The Russian government considers efforts to enhance the nonproliferation regime one of its top priorities, a diplomatic source told RIA Novosti after IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei completed his visit to Moscow.
The official reason for Dr. ElBaradei's trip to Russia was to attend a conference on the 50th anniversary of the world's first nuclear power plant being put into operation in Obninsk. Conference delegates discussed the history and the future of the nuclear power industry. This theme was also examined during Dr. ElBaradei's talks with Russian officials.
Russia and the IAEA agree that the nuclear power industry has a future and that everything possible should be done to ensure that nuclear power is used peacefully. Dr. ElBaradei negotiated with high-ranking Russian officials, such as Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, who also attended the conference; Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; and President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Putin and Dr. ElBaradei first met in November 2000 in Moscow, two months after Mr. Putin suggested at the UN Millennium summit that the global nuclear power industry stop using enriched uranium and pure plutonium. Mr. Putin's initiative implied that nuclear power plant safety must be a priority of the nuclear power industry over the next few decades, countries must solve the problem of disposing of radioactive -waste and the technological aspects of the nonproliferation regime must be enhanced. Dr. ElBaradei supported Russia's proposals.
During his recent visit Dr. ElBaradei thanked Russia for its support regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
Moscow believes that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction weapons (WMD) is a global threat. According to Mr. Ivanov, the international community must ensure "strict international control over these processes so that nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of those who would use them to destabilize the situation."
Russian diplomats have repeatedly noted that international terrorism, organized crime and illegal trade in nuclear, chemical and biological materials, are interrelated. Moscow believes that the existence of black markets for WMDs is a problem that deserves special attention.
In this context, the situation in Iraq is more dangerous than anywhere else. International inspectors failed to locate and destroy all of the WMDs in Iraq before the occupation began in the spring of 2003. Over the last year, the occupation authorities did not have adequate control over the Iraqi facilities that stored dangerous materials and equipment and as a result, many of them were looted. It is unknown who obtained these materials and equipment. In an effort to stop this process, Moscow insisted that UN Security Council resolution 1546 on Iraq have a provision on revising Unmovic and IAEA mandates in Iraq. Russia believes that international inspections in Iraq must resume as soon as possible.
Interstate efforts to enhance the nonproliferation regime are yet another aspect. Accodring to Mr. Ivanov, "Russia is categorically against the appearance of new states with nuclear weapons." This is why, he said, Russia "is cooperating actively with other countries and the IAEA and helping solve the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, as well as the nuclear problem involving Iran."
Moscow's unchanging position is that both Pyongyang and Tehran have the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, if they cooperate closely with the IAEA. The United States and Israel have criticized Russia for allegedly helping Iran with its nuclear program. Russian officials respond by saying that Moscow does not want Iran, which is located near Russia's borders, to develop its own WMDs. Russia is prepared to do everything possible to prevent such a scenario. (Russia has the same position on North Korea.)
Moscow views Iran's nuclear program and Russians helping to construct the first power unit of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant as two different issues, diplomatic sources told RIA Novosti. Replying to questions from journalists, Dr. ElBaradei stressed that the Bushehr issue was not raised during his talks with Russian leaders because it did not worry the international community. At the G8 summit in early June, Mr. Putin said, "Russia might stop building the Bushehr nuclear power plant, if Iran violated specific IAEA terms concerning the transparency of its nuclear program." However, "Iran still abides by these requirements and we see no reason to terminate this construction project," Mr. Putin stressed.
While in Moscow, Dr. ElBaradei also discussed the possibility of building an international center in Russia to store and process spent nuclear fuel. Russian leaders are analyzing various aspects of this project because they believe that it is necessary to establish control over spent nuclear fuel. Russia is not the only country where such a facility can be built. The final decision on this issue will be adopted, after IAEA and Russian experts finish studying the problem.
Dr. ElBaradei praised Moscow's serious approach toward nonproliferation issues: "Russia and the IAEA maintain excellent bilateral cooperation, we are working to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy and we appreciate Russia's support."
Mr. Putin noted, "the IAEA's highly professional activities lacked any political motivations." This is what Russia values most of all.