Quoting unnamed Russian and foreign officials, the Washington Post reported on March 23 that agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have for several years been recruiting Russian scientists to help Iran develop its ballistic missile technology. According to the U.S. newspaper, contracts between the Russian specialists — who came from technological institutes and weapons labs — were negotiated in Iran in order to insulate the security services and the government in Moscow from responsibility. The report suggested, moreover, that Russia’s Foreign Ministry may also have been involved in arranging for the Russian specialists to go to Iran. (The Washington Post, March 23)
The March 23 report follows a more detailed story on the same subject published by the Washington Times last month. (The Washington Times, February 23) That earlier report also identified the FSB as a middleman in Iran’s efforts to acquire Russian missile expertise.
According to the March 23 report, Russian officials indicated that Moscow intends to stop the recruitment and to curb permission for Russian scientists to travel to Iran. That action, they said, is a result of a decree issued in January by then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. It was intended to strengthen controls on Russian defense-related exports.
The March 23 report, however, raises anew questions about the Kremlin’s real commitment to stopping the flow of Russian missile technology to Iran. It comes on the heels of repeated denials by the Russian government of any involvement in Iran’s missile development programs. Those denials have been bolstered by assurances from the FSB that it is working effectively to ensure no technology transfers of that sort.
The March 23 report also follows the recent visit by Chernomyrdin to the United States. Illicit leaks of missile technology to Iran figured high on the agenda in talks between the two countries. On March 12, Chernomyrdin promised yet again that Moscow would take steps to stop the leaks. The two sides also announced that a new joint commission of experts would be formed to discuss and monitor the export of sensitive nuclear and missile technologies. (See Monitor, March 10, 12-13)
Russian Officers Convicted on Treason Charges.