U.S. Nuclear Agency Reviewing All Russia Projects, Given Ukraine Crisis

The final shipment of former weapons-grade uranium from Russia is off-loaded in December at the Port of Baltimore in Maryland, as part of a 1993 U.S.-Russia nonproliferation accord. The U.S. Energy Department has said it is reviewing nuclear-security assistance to Moscow amid continuing bilateral discord over Russian actions in Ukraine.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald
April 1, 2014, 7:59 a.m.

The U.S. En­ergy De­part­ment’s nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity arm is re­view­ing its as­sist­ance to Rus­sia amid con­tinu­ing ten­sions with Mo­scow over Ukraine.

The Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion as­sess­ment is part of an En­ergy-wide “on­go­ing in­tern­al re­view of Rus­si­an-re­lated activ­it­ies,” de­part­ment spokes­man Bill Gib­bons said in a state­ment last week. The re­view comes against a back­drop of West­ern con­cerns that Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin’s forces might seek to fur­ther en­croach on former So­viet or Warsaw Pact ter­rit­ory fol­low­ing the an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimean Pen­in­sula.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear to what ex­tent the En­ergy re­view would con­sider the nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion work con­duc­ted by NNSA of­fi­cials. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in the past has tried to in­su­late such U.S.-Rus­sia co­oper­a­tion from any for­eign policy dis­agree­ments with the former Cold War rival.

However, at least one nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity as­sist­ance-re­lated pro­ject already has been can­celed. Gib­bons said the agency had de­cided to drop a re­quest in its fisc­al 2015 budget pro­pos­al for fund­ing train­ing equip­ment that would be used by Rus­si­an se­cur­ity forces as they prac­tice re­sponses to pos­sible at­tacks on nuc­le­ar-ma­ter­i­al trans­ports or sites hous­ing these sens­it­ive ma­ter­i­als.

“The [fisc­al 2015] budget re­quest was de­veloped long be­fore the cur­rent situ­ation with Rus­sia un­fol­ded,” said Gib­bons, adding that the de­part­ment had already de­cided to res­cind the fund­ing pro­pos­al be­fore two U.S. law­makers raised ob­jec­tions to the pro­ject in a re­cent let­ter sent to En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives Mi­chael Turn­er (R-Ohio) and Jim Briden­stine (R-Okla.) warned in their March 24 let­ter that it would be a “mis­take” to con­tin­ue provid­ing Rus­sia with the Mul­tiple In­teg­rated Laser En­gage­ment Sys­tem equip­ment. “It is dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a worse time to provide mil­it­ary-grade tech­no­logy” to Rus­sia, the law­makers wrote.

At the same time, Briden­stine ap­peared to mock the pur­pose of the tech­no­logy trans­fer, call­ing it “laser tag” in a March 24 blog post.

The two House mem­bers also re­ques­ted the de­part­ment provide to them by the end of April a list of all fisc­al 2015 NNSA fund­ing re­quests for tech­no­logy or ser­vice sup­port to Rus­sia. They ad­di­tion­ally asked for an in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment of wheth­er any of the tech­no­logy in­ten­ded for use in Rus­sia could be util­ized for pur­poses oth­er than nuc­le­ar non­pro­lif­er­a­tion.

The laser equip­ment was to be used at a Ros­atom train­ing fa­cil­ity and at a Rus­si­an in­tern­al af­fairs min­istry train­ing cen­ter, where se­cur­ity per­son­nel are in­struc­ted on how to pro­tect ci­vil­ian atom­ic sites in the coun­try. The tech­no­logy was meant “to sup­port ef­fect­ive pro­tect­ive force per­form­ance test­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy De­part­ment’s fisc­al 2015 budget pro­pos­al. The de­part­ment had been seek­ing $1.9 mil­lion for the gear, ac­cord­ing to an NNSA of­fi­cial who re­ques­ted an­onym­ity, lack­ing au­thor­iz­a­tion to be pub­licly named.

It was un­clear wheth­er Turn­er and Briden­stine were sat­is­fied with the En­ergy De­part­ment steps to stop trans­fer of the laser sys­tem. The law­makers’ of­fices said they were un­able to of­fer com­ment on the mat­ter by press time.

King­ston Re­if, a policy ana­lyst with the Cen­ter for Arms Con­trol and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, said in an email that the de­cision to res­cind the re­quest for the laser tech­no­logy “raises ques­tions” about wheth­er Pentagon and NNSA of­fi­cials are re­con­sid­er­ing mov­ing for­ward with oth­er non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pro­jects in Rus­sia.

Over the years, En­ergy’s semi­autonom­ous Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion has provided bil­lions of dol­lars in mon­et­ary, in-kind and tech­nic­al as­sist­ance to Rus­sia. The pro­jects in­clude a range of nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion-re­lated activ­it­ies. A num­ber of ef­forts to lock down and re­duce vul­ner­able stock­piles of So­viet-era atom­ic and ra­di­olo­gic­al ma­ter­i­als have been con­cluded or are wind­ing down, al­though some co­oper­at­ive work has con­tin­ued.

NNSA of­fi­cials earli­er this month ac­know­ledged the situ­ation in Ukraine likely would have an ef­fect on ef­forts to ham­mer out lan­guage with Mo­scow on a new bi­lat­er­al ac­cord that would re­place an ex­pired nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity co­oper­a­tion um­brella agree­ment. However, the agency said it did not an­ti­cip­ate that any on­go­ing con­tract­or work in Rus­sia would be not­ably in­ter­rup­ted by the up­tick in ten­sions with the Krem­lin.

A sampling of some of the U.S.-Rus­sia nuc­le­ar non­pro­lif­er­a­tion col­lab­or­a­tion planned for fisc­al 2015 in­cludes wrap­ping up work on con­sol­id­at­ing the re­mainder of Rus­sia’s most sens­it­ive cat­egor­ies of atom­ic ma­ter­i­als at a new high-se­cur­ity in­stall­a­tion in the coun­try; boost­ing phys­ic­al pro­tec­tions at mul­tiple sites that pro­cess bulk nuc­le­ar sub­stances; and fin­ish­ing se­cur­ity up­grades at entry points for two ma­jor weapon-design fa­cil­it­ies.

What We're Following See More »
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY U.S. INTEL
Putin-Linked Think Tank Developed Plan to Influence U.S. Election
3 days ago
THE LATEST

A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."

Source:
HELPED WIN FISA APPROVAL
FBI Relied on Dossier Allegations to Monitor Page
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."

Source:
AIR FORCE SCRAMBLES JETS IN RESPONSE
Russian Bombers Fly Near Alaska
5 days ago
WHY WE CARE
A MESSAGE TO RUSSIA?
Pentagon Deploying F-35s to Europe
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"The Air Force is set to deploy its high-tech, fifth-generation F-35A fighter jets to Europe this weekend as part of an effort to assure U.S. allies there who are worried about Russian aggression." The new, state-of-the-art fighters will train with European air units. "The Pentagon noted that the deployment had been long planned, meaning it was not a reaction to recent increasing tensions between the United States and Russia," although a statement noted the move is part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," which began three years ago when Russia annexed Crimea.

Source:
NOT ON SCHEDULE
Tillerson Meets Putin
1 weeks ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login