Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 96

Yeltsin’s remarks on May 17 were presumably a reference to a series of actions taken earlier this month by the Russian government aimed at increasing its control over exports of missile and other dual-use technologies. On May 5, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told reporters that Yeltsin had ordered the government to draft new measures with this goal in mind, both to “preclude the possibility of Russia’s national wealth being squandered” and to contribute to “international security.” (Itar-Tass, AP, May 5) A day later, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Nikolai Kovalev, pledged to intensify the agency’s efforts to ensure the nonproliferation of missile technologies. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev chimed in two days after that when he released a statement saying that Moscow realized the dangers involved in violating international nonproliferation regimes. (Russian agencies, May 6, 8)

A week later, on the eve of Yeltsin’s departure for the Group of Eight summit in Birmingham, Yastrzhembsky announced the implementation of a Russian government decree tightening federal controls over the export of missile and nuclear technologies. Among other things, supervisory bodies are to be established at all enterprises dealing with those technologies, Yastrzhembsky said. In addition, the Russian Space Agency will apparently play a greater role in overseeing exports of missile technologies and new licensing requirements will be implemented with the same goal in mind. Yastrzhembsky said that these various actions are both consistent with Russia’s national security interests and were envisioned in a national security concept paper approved by Yeltsin last December. (Itar-Tass, AP, May 14. For background on the national security concept, see the Monitor, January 5-6)

These developments come amid threats by U.S. lawmakers to level sanctions against Russian companies believed to be involved in the Iranian missile development effort. They also follow numerous talks between top U.S. and Russian officials–including consultations earlier this month during a visit to Moscow by U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger–at which Iranian-Russian missile cooperation was discussed. What remains unclear is whether the Russian government is truly able–and willing–to stop illicit military exports to countries such as Iran. Some in Washington will undoubtedly be concerned that the latest statements out of Moscow are just that, and that the Russian government will continue to avoid real actions that might back up its many pledges in this area.