Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 8

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger announced at an arms proliferation conference in Washington yesterday that the Clinton administration has decided to level sanctions against three Russian scientific institutes it believes are aiding Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. The three institutes involved–the Scientific Research and Design Institute of Power Technology, the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology and the Moscow Aviation Institute–will be forbidden to import from or export to the United States. Nor will the three be eligible for U.S. aid or procurement contracts (Reuters, AP, Itar-Tass, January 12). The sanctions apparently match those meted out last July to seven other Russian research and scientific entities. Yesterday’s action comes a day after Russia’s atomic energy minister said that Moscow would step up the pace of its construction work at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran (see the Monitor, January 11).

Special U.S. Envoy Robert Gallucci, who has been the front man in the Clinton administration’s long-standing efforts to stop the leakage of sensitive Russian nuclear and missile technologies to Iran, suggested yesterday that Moscow had begun to backslide in its efforts to enforce export controls. Gallucci said that between August 1997 and August 1998 the Russian government had made progress in addressing U.S. concerns in this area. That progress included a decision to investigate nine Russian enterprises suspected of dealing sensitive technologies to Iran. Gallucci complained that none of those enterprises have since been prosecuted (Reuters, January 12). Although Gallucci apparently made no direct mention of it, his remarks suggest that Russian arms export control efforts began to weaken following the August 1998 ouster of then Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko’s reformist government, and continued through the eventual installation of a more nationalist government under current Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

Washington’s action yesterday follows a recent series of warnings from the Clinton administration that Russian enterprises risked sanctions if they did not halt nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran. That message was first delivered on December 9 by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She told Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov during talks in Brussels that Moscow might forfeit millions of dollars in U.S. aid for Russian scientists if the Kremlin failed to halt this sort of cooperation with Iran. The same warning was repeated only a few days later by members of a high-ranking U.S. delegation holding talks in Moscow. Then, on December 16, the United States said explicitly that it would impose fresh sanctions–and curb expansion of lucrative Russian-U.S. space launch contracts–if Moscow failed to respond to U.S. concerns (see the Monitor, January 6). Albright is expected to raise the issue again during her scheduled January 25-27 visit to Moscow. Vice President Albert Gore will reportedly also discuss it with Primakov during a meeting in March (Reuters, January 12).