- MOSCOW (AP) -- Undeterred by protests and possible sanctions, Russia
is barreling ahead with arms sales and nuclear projects in some of the
world's most volatile regions, earning badly needed cash but straining
relations with the United States.
- Russia has been accused recently of providing
missile technology to India, Iran and Iraq. It's selling an anti-aircraft
missile system to Cyprus and fighter planes to China and is building a
nuclear power plant in Iran.
- The United States and Israel, the most
vocal critics of Russia's increasingly aggressive sales, fear the arms
will fuel tensions in already jittery regions -- even though Washington
supplies weapons to other nations in some of the same areas.
- One big worry is that Iran may use Russian
nuclear power plant technology to advance its suspected atomic weapons
program. Those fears took on new urgency when Pakistan and India, longtime
rivals in the same region, joined the nuclear arms club.
- Russia also has spoken out against arms
proliferation -- including nuclear ones. But at the same time, Moscow is
attracted to the money and the opportunity to regain some of the influence
the Soviet Union wielded as a superpower.
- "First of all, it's money,"
said military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, who writes for the respected newspaper
Segodnya. "Second of all, it's money, and third of all, also money."
- Weapons bring big dollars into Russia's
empty coffers and jobs to depressed regions that are just as dependent
on the military industry today as they were in the Soviet era.
- "This creates a lot of political
pressure to sell to anyone," Felgenhauer said.
- This year Russia expects to export $3.5
billion worth of weapons to 58 countries, an increase of $1 billion over
1997, according to the state arms trading company, Rosvooruzheniye.
- It hopes to export at least $5 billion
annually by 2000, and possibly more.
- Russia says it is doing nothing wrong.
And many Russians see a double-standard in Washington's protests. The Russians
note the United States sells weapons to countries in potential hot spots,
including Israel, Taiwan, Greece and Turkey.
- "If America can sell to everyone,
why can't we sell to everyone?" asked Felgenhauer.
- Russia has denied some of the recent
reported arms deals, including U.S. claims it was helping India build a
sea-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead deep
- It said other arms sold were for defensive
purposes, such as the $200 million anti-aircraft missile system for the
Greek portion of the divided island of Cyprus.
- Nuclear projects like the power plant
under construction in Iran are said to be for purely peaceful purposes.
- However, Russia acknowledges Iran has
tried to obtain technology for long-range missiles. Moscow says all the
efforts were rebuffed, but the U.S. Senate recently voted to impose sanctions
on Russia for allegedly sharing missile technology with Iran.
- A Russian think tank, PIR-Centre for
Policy Studies, said recently that 800 Russian gyroscopes used to guide
missiles to their targets were intercepted in 1995 en route to Iraq, in
violation of UN sanctions.
- Russia initially denied involvement,
but later said the equipment was exported without government permission,
raising questions about how much control the Kremlin has over the arms
and nuclear stockpile inherited from the Soviet Union.