Patient in Coma?
№3 2003 July/September
Vladimir Orlov

Vladimir Orlov is the founder and now Special Advisor at the PIR Center (Russian Center for Policy Studies); Director of the Center for Global Trends and International Organizations at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. He participated in the NPT Review Conferences of 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015.

Vladimir Orlov, Doctor of Science (Politics), is the
Director of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia (PIR

Vladimir Orlov

In early June 2003, the leaders of the G-8 gathered in Evian,
France and signed a declaration which stated: “We recognize that
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their
means of delivery poses a growing danger to us all. Together with
the spread of international terrorism, it is the pre-eminent threat
to international security.”1
Three weeks later, President Vladimir Putin, speaking in an
interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, set down the
priorities in a much more direct manner: “Proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction,” he said, “is the main threat of the 21st

Identical or very similar conclusions are predominant in
Russia’s policy documents: the Foreign Policy Concept, the National
Security Concept, and the Military Doctrine, all of which were
adopted back in 2000; so essentially, there is nothing really new
to the 2003 non-proliferation priority. What is innovative about
the new discussions is that they are bringing into the political
foreground various issues and doubts which had remained off the
agenda. Actually, they can be reduced to one big question: Is the
non-proliferation regime viable in its present state, or will it be
necessary to use heavy machinery to push the question forward?


The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),
which came into force in 1970, is intended to act as the main
barrier against the proliferation threat. This treaty is quite
unique, considering the number of parties who belong to it.3 Other treaties include the Convention
on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (1993), the Biological
Weapons Convention (1974), and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty (concluded in 1996 but not yet in force). Antarctica, the
South Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Southeast
Asia are declared nuclear weapon-free zones. The International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), established almost 50 years ago, plays
a leading role amongst the international organizations who are now
combating nuclear proliferation. Finally, the UN Security Council
has the power to impose sanctions against countries violating the
non-proliferation regime. This is what the ‘non-proliferation
architecture’ looks like, at least on paper. And how do things
actually stand?

The term “international treaty” is no longer very popular in
some capitals. Instead, they propose using alternative methods,
such as an ozirak policy. This means preventive attacks against
countries suspected of proliferating WMD. This is what Israel did
in 1981 when it bombed Iraq’s Tammuz I nuclear reactor in the city
of Ozirak. This is the type of action the U.S. took in 1998 when it
launched a missile attack against a facility in Sudan, which was
suspected of being related to Osama bin Laden’s military biological

The reality, however, is disappointing for these “exposers of
regimes” and contradicts their statements that agreements no longer

Today, there are “eight and a half” countries possessing nuclear
weapons. These are the five nuclear states recognized as such by
the NPT (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and
China); another three states having nuclear weapons but refraining
from joining the NPT (India and Pakistan, which have held
successful nuclear tests, and Israel whose nuclear arsenal is
comparable, according to some estimates, with that of Britain or
France4); the remaining “half” is
North Korea. This country has come so close to developing nuclear
weapons of its own that before the ink has dried on this article it
may be necessary to change “eight and a half” for “nine.” Yet, the
information presently available suggests that it is still too early
to classify North Korea as a de facto nuclear state.5

Is this number too few or too many? From the point of view of
general and complete nuclear disarmament (this goal is set in
Article VI of the NPT) this number is too high. The NPT is aimed at
gradually reducing the number of countries possessing nuclear
weapons, not to mention reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear
weapons altogether. But if we take a realistic view on how things
stand, we would have to admit that the number of nuclear-weapon
states might actually be as high as several dozen.

According to the Pentagon’s 1963 estimates recently
declassified, over ten countries could develop nuclear weapons –
together with the means for delivering them – within less than ten
years. But “for some reasons” Australia, Argentina, Brazil,
Romania, Sweden and Switzerland have terminated their military
nuclear programs.6 South Africa
voluntarily gave up the nuclear weapons it had developed. Belarus,
Kazakhstan and Ukraine agreed to return all nuclear weapons from
their territories to Russia following the collapse of the Soviet
Union. Over the last decade, more countries have joined the NPT,
among them France, China, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba.

The NPT has not always been the reason why countries gave up
their nuclear ambitions. Yet it was the NPT that kept states from
making a political decision on the development of nuclear weapons
of their own; such a decision would have undermined the existing
non-proliferation regime, thus provoking a dangerous chain reaction
in various regions of the world. The NPT has established the rules
of the game, made clear the advantages of maintaining a non-nuclear
status, while ensuring the strict interdependence of the
participating states.

In another area of concern, it would require more than one hand
to count the number of states now possessing other types of WMD,
most notably, chemical and biological weapons. These weapons,
especially chemical ones, are easier and cheaper to make; they can
be reasonably described as the A-bomb for the poor. Whereas the
Chemical Weapons Convention provides for verification mechanisms
for the participating states, the Biological Weapons Convention is
void of such a mechanism, and the work on a protocol for this
mechanism has stalled.

The number of countries possessing missile weapons has been
growing at the fastest rate. This is due to the so-called secondary
proliferation when, for example, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran
established mutual ties. International agreements do not prohibit
the development of delivery vehicles. Furthermore, the “gentleman’s
agreements” between major producers of missile equipment and
technologies, known as the Missile Technology Control Regime, can
slow down, but not prevent, the development of missile programs in
countries with such ambitions.

Yet the most important goal of checking the proliferation of
nuclear weapons has been successful to date.


The war waged by the U.S. and Britain against Iraq this spring
has played a nasty trick on the global non-proliferation
architecture, which can produce a real drama when it wants to.

On the one hand, the acronym WMD is now widely disseminated in
the mass media, and the long and cumbersome word
“non-proliferation,” thanks to ubiquitous television coverage of
Iraq, has become something of a commonplace in every household. Now
every housewife must be concerned about, or at least know of, such
an acute problem as WMD proliferation.

On the other hand, the concept of “proliferation” is closely
associated in the mass consciousness with Saddam Hussein. But there
is a hitch: after Saddam’s overthrow and the U.S.-British
occupation of Iraq, WMD arsenals have never been found in that
country.7 Playing host to British
Prime Minister Tony Blair in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin asked
him jokingly where he thought Saddam had hidden his deadly
arsenals. Putin’s irony during the Russian-British dialog reflected
the sentiments of the average man in the street – not only in
Russia but, to an even greater extent, throughout Europe: the
Americans and the British are trying to catch a black cat in a dark
room, even if there is no cat present.

Obviously, the war in Iraq did not commence because of
“proliferation” (why it was started is not the subject of this
article); nevertheless, the ongoing struggle against the
proliferation of WMD was chosen as a convenient pretext for the

According to official U.S. and British estimates of Iraq’s WMD
program prior to the war, Baghdad already possessed, or might soon
possess, nuclear weapons. It was alleged that Iraq made attempts to
import uranium and centrifugal equipment for its enrichment; Iraq
had restored facilities that formerly had been used for its
military nuclear program; Iraq’s biological military program was
even more impressive than it had been on the eve of the 1991 Gulf
war (at that time, Baghdad had all of the components required for
the production of thousands of liters of anthrax, as well as other
kinds of biological weapons. These would be capable of killing
millions of people). Iraq had at least seven mobile plants for the
production of bio-weapons. Finally, Iraq had produced 100 to 500
tons of chemical weapons and had 30,000 munitions for the delivery
of chemical and biological agents.8

The reality was much more modest.

Investigations carried out by U.S. and British
legislators9 have revealed that
most of the provided information was either based on unverified and
inadequate information, or was an exaggeration or distortion of the
real state of affairs. It is possible that this was carried out in
order to meet short-term political needs, or simply to conform to
the pressure of the political leadership. It is true that during
the 1980s, Iraq was actively working on its nuclear arms program,
possessed chemical and biological weapons (and used chemical
weapons in the war against Iran – with Washington’s and Moscow’s
tacit acquiescence), and worked to improve missile delivery
vehicles. However, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and the
subsequent IAEA and UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission on
Iraq) inspections, put an end to those efforts. Iraq’s military
nuclear program was dismantled, and during the 1990s and the early
2000s the country made no evident attempts to reanimate it.

At the same time, however, Saddam displayed an interest in the
development of delivery vehicles with a range of over 150
kilometers; these would be in contravention of UN sanctions. Iraqi
emissaries, often disguised as Jordanian businessmen, traveled
across Europe, paying particularly frequent visits to Kiev, Moscow
and Bucharest, in the hope of improving the range and performance
of their missiles and guidance systems.10 However, their efforts failed to
produce the desired results, despite the fact that export controls
in some countries were not always up to the standards they should
have been.

 It is much more difficult to control the development of
chemical and biological weapons. It would not be very surprising if
traces of chemical weapons, or proof that they were destroyed
shortly before the war, were found in Iraq. Apparently, Iraq
continued to conduct research in the field of biological weapons;
Iraqi scientists who are now being interrogated by the American
forces may reveal this.

Saddam Hussein could hardly be portrayed as a man who was not
interested in possessing WMD; such a claim would be contrary to the
truth. Yet it would also be contrary to the truth to suggest that
Saddam’s WMD arsenals threatened the world and, consequently, that
the war was justifiable. If one follows this line of logic, it
would seem necessary to deliver pre-emptive strikes against several
dozen countries: those that have developed WMD of their own and
remain outside international agreements (e.g. Israel); those
participating in international agreements but capable of developing
WMD within a short period of time (e.g. Japan); and those working
to accelerate their missile programs (e.g. Taiwan). Of course,
there is no logic here. Why should one attack, for example, Japan?
This sounds absurd. What really is behind the rhetoric is simply
politics “adjusting” the facts so that they “fit” with the already
chosen “direction of attack.” At least we should be grateful to
President Bush Jr. for having outlined this “direction” with
outmost frankness: Iraq – Iran – North Korea. In the White House’s
broader interpretation, new targets will also include Cuba, Syria
and Sudan, which seem to have become the latest members in the
“axis of evil.”

Legislators in Washington and London are now seeking to uncover
whether the information about the presence of WMD in Iraq was
“ordered” by Bush and Blair from their secret services. Interesting
facts are now becoming public: the authors of the intelligence
reports on Iraq were apparently pressed to present fragmentary and
unchecked information as sinister facts. It has turned out that
such juggling of the facts was employed not only with respect to
the “Iraq file.” A U.S. Department of State expert, for example,
said he felt pressure from higher-placed officials to
“substantiate” statements about Cuba’s belonging to the “axis of
evil” with a report saying that Havana had a biological weapons
program. The expert argued that those assertions were not supported
by sufficient intelligence.11

Non-proliferation has proved to be a very effective word, which,
repeated as a mantra, helps to solve one’s own problems having no
relation to the issue of non-proliferation.

As a result of the Iraqi operation, the word “non-proliferation”
has become hackneyed, while the traditional mechanisms for
preventing the proliferation of WMD are being ignored – not because
they are inefficient but because they can lay bare the
substitution; the established non-proliferation architecture is
being deliberately jeopardized.

It takes very little effort to cry “Wolves!” and point fingers
at Iraq or Cuba, but this will do absolutely nothing to reduce the
threat of WMD proliferation. Moreover, these shouts can reduce the
international community’s ability to perceive the real threats, as
well as its readiness to react to them.

Iraq became a litmus test for the international community, above
all for the UN Security Council. The United States and Britain
barred the Security Council from the decision-making process on

The former head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, was ridiculed by the
U.S. administration. However, the inspections conducted by the IAEA
and UNMOVIC in Iraq during the prewar months should be considered a
success of the international community. The inspections, held in
compliance with Security Council Resolution 1441, proved an
effective mechanism for investigating Iraq’s alleged WMD programs,
while preventing their further development.

The U.S. military solution of the Iraq problem, which was never
approved by the Security Council, has undermined the entire
non-proliferation regime. This may prompt some non-nuclear parties
to the NPT to revise their nuclear-weapon policies in the near

The military example displayed in Iraq has sent the wrong
message to other countries in the Middle East and beyond: if you do
not lose time, if you keep your doors closed to international
inspectors and obtain nuclear weapons as soon as possible, you can
guard yourself against a pre-emptive military attack, and engage in
bargaining with the Americans instead. Having attacked Iraq under
the non-proliferation slogan, the U.S. has not intimidated other
countries about possessing WMD of their own but, on the contrary,
prompted them to take moves in exactly that direction. Syria, for
example, may see it as an advantage to have chemical and biological
weapon arsenals; furthermore, it may now be considering ways of
obtaining nuclear weapons, which it has never planned before. Saudi
Arabia, instead of spending money and resources for developing its
own nuclear weapons, may consider simply obtaining them, together
with experts, from Pakistan.

Such scenarios have prompted some American military to consider
the deployment of nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia as a guarantee of
Riyadh’s security, as well as a counterbalance to Saudi Arabia’s
possible plans to obtain nuclear weapons of its own. While very few
in Washington share this idea, its proponents cite the example of
South Korea where U.S. tactical nuclear weapons ensured Seoul’s
security interests and, at the same time, restrained its own
nuclear ambitions.

Speaking of East Asia, it must be noted that a chain reaction in
that region may be initiated at an even faster pace than in the
Middle East.


North Korea is a classic example of non-observance of the NPT
obligations. The decision of the IAEA Board of Governors to
delegate the North Korean issue to the UN Security Council was
timely and correct. Regrettably, Russia abstained during the vote.
At the same time, Russia put its signature under the G-8’s Evian
declaration which issued a harsh warning to North Korea: “North
Korea’s uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs and
its failure to comply with its IAEA safeguards agreement undermine
the non-proliferation regime and are a clear breach of North
Korea’s international obligations. We strongly urge North Korea to
visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons
programs, a fundamental step to facilitate a comprehensive and
peaceful solution.”12

Considering North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities,
together with the veil of secrecy over its regime and its
unpredictability, one should admit that this country is a serious
instability factor both for Northeast Asia and the world. However,
a diplomatic solution to the North Korean problem seems quite
possible. It could be found on a multilateral basis, perhaps at two
levels at once.

The UN Security Council could be the first level. The first
action against Pyongyang should not be immediate sanctions, but a
warning that such sanctions could be applied in the future. The
only obstacle to the Security Council’s active and firm position
toward North Korea is China; it continues to maintain a
traditionally soft, possibly even an encouraging position with
regard to Pyongyang. If China continues to pursue such a policy it
may become counterproductive.

The second level is a six-sided mechanism (including both
Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia) which would help draw up
a document, even non-binding, that would include two major
provisions: first, North Korea’s pledge not to withdraw from the
NPT and to open all of its territory for unconditional IAEA
inspections; and second, U.S. security guarantees for North Korea.
These two provisions would have to be presented together in a
single package.

Other issues that could be discussed include economic, energy
and other aid packages to Pyongyang from the above countries and
the EU, as well as the issue of missile non-proliferation.
Simultaneously, or perhaps later, both Koreas must confirm the
Korean Peninsula’s nuclear-free status and receive guarantees from
the nuclear powers.

Russia can take an active part in the decision-making process on
the North Korean crisis if, of course, its efforts are supported by
the United States, China and Japan. If such an agreement is
reached, Russia could also participate in the provision of energy
aid to North Korea. Russia has already proposed building a nuclear
power plant in its Far East, not far from the North Korean border,
and exporting electricity to the northern state. However, this
proposal has not been supported.

The Bush administration has finally welcomed Russia’s
participation in the talks. However many in Washington hold to
their belief that Moscow exaggerates its knowledge of what is
actually occurring in North Korea, together with its influence on
Pyongyang, whereas Beijing, it is argued, has real levers of
influence on Kim Jong Il. Therefore, the problem seems to be how to
make China cooperate with the U.S. on the North Korean issue. To
this end, Washington has apparently decided to play its “Japanese

In the last few months, Tokyo has been discussing, more and more
often, the possibility of, and even the need for, a revision of
Japan’s nuclear-free status.13
If Tokyo makes a political decision to develop its own nuclear
weapons, it will only require a number of months to resolve the
technological hurdles.14 Experts
maintain that Japan, together with North Korea and Iran, has come
the closest to acquiring nuclear weapons. But as distinct from
North Korea, which has apparently made a political decision about
its intentions, and Iran, which most likely has not, Japan has
definitely not made such a decision. It should not be forgotten
that Japan is the world’s only country that was a target of nuclear
attacks, and anti-nuclear sentiments are strong and stable there.
Therefore, it seems likely that rumors about Japan’s nuclear
ambitions are overexaggerated and intended only to make Beijing pay
more attention and become more complaisant. It seems likely that
there are similar intentions for the rumors concerning Taiwan’s
military nuclear program.

However, even the most wonderful scenarios often fail, or
produce unwanted side effects. Discussions surrounding the
“admissibility” of Japan developing its own nuclear weapons in
response to the threat from Pyongyang may not help solve the
problem but, on the contrary, may open up a Pandora’s Box: North
Korea, Japan, Taiwan… These may be followed by South Korea’s
reanimation of its military nuclear program, which was halted in
the 1970s owing to U.S. efforts. The risk of a chain reaction in
this sensitive area is simply too great.

The next few months will be decisive for the international
community in working out its position toward North Korea and its
military nuclear program, whether or not these efforts are real or
half-hearted. Arriving at some sort of settlement in North Korea is
first and foremost a job for the diplomats. Neither the U.S. nor
any other country is planning military actions against Pyongyang.
But apparently keeping Pyongyang in mind, the G-8 leaders proposed
a set of mechanisms for countering proliferation: “international
treaty regimes; inspection mechanisms; … international cooperation
and diplomatic efforts; and if necessary other measures in
accordance with international law… [italics added]. We need to
deploy the tools which are most effective in each case.”15

These words, it is widely believed, are intended not only for
North Korea but also Iran. Personally, I do not believe this to be
the case because the situation with Iran is much different from the
situation with North Korea.


Iran is a party to the NPT and an active member of the IAEA.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s report of June 6,
2003,16 can be interpreted in
different ways. Two things seem indisputable: first, Iran’s nuclear
program is more advanced than was earlier thought. Second, all of
the violations of its obligations within the IAEA framework,
mentioned in the report, were technical violations. On the whole,
Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, which was confirmed by the IAEA
director general’s visit to that country in July. Finally, there is
no definite proof that Iran has developed or is developing nuclear
weapons; and if we go by U.S. information on the issue, considering
its miscalculations in Iraq, the reports are certainly exaggerated.
This is why there are no grounds, nor pretexts, for using force
against Iran. Also, there have been no reports concerning any
practical plans for such a course of action (although, of course,
general calculations for such a scenario have been done, just as in

The situation concerning Iran and the question of
non-proliferation boils down to the ability for making a correct
forecast for the next three to seven years. During this period,
Iran will probably be able to transfer its ambitious civilian
nuclear power program to military purposes, if its leadership
decides to take such a political decision. This probability must
not be allowed: if Iran possesses nuclear weapons, together with
modern delivery vehicles, it would constitute a threat to Russia’s
national security and international stability.

Few question the idea that Iran has a military nuclear program.
In 1993, Russia’s foreign intelligence reported that Iran “has a
program for military applied research in the nuclear field.” The
report went on and stated, however, that without outside
technological and research assistance the appearance of nuclear
weapons in Iran before 2001 was unlikely; and even if Iran invested
some 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in its nuclear program every year, it
would be able to develop nuclear weapons not earlier than

My colleagues at the PIR Center, having assessed all of the new
information concerning Iran’s advanced nuclear program received in
the last few months, have arrived at the following conclusion:
factors that may have caused Iran to accelerate its nuclear program
include its wish to “obtain technical capabilities for developing
nuclear weapons. In this case, Iran can go very far, while
remaining within the frameworks of its international commitments…
According to such a scenario, Teheran can receive technical and
material capabilities for developing nuclear weapons within months,
as soon as it accumulates weapon-grade nuclear materials in the
required amount. A political decision to use resources of nuclear
materials for developing nuclear weapons can be made if
Iranian-U.S. relations become aggravated and the U.S. starts
preparing an operation to overthrow the incumbent regime in Iran,
or if the U.S. or Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities…”18

Interestingly, despite the frequent lack of coordination between
the government agencies now controlling the defense industry, and
despite the lack of necessary funding, Iran has been displaying an
impressive ability for independently achieving its goals. In the
first half of the 1990s, Russia declined Teheran’s request for
building a uranium enrichment plant in Iran. Nevertheless, Iran has
managed to build such a plant on its own, without Russian
assistance, and much faster than one could have expected.

But there is still no reason for categorically stating, as some
analysts now do, that Iran will decide in favor of nuclear weapons.
Nothing is predetermined in Teheran at the present time, and there
is still time for working out a system of measures for reducing the
risk of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. The most important thing is
to reduce or liquidate those incentives that are motivating Iran to
possess WMD. Paradoxically, the U.S. operation against Iraq has
already liquidated one such incentive, since the primary enemy of
the Iranian military strategists was not Israel or the U.S. but
Saddam’s Iraq.

Now the question arises: does Teheran deliberately maintain
uncertainty about its plans (the way its sworn enemy Israel has
done, thus keeping its nuclear policy under a shroud of complete
secrecy) in order to broaden its room for further bargaining? Or do
the Iranians themselves not know what they should do next? The
latter thesis seems more probable. In the continuing tug-of-war
between the groups of Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali
Hoseini-Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami, and ex-president
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s elites seem to be divided over the
question concerning the direction of their civilian nuclear
program, and how it should be developed; with whom and how they
should bargain (and whether they should bargain at all) over a
possibility of Iran’s giving up its nuclear weapons ambitions? And
most importantly, what should they demand in return for their

Judging by Teheran’s rhetoric, its main concern is the presence
of nuclear weapons in Israel. Double standards in the U.S. Middle
East policy are particularly manifest on the issue of Israel’s
nuclear weapons. Whereas Washington includes Iran in the list of
countries belonging to the “axis of evil” merely for its intentions
(never proved, though), Israel’s nuclear arsenal is accepted as a
reasonable matter of course. True, such double standards damage
both the settlement process in the Middle East and adjacent
regions, as well as the non-proliferation principles. And still,
would Iran be ready for the mutual suspension of all nuclear fuel
facilities in the region? (This refers to only two nuclear sites:
at Israel’s Dimona and Iran’s Natanz.) I am not sure Teheran would
find this proposal very tempting or practical.

The Iranian leadership obviously includes groups that hope for a
strategic rapprochement with the U.S. Washington displays less
interest in such a scenario, yet some policymakers there seem
interested. Both countries are now holding the most rigid positions
so that they could later reduce the stakes, while leaving much room
for bargaining and, ultimately, for a compromise. Teheran does not
have a unified U.S. policy, nor does Washington have a unified Iran
policy. This factor reduces the possibility for bargaining but does
not rule it out. In this case, pro-U.S. forces in the Iranian
leadership will hardly consider cooperation with Russia. On the
contrary, Iran will possibly avenge itself on Russia for its
inconsistency (real or imaginary) on the various issues of nuclear
cooperation, for the delay in the construction of the Bushehr
nuclear power plant and the withdrawal from other contracts.

Presently, there are signs that the prevailing view in Teheran
is that Iran will benefit from a long-term strategic partnership
with Russia. Similarly, Russia will benefit from such a
partnership, too, above all for geopolitical reasons and only then
for economic ones.

My own impressions gained during a recent trip to Iran made me
conclude that, despite a sharp rivalry inside its leadership, the
prevailing wisdom seeks to play by the international rules. These
same forces are actively working toward eliminating any possibility
for the emergence of nuclear weapons in Iran. They want Iran to
remain an important party to the NPT and the IAEA. At the same
time, these forces are very ambitious in other realms. They would
like to see Iran quickly develop itself technologically; this would
include the civilian nuclear power sector. The “progressists” hope
that the development of this and other high-tech sectors will
proceed together with their efforts to introduce more democracy
into their country.

In a situation like this, Russia has much room for pursuing its
foreign policy. Moscow is interested in a stable and
technologically developed Iran that desires a stable level of
cooperation with Russia. It wants Iran to be free of nuclear
weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction, and not to be a
haven for international terrorists. Finally, Russia is interested
in a comprehensive settlement of the entire Mideast situation.

This is why Russia should not suspend or freeze its cooperation
with Iran in the field of nuclear power engineering – both in the
construction of the first reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power
plant and in the possible construction of other (up to six)
reactors in that country – at least until Russia has direct proof
that Iran is developing nuclear weapons of its own. When President
Putin spoke in Britain about the “proximity” of the Western and
Russian positions with regard to Iran (this “proximity,” he said,
is much greater “than it seems”), he stressed that the
non-proliferation campaign must not become a loophole for unfair
competition on the global markets. France, which occupies a similar
position on Iran’s nuclear program, is also ready to compete for
Iran’s nuclear markets.

Other types of cooperation with Iran in the field of nuclear
energy (namely, the training of specialists, and the introduction
of other possible projects and supplies) should be made dependent
on Iran signing and ratifying the IAEA’s Additional Protocol. If
Iran is not planning to develop nuclear weapons of its own, joining
the protocol will not be an insurmountable problem (even though it
may bring about some discomfort in its internal political
environment). It can be expected that the European Union, above all
Germany, will exert serious pressure on Iran concerning this issue.
Russia should abide by the position earlier expressed by Nuclear
Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev on the return of spent fuel
from the Bushehr nuclear power plant to Russia.19 Until Iran signs the Additional
Protocol, Russia will not supply it with fresh fuel. It would also
be wise to reduce the amount of time that the fuel is stored in the
power plant’s cooling ponds. Efforts in this direction are already
being made, but they should be stepped up.


Russia is interested in a nuclear weapon-free Iran not because
the U.S. and Israel are pressing it. This is an independent and
intelligible position based solely on Russia’s national security

In the second half of the 1990s, when the “Iranian issue” was a
constant irritant during the Russian-U.S. negotiations, Russia
often took a defensive position, trying to prove its

This is understandable considering how many times during
President Boris Yeltsin’s rule the decision-making mechanism often
failed, producing astounding results. For example, the head of a
government committee attempted to carry to Syria various components
used in the production of chemical weapons (for which he was
removed from office in 1994); in Teheran, a Russian minister signed
a protocol of intent for the export of several items that were
banned for export by Russian laws (for which he was almost
dismissed in 1995); another minister helped a research institute –
which he patronized – conclude with Iran a contract which was
dubious from the viewpoint of Russia’s export control laws (for
which the General Prosecutor’s Office initiated criminal
proceedings for illegal export).

One can site more examples of this kind, but the above is enough
to understand how the chaos in the Russian economy in the 1990s
weakened Russia’s position for serious negotiations. It made
Russian negotiators feel like students who were excusing themselves
to their teachers for not finishing their homework assignments.
Occasionally, Russia made attempts to press a particular issue:
during the FBI director’s visit to Moscow, he was informed that
U.S. companies were illegally supplying missile equipment to
Iran,20 or, in May 2002, in a
conversation with Bush, Putin expressed Russia’s concern over
Washington’s missile cooperation with Taiwan.21 However, those attempts had been
rather poorly prepared and did not produce any long-term

It took Russia many years to establish order within its economy,
and create effective systems of export control at the national
level, as well as in hundreds of enterprises across the country;
this is very critical from the point of view of non-proliferation.
Now that the export regime has been brought under control, and
Russia has established priorities in its foreign policy, it is time
for it to pursue a more active policy on the non-proliferation of
WMD and their delivery means. Russia should take the initiative and
develop a package of proposals and subjects for discussion for its
upcoming negotiations with the U.S. and the G-8. Jointly with the
U.S., it should assess potential international threats to security.
Finally, it must be determined how safe are the nuclear weapons and
nuclear materials possessed by Pakistan; this is one of the most
vulnerable spots in the world as far as non-proliferation is

Russia should also discuss the promise forwarded by the
Americans, although unofficially, following the NPT’s indefinite
extension in 1995, to persuade Israel to join the NPT in several
intermediary stages. A definite answer should be provided
concerning the future of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Russia is vitally interested in this document, which is now hanging
in mid-air, although not through any fault of Russia.

There are other serious issues which must be explored: ways need
to be introduced for deblocking the current impasse in the
Conference on Disarmament, for beginning work on a Convention on
the Ban on the Production of Fissionable Materials, and finally, to
prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons in outer space. In sharp
contrast with the NPT and the decisions of the 2000 NPT Review
Conference, the United States has announced plans to explore the
development of low-yield nuclear weapons. This problem is no less
serious than Iran’s nuclear future. Or does it not concern

Of course, Russia should not conduct the bilateral dialog with
the U.S., the multilateral dialog within the G-8 framework, and
discussions at the UN Security Council as ping-pong with the
Americans. In the long run, Russian and U.S. views on
non-proliferation still unite rather than disunite the two
countries. Both states describe proliferation as the main threat to
their national security. Bilateral exchanges of information and a
joint assessment of the perceived threats are critically

However, no matter how important the ongoing dialogs with the
U.S. are, Russia should not forget about the importance of
multilateral diplomacy and multilateral mechanisms and institutions
– a resource that has not been tapped to its full potential in
recent years. The IAEA and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
could play a more active and constructive role in reducing the
risks of proliferation. Skepticism about their excessive
bureaucratization and sluggishness is partially justified.
Nevertheless, events in Iraq have graphically demonstrated that it
is international institutions that can become an alternative center
for decision-making, which would greatly reduce the need for using
military force for solving international crises. U.S.
administrations come and go, and their priorities will change, but
international institutions will always be with us.22


Non-proliferation priorities will remain with us as well. “North
Korea and non-proliferation” is not a new subject. In the early
1980s, Soviet and U.S. negotiators put aside other problems that
complicated their relations and jointly discussed Pyongyang’s
nuclear plans, while jointly studying satellite images of North
Korean nuclear sites.

The Iranian issue dates back even further, to the Shah’s nuclear
program of the 1970s, which the Americans both encouraged and
feared. It is easy to get the impression that Iran is presently
patterning its nuclear program after that particular program.

“Non-proliferation and disarmament” has been a subject of
constant discussion since the NPT conclusion in 1968. There have
been many impasses in the NPT history, which ultimately were broken
through negotiations.

Actually, there is only one new subject on the present agenda:
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and non-state actors –
international terrorist organizations and transnational criminal
groups seeking to obtain WMD through the cooperation of other
states or directly. Countries must focus their attention on this
new growing threat and it must be made a subject of special

In 1995, shortly after the NPT was extended for an indefinite
time, one of my colleagues at an international seminar in Monterey,
California described the situation in the following graphical way:
“The operation has been a success, the patient is alive but is now
being given resuscitation.”

In 2003, the patient is again being given resuscitation (if, of
course, he has ever left the emergency room). Does the patient
require another operation? I don’t think so. What the patient does
need is a timely and regular intake of the earlier prescribed
medicines. This may sound dull: no emotional sensations or the
revolutionary destruction of the established regime. But one should
not forget: observance of the established therapy can be more
difficult than surgery.

Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction – A G-8
Declaration. Evian, June 1-3, 2003, p. 1.

2 BBC Breakfast with
Frost Interview with President Putin. Broadcast on June 22,

3 India, Israel and Pakistan are not parties
to the NPT. North Korea has withdrawn from the NPT.

4 See: Vladimir Malevanny. Israel’s
Intelligence Community. Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, May
15-22, 1998, p. 7. Unlike the author of this article, I hold that
Israel tends to exaggerate rather than play down the size of its
military nuclear program.

5 Among recent publications on North Korea, I
would like to single out a detailed analysis in the report by G.
Bulychev, A. Vorontsov, V. Novikov. What the Crux of the Choice on
the Korean Issue Is. Ways to Overcome the Crisis on the Korean
Peninsula. Moscow, 2003. The status of North Korea’s military
nuclear program is analyzed also in: D. Yevstafyev. The Nuclear
Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: Possible Scenarios. Yaderny
Kontrol, No. 2 (68), Summer 2003, pp. 131-138; D. Yevstafyev.
Regional Peculiarities of the International Non-Proliferation
Regime. In: Yadernoye Nerasprostraneniye. Moscow, PIR-Center, 2002,
Vol. 1, pp. 196-199; Joseph Cirincione et al. Deadly Arsenals:
Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction. Carnegie Endowment, 2002, pp.

6 R.M. Timerbayev. Russia and Nuclear
Non-Proliferation. Moscow: Nauka, 1999, p. 172, pp.

7 Joseph Cirincione. Can Preventive War Cure
Proliferation? Proliferation Brief, Volume 6, No. 12.


8 Ibid.; Iraq’s
Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Assessment of the British
Government. September 2002.
www.pm.gov.uk. The International
Institute for Strategic Studies was much more flexible: its
conclusions can be interpreted as both proving the presence of WMD
in Iraq and supporting later conclusions by UNMOVIC, which the
author finds grounded: Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. A Net
Assessment. An IISS Strategic Dossier, September 9, 2002.

9 See: James Risen and
Douglas Jehl. Expert Said to Tell Legislators He Was Pressed to
Distort Some Evidence. New York Times, June 25, 2003

10 See: Vladimir Orlov, William C. Potter.
The Mystery Of The Sunken Gyros. The Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, November/December 1998; Vladimir Orlov. Iraq: Hunt for
Russian Missile Components and Technologies (1993-1995). In: Export
Control in Russia: Politics and Practices. Moscow, PIR-Center,
2000, pp. 143-156.

11 James Risen and Douglas Jehl. Expert Said
to Tell Legislators He Was Pressed to Distort Some Evidence. New
York Times, June 25, 2003.

12 Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass
Destruction – A G-8 Declaration. Evian, June 1-3, 2003, p.

13 It does not seem accidental that the Asahi
newspaper on February 20, 2003, published a classified report by
Japan’s Defense Agency. According to the newspaper, the agency,
together with the armed forces’ command, on instructions of the
Japanese government in 1995, discussed the expediency of the
development by Japan of nuclear weapons of its own to counter North
Korea’s nuclear potential.

14 See: The Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Problems of Extension. Report by the Foreign Intelligence Service
of Russia, 1995, pp. 68-70; Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Vol. 1, p.

15 Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass
Destruction – A G-8 Declaration. Evian, June 1-3, 2003, p.

16 IAEA Board of Governors. Implementation of
the NPT Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Report by the
Director General. GOV/2003/40 June 6, 2003.

17 New Post-Cold War Challenge: Proliferation
of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Foreign Intelligence Service of
Russia, Moscow, 1993.

18 V.F. Lata, A.V. Khlopkov. Iran:
Nuclear-Missile Riddle for Russia. Yaderny Kontrol, No. 2 (68),
2003, p. 45.

19 Ibid., p. 52

20 M. Kirillin. Several U.S. Missile
Companies Have Ties with Iranians. Yaderny Kontrol, No. 2 (68),
1998, pp. 37-43.

21 See: Noviye Izvestia, May 25, 2002, p.

22 If we take, for example, the position of
the New Agenda Coalition, an informal association of Sweden, Egypt,
New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil and other countries, it rather
coincides with Russia’s position than runs counter to it. If Russia
enters into an active dialog with these countries, they may become
its serious partners in resolving long-term national security
issues. Also, Russia should pay close attention to the recent
Geneva  ‘five ambassadors’ initiative (Chile, Algeria, etc.)
to end the stalemate in the work of the Conference on Disarmament.
In general Russia has officially expressed support of the
initiative, with amendments approved in June 2003.

23 For details see: Superterrorism: New
Challenge of the New Century. A.V. Fyodorov (Ed.), Moscow: Prava
Cheloveka, 2002, pp. 60-79; Vladimir Orlov. Gray Zones: This Is
Where the Threat to the Non-Proliferation Regime Comes From.
Yaderny Kontrol, No. 4, Vol. 7, Fall 2002, pp. 4-8.