Russia in Review

June 29, 2012

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of June 22-29, 2012


Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of June 22-29, 2012


I.                    U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.


Nuclear security agenda:

·       Rosatom director general Sergei Kiriyenko and U. S. deputy energy secretary Daniel Poneman met in Moscow on June 26th to co-chair a session of the US-Russian working group on nuclear energy and security. The two sides agreed on the following:

Conversion of Reactors

o   U.S. and Russia have completed studying feasibility of converting 4 out of 6 Russian research reactors - that were designated in the Implementing Agreement Regarding Cooperation in Concluding Feasibility Studies of the Conversion of Russian Research Reactors.

o   The four reactors are Kurchatov Institute’s Argus, OR, IR-8 and MEPhI’s IRT.

o   The Russian side intends to complete conversion of at least one or maybe even two of these four reactors from HEU to LEU in 2014. 

o   The total cost of converting the four reactors will be $12.5 million without considering the cost of new fuel loads, according to Kiriyenko. The conversion of IRT-MIFI reactor would cost “several hundred thousand dollars,” while the conversion of Argus could be more than US$1m.

o   In addition to reactor conversion, nine out of 27 research reactors using highly enriched fuel in the Russian Federation have been shut down. In the U.S., 20 out of 27 reactors have either been converted to use LEU fuel or shut down.

(Rosatom, RIA Novosti, Xinhua, AP,, NNSA, GSN, 06.26.12).

Removal of HEU From 3rd Countries to Russia and U.S.

o   HEU will be removed from Uzbekistan and Vietnam to Russia by the end of this year and mid-2012 respectively.  Russia plans to remove 2,357 kilograms of highly enriched fuel from third world research reactors by 2016.  (Itar-Tass, Interfax, GSN, 06.27.12).

New agreement on research and development:

o   U.S. and Russian officials are finalizing the text of a bilateral agreement on research and development in nuclear energy that is expected to be ready for signing in September. The agreement is intended to set the framework for shared efforts in designing prospective nuclear reactors and fuel.

o   The two countries are already working on new kinds of fuel for further work of the research reactors.

(AP, Itar-Tass, 06.27.12).

·       The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday endorsed legislation to bring the United States into compliance with two nuclear security agreements and two maritime counterterrorism treaties. The bill, H.R. 5889, which must still win Senate approval, is intended to ensure the United States meets legal standards required under the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The legislation would also bring the United States into line with a 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. (GSN, 06.29.12).

·       Congressional attempts to link Cooperative Threat Reduction program funding to behavior by Russia over Syria and other issues are “a fundamental misunderstanding” of the program, National Security Council Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction Laura Holgate said. (GSN, 06.29.12).

·       National Security Council Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction Laura Holgate said of removal of HER from Ukraine: “You could hang a sign out on the Ukrainian border, “No nuclear terrorists need come here, nothing here for them.” (GSN, 06.29.12).

·       Strategic stability will be eventually disrupted by further nuclear weapons proliferation and by international terrorism inevitably gaining access to such weapons, according to a new volume on nuclear disarmament by Russia’s Institute of World Economy and International Relations “Maintaining the system of nuclear deterrence indefinitely as a keystone of security  in view of the new threats and processes, will inevitably lead to the erosion of strategic stability and increase the possibility of nuclear warfare or terrorist use of nuclear weapons which will have catastrophic consequences for the modern civilization,” the book says. (IMEMO site, undated).


Iran nuclear issues:

·       Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said of the past talks between P5+1 and Iran in Moscow that that there would have been no more meetings planned if Russia had not wanted to avoid a complete breakdown in Moscow.  A positive point was that the Iranians were talking more concretely than ever before and were no longer trying to "divide and rule" but have accepted that the six are united, Ryabkov said. Ryabkov said his personal opinion was that the West should yield on Iran's call to have its right to enrich uranium recognized. (AOL Defense, 06.25.12).

·       Iranian negotiators were reportedly ready to talk about a potential halt to their nation's production of 20 percent-refined uranium when they met in Moscow on June 18 and 19 with counterparts from the P5+1 group.  The position assumed by the Western governments, though, would have required Tehran to also relinquish more than 220 pounds of stored 20-percent material and shutter the underground Qum enrichment plant. The position reflected a more rigid stance adopted by Washington following two prior sets of discussions in April and May, according to an assessment by certain members of the negotiating group comprising group. (GSN, 06.28.12).



NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:

·        Russia has completed the implementation of a contract on the shipment of 21 Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan, and another identical agreement could be concluded, says Alexander Mikheyev, a deputy general director of the Russian state arms trading agent Rosoboronexport. (Interfax, 06.28.12).

·       "Forty-five joint ventures are planned within the military-technical cooperation for this year," Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service Director Alexander Fomin said of cooperation between Russia and NATO. "We have moved to the second level in catalogization," he said. (Interfax, 06.28.12).

·       NATO Military Committee chief Knud Bartels expressed surprise over Russia's reaction to the Alliance's cooperation with Finland. Russian General Staff chief Gen. Mikhail Makarov made a statement during his visit to Finland in early June, to the effect that active cooperation between NATO and Finland imperils Russia's security, (Interfax, 06.28.12).


Counter-terrorism cooperation:

·       No significant developments.


Missile defense:

·       Russia's Armed Forces could receive the first of its next-generation S-500 air defense missile systems as early as in 2013, Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said on Wednesday. (Itar-Tass, 06.27.12).

·       U.S. forces using a new Standard Missile-3 Block IB interceptor downed another missile in space. The mission off Hawaii late Tuesday was against a medium-range, separating ballistic missile. (Reuters, 06.27.12).

·       U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged a Senate committee chairman to support $400 million for a Lockheed Martin Corp.-led Medium Extended Air Defense System. (Bloomberg, 06.27.12).


Nuclear arms control:

·       The Air Force Global Strike Command, based at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., planned to conduct a Minuteman III flight test earlier this year but has scrapped the launch three times. According to Obama administration arms control officials, concern about Chinese or Russian reaction to the routine and necessary test-firing likely intervened to put off the test so as to avoid upsetting the Russians. (Washington Times, 06.27.12).


Cyber security:

·       No significant developments.


Energy exports from CIS:

·       Gazprom said it may extend its Nord Stream pipeline project to reach Great Britain. (AP, 06.29.12).

·       The head of Gazprom says Moscow is insisting on sticking to its current gas-supply agreement with Ukraine.  Moscow's position is unchanged despite repeated calls for its review by Kyiv. (AP, 06.27.12).

·       Turkey and Azerbaijan have signed a deal to build a $7 billion Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline (TANAP), a project meant to carry Azerbaijani natural gas supplies to European markets without passing through Russia or Iran.  (RFE/RL, 06.26.12).


Access to major markets for exports and imports:

·       No significant developments.


Other bilateral issues:

·       On the eve of Saturday’s conference aimed at ending 16 months of brutal violence in Syria,  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were to meet in St. Petersburg in a bid to iron out deep differences over the transition plan being pushed by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan that calls for the formation of a national unity government that would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections. On Thursday, Lavrov acknowledged that a transition period is necessary to end the violence in Syria, but said Russia had not agreed to all elements of Annan’s plan, in particular any suggestion that Assad would be required to leave.(AP, 06.29.12).

·       The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a bill to sanction human rights violators around the world, named after Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died after allegedly being tortured in prison by Russian officials. The bill imposes restrictions on the financial activities and travel of foreign officials found to have been connected to various human rights violations in any country. The de-emphasis of Russia in the bill is ostensibly meant to tamp down Russian anger over the legislation. The House version of the bill, approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this month, targets only Russian human rights violators. The Senate bill will now be joined with legislation introduced earlier this month to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status. The perception among Hill aides in both parties is that the administration is working hard behind the scenes to weaken the penalties in the Magnitsky bill and provide the State Department greater leeway to keep the names of the violators from becoming public. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she expects “something to move” on both the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik law and on Congress’ concerns about Russian human rights.  (Foreign Policy, 06.26.12, AP, 06.27.12).

·       Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on the United States on Wednesday to weigh the possible consequences of approving the Magnitsky Act. Pro-Kremlin parliamentarian Vyacheslav Nikonov suggested Russia should introduce a Guantanamo list or Viktor Bout list. (RIA Novosti, 06.27.12).


II.                    Russia news.


Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:

·       President Vladimir Putin today ordered his government to put aside billions of dollars in next year's budget to protect Russia's vulnerable economy in case of a new economic crisis. Putin did not give figures but Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the government would already in 2012 have the right to spend 200 billion rubles (USD 6 billion) on anti-crisis measures. (AFP, 06.28.12).

·       Members of the upper house are currently elected by local legislatures. Vladimir Putin’s bill, which is expected to get parliamentary approval, would allow elected regional governors to appoint a member of their team to the Council with the idea that they would be accountable for the members they appoint. Putin said prospective members of the Council should come from local legislatures and be residents of the regions they represent for at least five years. (AP. 06.27.12).

·       Russia's State Duma has passed amendments that move all the country's regional elections to September.  (Moscow News, 06.25.12).

·       65 percent of the respondents of a poll conducted by Levada-Center in late May said they are positive about Putin and 57 percent said they support his actions in the presidential post. Currently, 49 percent of respondents believe that the head of state is quite worthy of trust (against 53 percent in April 2011 and 66 percent in November 2009). The opposite opinion is held by 13 percent (12 percent and 5 percent, respectively). (Interfax, 06.27.12).

·       Speaking in the Upper House of the Russian Parliament Putin said the Bolsheviks, especially the ruling elite of the party, betrayed Russia's national interests and allowed Germany to win the war with Russia even though eventually Germany was defeated. (Russia Today, 06.27.12).



·       Russia's Bulava ballistic missile and the Borei-class submarine Yuri Dolgoruky are set to enter the nation's active military force after July 29. (GSN, 06.29.12).

·       Russia has authorized approximately $1.54 billion in new funds for a program dedicated to destroying the nation's chemical weapons. (GSN, 06.29.12).

·       The People’s Republic of China’s opaque nuclear arsenal could be up to 1,800 warheads as opposed to the 300 or 400 currently thought, according to a report by Viktor Yesin, the former chief of the main staff of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces. In addition, the report says that the PRC has rail-mounted intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped with nuclear warheads, and nuclear warheads on a series of ICBM  and cruise missiles—statements that contradict dominant understandings of China’s nuclear posture. (Epoch Times, 06.28.12).


Security and law-enforcement:

·       Investigative bodies have launched a second criminal case of bribery against Vladimir Korotkevich, the general director of the Siberian Chemical Combine (belonging to TVEL concern), arrested earlier. Earlier reports said that Korotkevich, his deputies Yury Kungurov and Leonid Romanenko, together with TVEL concern executive director for supplies Timur Bukeikhanov had been instrumental in signing a coal delivery contract for over 557 million rubles with a prominent businessman from Tomsk, Vladimir Prets. (Interfax, 06.26.12).

·       According to the per capita index (650 police officers per 100,000  citizens) Russia is still one of the world leaders, and is second only to Belarus and Brunei. (Vedomosti, 06.27.12).


Foreign affairs:

·       Russia’s main weapons producer has allegedly suspended its contract with Syria to supply S-300 long-range missile systems. (Russia Today, 06.27.12).

·       On Monday, visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who urged Russia to step up pressure on Iran to curb its suspect nuclear program. Putin said his talks with Netanyahu covered the situation in Iran and the bloody uprising in Syria, but added that he saw negotiations as the only solution for such matters. On Tuesday Putin praised his Palestinian counterpart Tuesday for what he said was a “responsible” position in negotiations with Israel and said Russia has no problem recognizing a Palestinian state.  (AP, 06.26.12).

·       Industrial and Commercial Bank of China will provide $1bn of financing to build a power plant at Yaroslavl to the north-east of Moscow. (Financial Times, 06.26.12).

·       Gazprom, the Russian natural gas company, reached a deal Friday with EDF of France to jointly invest in gas-fired power plants in Europe. (New York Times, 06.22.12).


Russia's neighbors:

·       Uzbekistan has suspended its participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, officials said Thursday, a move that reflected tensions inside the grouping. Vladimir Zharikhin, a Moscow-based political expert studying the ex-Soviet nations, said Uzbekistan’s decision had been prompted by “Karimov’s intention to flirt with the U.S.”  (AP, 06.28.12).

·       NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit Georgia this September. (Interfax, 06.28.12).





For more information on this publication: Please contact US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
For Academic Citation:Russia in Review.” News, , June 29, 2012.