1 medium-range ballistic missile in August 1998 in an attempt to put a satellite into orbit. U.S. government officials maintain that the satellite launch was a failure and that the launch was intended to test missile guidance and booster capability.

    The groundwork for Albright's trip was laid during an October 9-12 visit to the United States of Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, North Korea's second-highest ranking military and civilian official. While in Washington, Jo met with Clinton, Albright, and Secretary of Defense William Cohen. When asked at an October 12 press briefing if Jo had discussed Kim's reported offer to Putin to stop missile launches in exchange for foreign satellite-launch assistance, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, policy coordinator for North Korea, said, "We believe, based on the discussions that we had, that there is validity to this idea."

    The Jo visit concluded with the release of an October 12 joint communiqué, which noted that resolution of the missile issue would "make an essential contribution to fundamentally improved relations" and reiterated the two countries' commitment to implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, which halted Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The statement was also the first announcement that Albright would visit North Korea in order to prepare for a possible visit by Clinton.

    Previously, North Korea had made sending a high-level envoy to the United States contingent upon being removed from the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism. However, in an apparent concession, North Korean delegates at a September 27-October 2 bilateral meeting in New York proposed that Jo visit the United States, according to Sherman.

    During periodic discussions since 1996, the United States has tried to persuade North Korea to end its ballistic missile exports and terminate its indigenous missile development program. The last round of missile talks ended in stalemate in July in Kuala Lumpur, when North Korea demanded $1 billion per year in compensation to make up for lost revenue from exports and reiterated its position that missile development was a sovereign right. (See ACT, September 2000.)

    Albright Visits North Korea; Progress Made on Missile Front

    U.S.-North Korea Missile, Terrorism Talks Resume; North Korea Admits to Exporting Rocket Technology

    Alex Wagner

    The United States and North Korea resumed missile negotiations in July and terrorism talks in August as legislation was introduced in Congress to reimpose sanctions on Pyongyang. Following the talks—neither of which made any breakthroughs—North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il reportedly said that his country has been exporting missiles abroad, underlining assertions made by U.S. intelligence.

    Kim's remarks were made during an August 13 luncheon with South Korean media executives at which he acknowledged that his country exports missiles to Iran and Syria in return for hard currency, according to South Korean press reports. A recent CIA report to Congress highlighted North Korea as the principal exporter of missile equipment and assistance to Syria and as one of the most active suppliers of ballistic missile-related goods, technology, and expertise to Iran.

    North Korean export activities were taken up July 10-12 by Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Robert Einhorn and Jang Chang Chon, head of North Korea's bureau on U.S. affairs. Their meeting, held in Kuala Lumpur, marked the fifth round of bilateral missile talks. At a July 12 press briefing, Einhorn said the meeting covered developments since the last round of talks in March 1999 and U.S. proposals to end North Korea's missile exports and indigenous capabilities. Einhorn specified that in return for addressing U.S. concerns, the United States is "prepared to move step by step to full economic normalization."

    Einhorn characterized the talks as "very useful" and said that he hopes to meet again with the North Koreans in the near future. However, on July 12, Jang "clarified" that North Korea would only continue the talks if the United States compensated Pyongyang "for the political and economic losses to be incurred in case we suspend our missile program." During the meeting, the United States had once again rejected North Korea's long-standing demand for $1 billion per year in return for the cessation of missile exports. "North Korea should not be receiving cash compensation for stopping what it shouldn't be doing in the first place," Einhorn said.

    Following the talks, on July 13, Chairman of the House International Relations Committee Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) introduced the North Korean Nonproliferation Act of 2000. The proposed legislation would require the president to reimpose sanctions on North Korea that were eased in June unless the president certifies that Pyongyang has not tested or proliferated missiles or missile technology. (See ACT, July/August 2000.)

    Despite the recent easing of sanctions, some sanctions remain in place, including those derived from North Korea's classification as a state sponsoring terrorism. The second round of bilateral talks designed to discuss steps that North Korea must take to shed this classification were held August 9-10 in Pyongyang after a break since March.

    Led by U.S. envoy for counterterrorism Ambassador Michael Sheehan and North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Gye Gwan, the talks were not able to reach a resolution. In return for removing North Korea from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, the United States wants North Korea to extradite members of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group and publicly condemn terrorism.

    During his August meeting with South Korean media executives, Kim Jong-Il reportedly said that removal from the terrorist list is a precondition for resuming diplomatic relations with Washington. If that occurs, Kim told the executives that he would be willing to immediately establish full diplomatic ties, according to the Korea Herald.


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