Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 31

The Russian Security Council convened a meeting last week to discuss weapons proliferation issues and ways in which the Russian government might improve its control over its export of sensitive military technologies. The session was reportedly attended by First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, who heads a government commission overseeing Russia’s military and technical cooperation with foreign countries, and by heads of relevant ministries and government departments. Among the topics at the meeting was a recent CIA report which singled out Russian and Chinese businesses and quasi-government agencies as posing a growing international proliferation threat. Several Russian government officials, including Maslyukov, vehemently denied the CIA allegations (see the Monitor, February 10-11).

Reports of the February 11 Security Council meeting suggested that Russian officials were, on this occasion, a little less categorical than usual in their denials. Security Council Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha, who is also head of the presidential administration, was said, for example, to have admitted that there are still “some blank spots” in Russia’s export control system. He reportedly identified the Duma’s failure to move forward on a bill dealing with arms export controls. Bordyuzha also said that export control efforts are complicated by what he described as the growing diversification of Russian trade, and by the fact that a number of firms are now “making independent forays into the world market.” Another Security Council official, Oleg Chernov, admitted that Russia still has much to do to halt the country’s “brain drain” (Russian agencies, February 11). This refers to the receptivity of poorly paid Russian defense specialists to offers from abroad.

Bordyuzha’s and Chernov’s concerns, not surprisingly, mirrored repeated Western ones. The participants of the February 11 meeting reportedly drew up proposals–aimed at “helping Russian defense industry exporters”–for President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to consider. What remains unclear is whether such proposals will have any impact on the Russian government’s ability–or inclination–to actually enforce export control regulations. U.S. officials have said many times that Russia’s regulatory structure in this area is sufficient. What appears to be lacking is any Kremlin commitment to enforce the regulations. This failure, particularly with regard to leaking missile and nuclear technologies to Iran, has become a major irritant in Russian-U.S. relations.