Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 92

Moscow yesterday added its voice to the storm of international criticism directed at India for its three underground nuclear tests on May 10. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky described the tests as “a violation of the fabric of international agreements,” and called on India to give up its present course and to sign the nuclear test ban treaty. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement likewise urged India “to revise its current nuclear policy, and to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive nuclear test ban.” Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he would raise the issue during a visit to New Delhi tentatively scheduled for later this year.

The tests were apparently as much a surprise in Moscow as they were in the rest of the world. The Russians admitted that they had no warning, with President Yeltsin adding that the Indians had “let us down.” Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said that the tests were “totally unacceptable” to Russia and were motivated by “a short-sighted” policy. But he and other ministry spokesmen made it clear that Russia would not go beyond diplomatic persuasion in trying to change this policy. Primakov was particularly critical of any efforts to apply economic or other sanctions against India–the most likely form of American response. “Pressure often turns out to be unproductive and does not bring about desirable results,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Former Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov, long an aggressive promoter of Russian nuclear technology abroad, took a typically pragmatic stance. While noting that the Indian nuclear tests could start a “new spiral in the development of nuclear weapons for so-called threshold countries,” he said that the tests were unlikely to affect Russian-Indian cooperation in the civilian uses of nuclear energy. Speaking to reporters, Mikhailov said, “[the] struggle in the world market for construction of nuclear electric stations is very stiff, so I hope that the leadership of the country will reserve this [Indian] market for us.” He also denied that Russia had played any role in India’s decision–or ability–to carry out the nuclear tests. (Russian agencies, May 12) Mikhailov is currently first deputy atomic energy minister.