US Certifies Theft Of Russian
Nuclear Material Has Occurred


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The State Department on Friday denied there had been any change in US policy on the use of nuclear weapons against states without nuclear weapons.
Spokesman Richard Boucher said a report that Washington had decided it was no longer bound to a 1978 pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations except under specific circumstances was incorrect.
"This has been a very consistent policy for 20 or 30 years," he told reporters when asked about the report in the Washington Times that sourced its story to an interview it did with Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton.
"That's what Secretary Bolton was talking about and there's no change," he said, after reviewing the 1978 policy. "Everything I said has been said consistently for 20 or 30 years and that remains the situation."
The pledge made by former president Jimmy Carter's administration which came to be known as the "negative security assurances," reflects "an unrealistic view of the international situation," the Times quoted Bolton as saying.
"The idea that fine theories of deterrence work against everybody, which is implicit in the negative security assurances, has just been disproven by September 11," he said.
"What we are attempting to do is create a situation where nobody uses weapons of mass destruction of any kind," he added.
In case of an attack against the United States "we would have to do what is appropriate under the circumstances, and the classic formulation of that is, we are not ruling anything in and we are not ruling anything out," Bolton said.
The promise made in 1978 by Carter's secretary of state Cyrus Vance justified nuclear attacks on non-nuclear states only if such countries attacked the United States in alliance or association with nuclear-weapons states.
Boucher would not elaborate on Bolton's interview or say why or how the Times got the idea that the old policy had been changed but insisted that Bolton had only restated the existing policy to the newspaper.
"What Undersecretary Bolton was reiterating was a policy that the United States government has had since the 1970s," he said. by Maxim Kniazkov Washington (AFP) Feb 23, 2002 An undetermined amount of weapons-grade nuclear material has been stolen in post-Communist Russia, heightening concerns that some of it could have ended up in the wrong hands, the US intelligence community has concluded.
The announcement comes amid warnings by top US officials that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network have been making a concerted effort to obtain the know-how and materials to manufacture a crude nuclear or radiological device.
"We also believe that bin Laden was seeking to acquire or develop a nuclear device," Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet told Congress earlier this month. "Al-Qaeda may be pursuing a radioactive dispersal device -- what some call a 'dirty bomb.'"
In his testimony, the CIA director refrained from disclosing where al-Qaeda operatives could be shopping for such technology.
But the National Intelligence Council, in its annual report to Congress, made public late Friday, gave a strong warning that despite foreign assistance and its own efforts to heighten security, Russia still represents a serious nuclear proliferation risk.
"Weapons-grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials have been stolen from some Russian institutes," said the council, the collective analytical think tank for the 13 agencies that make up the US intelligence community.
"We assess that undetected smuggling has occurred, although we do not know the extent or magnitude of such thefts," the report said. "Nevertheless, we are concerned about the total amount of material that could have been diverted over the last 10 years."
A total of 23 attempts to steal fissile materials, which can be found in Russia in more than 300 buildings at over 40 locations across the country, were uncovered and thwarted by Russian authorities between 1991 and 1999, according to the document.
The problem remains how many smugglers made off with particles of plutonium or enriched uranium -- a hot commodity on the black market -- without being detected.
"Russian facilities housing nuclear materials typically receive low funding, lack trained security personnel, and do not have sufficient equipment for securely storing nuclear materials," the council said.
The documented cases of nuclear theft in Russia include the disappearance of 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of 90-percent-enriched weapons-grade uranium from the Luch Production Association in 1992.
In 1994, according to the council, three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium were stolen in Moscow.
Four years later, there was a hair-raising incident at an unnamed nuclear facility in the Chelyabinsk region, in the Ural Mountains, where according to Viktor Yerastov, a top official at the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry, the amount stolen was "quite sufficient ... to produce an atomic bomb."
While admitting that US intelligence could not independently confirm the theft, the National Intelligence Council said the Chelyabinsk case was "of concern."
Four grams (0.14 ounces) of weapons-usable enriched uranium that "likely originated in Russia" was seized in Bulgaria.
Even sites storing nuclear weapons, which are surrounded by layers of security, cannot be seen as problem-free because of drug and discipline problems among the servicemen, and their low pay, the report said.
In May 2000, two students at a training center that prepares guards for nuclear weapons facilities were expelled because they had failed their drug tests.
That same month, the Russian Defense Ministry started using officers instead of enlisted men for guard duty while transporting nuclear warheads because of seven incidents in just one month when sentries had left their posts.
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