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BITS Research Report 97.1
November 1997


The Nuclear Legacy of the Former Soviet Union: Implications for Security and Ecology

edited by
Gerd Busmann, Oliver Meier and Otfried Nassauer



Berliner Informationszentrum für Transatlantische Sicherheit (BITS)

in cooperation with Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung


In 1991, for the first time ever, a nuclear-weapons state dissolved. Four new nuclear powers emerged on the territory of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). As a result, unique and unprecedented security and environmental problems appeared. Even though today Russia is the only nuclear weapon state on the territory of the FSU, the Soviet nuclear legacy retains a high priority on the European security agenda.

Compared to the size of the challenges resulting from the nuclear heritage, comparatively little public and political attention has been devoted to these problems, especially in Germany. Political discussions about these matters have been mainly a bilateral US-Russian affair. Still, many problems persist. Questions are raised on the security and safety of Russian nuclear weapons, and the efficiency of Russia's nuclear command and control system is doubtful. Politicians and military experts alike reiterate the threat of theft of nuclear weapons materials or even nuclear warheads. The migration of nuclear weapons experts to threshold countries and environmental problems are considered other substantial risks that result from the huge civil and military nuclear complexes on the territory of the FSU. Downsizing these complexes and safely handling their legacy, namely the immense amounts of nuclear waste, will remain of paramount importance.

The workshop "The Nuclear Legacy of the Former Soviet Union: Implications for Security and Ecology" was organized by the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in order to raise public awareness on these problems and to start a dialogue among independent experts. Participants - international experts from politics, academia, and the media - looked at existing problems regarding security and ecology in the FSU, and proceeded to analyze the issues from a Russian as well as from an international perspective. The workshop assessed the political environment for the future role of nuclear weapons in Russian security policy. Participants discussed current military planning and the possible impact of further arms-control measures. Finally, the performance of approaches that to-date deal with the nuclear legacy of the FSU were discussed, and proposals to solve remaining problems were developed.

The workshop had the goal of asking prominent international experts about their opinion on the situation in the Former Soviet Union. Where do they see the urgent problems? What are relevant developments in security policies? What is the situation with regard to nuclear disarmament? In the first two panels, experts and insiders from the US and Russia assessed the current situation with regard to environmental and security problems. It became clear, that the situation in Russia cannot be described in simple terms. Parallel, and partly contradict for developments are characteristic for the political development in Russia during the last couple of years.

It however became clear, that some of the problems demand immediate action. This is especially true for some of the environmental problems. The situation in the Russian naval nuclear complex for example is worsening so fast that in some cases there is even no time left for in-depth analyses of possible approaches to solve these matters. Matters are more complicated with regard to current trends in Russian security policy. The views of participants differed on where Russian nuclear weapons policies are headed. While some argued that policy is still driven by political demands, others maintained that not all aspects of Russian military policy are still under central control.

How are these problems seen from within Russia and other CIS states? What is the situation in Russia? Are the existing international programs able to deal with the existing problems? What are the interests of the West? Where have international programs been successful, where have they failed? Some speakers emphasized that the Russian domestic political process cannot be analyzed in terms of Western categories. The current political situation is complicated by the fact that very few well-established mechanisms for dealing with the nuclear heritage exist. This is one of the reasons why international risk reduction programs often miss their target. In addition, there is frequently a mismatch between the demand and supply side of international assistance. International programs appear to have been most effective where there has been close cooperation with partners in the affected country and region.

What then are sensible next steps towards reducing the dangers of the nuclear heritage of the Soviet Union? Which course should the nuclear disarmament process take? Have existing approaches succeeded in the past? And most important: What lessons can be drawn from past experiences? With regard to nuclear disarmament there was disagreement whether it is more sensible to design a comprehensive approach, linking different issues or whether the best way to achieve progress is to separately negotiate different steps. Even though there was agreement that de-alerting in principle is a sensible step to take, some participants disputed that there is a real danger of an accidental launch of a nuclear weapon.

The workshop showed that a lot needs to be done to be able to deal with only the most pressing problems. The existing approaches are clearly insufficient to cope with the threats coming from the nuclear heritage. Strategies however, must change not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. Several participants emphasized that the workshop was an important first step to a better coordination of security and environmental aspects of threat reduction programs. Discussions clearly showed that environmental aspects and consequences of disarmament and arms control have to be taken better into account. Risk reduction programs also have to be tailored more closely to the needs of the affected institutions. Finally, it became clear that a future dialogue on nuclear disarmament and ecology has to be broadened to include representatives of the Southern countries as well as from civil society. Nuclear arms control and its implication for ecology can no longer be an exclusive affair of government officials from the developed world.

We hope you enjoy reading the papers of the speakers and participants as much as we did listening to the presentations and discussions during the conference.

Berlin, November 1997
Gerd Busmann, Oliver Meier, Otfried Nassauer


Table of Contents 

I. Where are we today?
Pitfalls of Operational Arms Control and Environmental Security
by Kay van der Horst


Nuclear Waste Storage In Andreeva Bay
by Thomas Nilsen


The Russian Naval Nuclear Complex
by Joshua Handler


Where from the START? Zigzags of Nuclear Disarmament
by Alexander I. Nikitin


Fissile Material Security and Nuclear Non-Proliferation
by Douglas Shaw




II. Domestic and International Politics
The Nuclear Legacy and Russian Politics
by Vitaly Shelest


Russian Nuclear Politics - A view from the West
by Ulrich Albrecht


Nuclear and Convential Arms Race and Disarmament in Relations Between Russian and NATO
by Alexander I. Nikitin


Russian Public Opinion and the Russian Nuclear Legacy
by Phil Rogers


The US Response to the Russian Nuclear Legacy
by Jo L. Husbands


European Assistance Programmes to Russia and the Newly Independent States
by Annette Schaper


The Nuclear Legacy and the International Community: Ukraine
by Viktor Zaborsky





Workshop Agenda

Friday, October 17th

9.00 Welcome and Introduction, BITS, Berlin

9.15 Welcome Heinrich-Böll-Foundation

9.30 The FSU Nuclear Complex: The Environmental Legacy


by Kay van der Horst, Texas University, Washington DC Office

Commentary by Prof. Vitaly Shelest, Scientific Advisor, Russian Duma, Moscow

Naval Nuclear Complex

Commentary by Joshua Handler, Princeton University, Princeton

10.45 Coffee Break

11.15 The Future of Russia's Nuclear Deterrent: Current Trends in Russian Policy


by Dr. Alexander Nikitin, Center for Political and International Studies, Moscow

Current Trends in Nuclear Posture,

Commentary by Dr. Igor Sutyagin, USA and Canada Institute, Moscow

Fissile Materials,

Commentary by Dr. Götz Neuneck, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, Hamburg

13.00 Lunch

14.30 The Nuclear Legacy and Russian Politics


by Prof. Vitaly Shelest, Scientific Advisor, Russian Duma, Moscow

Russian Nuclear Politics - A View from the West

Commentary by Prof. Ulrich Albrecht, Free University Berlin

Public Opinion and the Future of Russian Nuclear Politics

Commentary by Dr. Alexander Nikitin, Center for Political and International Studies, Moscow

16.30 Coffee Break

17.00 The Nuclear Legacy and the International Community

The US Approach

Introduction by Jo Husbands, National Academy of Sciences, Washington

European Programs

Commentary by Dr. Annette Schaper, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

An Assessment of Existing Programs - A View from Russia

Commentary by Floriana Fossato, Radio Free Europe, Moscow

An Assessment of Existing Programs - A View from Ukraine

Commentary by Dr. Viktor Zaborsky, University of Georgia, USA

19.00 Dinner

Saturday, October 18th

9.00 The Future of Nuclear Disarmament


by Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., Lawyers Alliance for World Security/Committee for National Security, Washington

START II/III & De-alerting Measures

Commentary by Nicola Butler, British American Security Information Council, Washington

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Commentary by Oliver Meier, BITS, Berlin

An Assessment of New Proposals from a Russian View

Commentary by Dr. Igor Sutyagin, USA and Canada Institute, Moscow

10.45 Coffee Break

11.15 Cooperation in Risk Reduction - New Ideas & Alternatives

Discussion with Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., Lawyers Alliance for World Security/Committee for National Security, Washington; Jo Husbands, National Academy of Sciences; Dr. Igor Sutyagin, USA and Canada Institute, Moscow;
Kay van der Horst, Texas University, Washington DC Office

Moderation: Otfried Nassauer, BITS, Berlin

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Departure of Participants


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