Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 87

The Kremlin announced yesterday that President Boris Yeltsin has ordered the government to tighten controls over the export of military and dual-purpose technologies (technologies with civilian and military applications). According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Yeltsin described such export controls as a “top priority” of Russian national security policy. Yeltsin also reportedly said that the export controls must stop any possible leak of sensitive Russian military technologies. Yastrzhembsky himself added that Russia will “meticulously observe its international obligations” with regard to the export of technologies — especially those that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery. (Itar-Tass, May 5)

Yeltsin’s action would appear to be the latest in a series of formal statements by the Kremlin ordering greater control over the export of defense-related technologies. In January of this year, then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin issued a similar order. (AP, January 22) That move followed intensive negotiations between Russian and U.S. officials in Moscow during which the United States restated its oft-expressed concerns over alleged participation by Russian experts in Iranian efforts to develop ballistic missiles. Chernomyrdin’s order led Clinton administration officials to claim that Moscow was at last moving to stem the leakage of missile technology to Iran.

But the Clinton administration has also since conceded that Moscow has generally failed to back up its declaratory policy in this area with concrete actions. Indeed, Russia’s security agencies, which are among the institutions entrusted to stop military technology leaks, have themselves been accused of facilitating Iranian-Russian cooperation in missile development. (See the Monitor, February 27, March 25) Under such circumstances it remains to be demonstrated whether the order issued by Yeltsin yesterday will mark a real departure from previous patterns of Russian behavior on the issue of control over military technology exports.