The “New York Times” reported yesterday that Russia has offered to curtail its nuclear cooperation with Iran if the United States lifts sanctions against two Russian nuclear research institutes. But remarks made yesterday by Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov–said to be the author of the Russian proposal to the United States–raised some questions about the actual significance and scope of Moscow’s offer.
According to the “New York Times,” Adamov said in an interview on March 15 that two key Russian nuclear research institutes–the Scientific Research and Design Institute for Power Technology (NIKIET) and the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology–would agree to sign a document stipulating that they would cut off all contacts with Iran. In return, Adamov said, the United States would be expected to lift sanctions on the two institutes first threatened in January of this year. The proposal was said to be desirable from the Russian point of view for two reasons: It would restore profitable American contracts for the two cash-strapped institutes and help lower tensions in a key area of Russian-U.S. discord before Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s March 21 departure for talks in Washington.
From the U.S. standpoint, the Russian proposal was said to be far from perfect, insofar as it would not halt Russian construction work on the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. But U.S. fears were said to be focused especially on the possibility that Russia might further broaden its nuclear cooperation with Iran to include heavy water and graphite technology, which are useful in the production of nuclear bombs. The deal offered by Adamov would reportedly stop this sort of expanded Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation. U.S. officials are reportedly studying the offer, but suggested that there is still negotiating to be done (New York Times, March 17). Adamov is himself scheduled to visit the United States next week.
BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN…