Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 9

The Clinton administration’s threat yesterday to either cut back or eliminate Russian launches of American satellites appeared to be, at least in part, a response to the brouhaha out of Moscow. State Department spokesman James Rubin repeated Washington’s accusation that the Russian government has in recent months turned its back on the problem of Russian missile and nuclear technology leaks. He also charged that for months now the Kremlin has ignored the evidence which the United States has put forward supporting its charges. “We are very confident of the information we have,” Rubin said. “We have provided it to the Russians and given them several months in which to deal with… it.” Rubin therefore rejected the Moscow protestations that the Russian government had somehow been surprised or double-crossed by the U.S. sanctions decision.

Rubin appeared to single out Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on that score, saying that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had conducted “many many conversations over many means and many discussions” with Primakov on the problem of proliferation and the need to deter it while Primakov was foreign minister (AP, January 13). Indeed, a little reading between the lines of recent U.S. administration statements strongly suggests that Washington believes Russia’s diminishing efforts to counter its technology leaks to Iran began with when Primakov became prime minister in August.

Regarding the Russian space launches of U.S. satellites, Rubin suggested yesterday that Washington would honor sixteen launches already authorized. If Moscow fails to act effectively to halt technology leaks to Tehran, however, Washington is apparently prepared to withdraw its support for additional launches. According to Rubin, that decision would involve “hundreds of millions” of dollars in losses for Moscow (AP, January 13). In the past, the cash-strapped Russian Space Agency has earned between US$60 and $80 million dollars for each satellite launch. In December the Clinton administration warned that it was considering curtailment or cancellation of the launch program as one way to penalize Russia for failing to stop technology leaks to Iran (AP, December 16).