Prepared Statement by Richard Speier Before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing: Proliferation of Weapons from Russia

June 5, 1997

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

Related Country: 

  • Iran

It is an honor to testify before the Committee this afternoon on the relationship between recent actions of the Russian Federation and missile proliferation. Of course, the views I will express are my own and not necessarily those of any organization with which I am affiliated.

We are fortunate to be living in a time of world peace. But what kind of a peace is it? Ambrose Bierce, the great American cynic, defined peace as "a period of cheating between two periods of fighting".

I spent ten years of my government career working on a set of export control rules and procedures to limit the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. These rules and procedures are called the Missile Technology Control Regime -- or MTCR. 29 nations are now formal members of the MTCR. But it appears that there is some cheating going on.

Is Russia cheating? If so, what should we do about it? I shall address these questions by first summarizing the key rules of the MTCR, then outlining a chronology of recount actions by the Russian Federation, and then examining the implications for policy.


The MTCR is a non-treaty arrangement that has been in effect for 10 years. To understand its key rules I midst ask the Committee to understand one phrase of MTCR jargon.. "Category I systems." Category I systems are unmanned delivery vehicles capable of sending a 500 kilogram payload to a range of 300 kilometers. Category I systems consist of rockets and unmanned air vehicles of all kinds -- civilian and military, as well as their technology, their specially designed production equipment and certain major components, such as rocket engines and complete guidance systems.Civilian as well as military systems are covered because such items as space launch vehicles and reconnaissance drones are interchangeable with ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The founders of the MTCR set the parameters for Category I systems at 500 kilograms and 300 kilometers because 500 kilograms is the weight of a relatively unsophisticated nuclear warhead and 300 kilometers is the strategic distance in the most compact theaters where? nuclear-armed missiles might be used. Category I systems include Scud missiles as well as those of greater capability.

Category I systems are the target of the MTCR's rules for export restraint. But other, dual-use items are controlled by the MTCR -- so- called Category II items, such as rocket fuels, composite materials, and lesser components -- because they can contribute to missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

The MTCR has three key rules:

First, there is a strong presumption to deny export approval for Category I systems. On the rare occasions when Category I systems are exported, the supplier government -and not just the recipient -- must take responsibility for ensuring the end use. This presumption of denial applies to all systems of Category I capability, regardless of purpose.

Second, there is also a strong presumption to deny export approval for any missile -- regardless of range and payload -- or for any Category II item if the item is intended for the delivery of mass destruction weapons. This presumption of denial applies to intentions, regardless of the capabilities of a missile.

And third, there is a flat prohibition against exporting complete production facilities or complete production technology for Category I systems. In a non-proliferation regime it makes no sense to create new suppliers of the most sensitive items.

All members of the MTCR agree to abide by these rules. But the United States, since late 1990, has supplemented these rules with legislated sanctions against foreign entities that contribute to the proliferation of Category I systems. These sanctions have been effective in encouraging export restraint by some governments. But, by law, sanctions do not apply to transfers approved by any of the 29 members of the MTCR.

So these are the key rules of the MTCR: (1) a strong presumption to deny exports of Category I items, regardless of purpose; (2) a strong presumption to deny exports of other items if they are intended for the delivery of mass destruction weapons; and (3) a flat prohibition on the export of complete production facilities or technology for Category I systems.

Chronology of Russian actions

Now I shall summarize relevant actions by the Russian Federation starting in 1993, the year that Russia formally agreed to abide by the guidelines of the MTCR. I will be happy to share with Committee staff the basic data that I used.

Two caveats are necessary before t outline this chronology: First, I must emphasize that this chronology is drawn exclusively from reports in the public domain. These reports suggest a clear pattern of Russian behavior, but I cannot guarantee their accuracy. If the Committee wishes to pursue this matter, I understand it will have access .in a closed hearing to the agencies in the Executive Branch responsible for intelligence and for negotiations with Russia.

Second, when we talk about actions of the Russian Federation, we must remember that Russia is still getting its act together and that it is certainly not a monolith. Some elements of the Russian government may disapprove of specific exports -- or may not even know about them. The entity benefiting from an export may be acting independently, may be the winner in a split decision by the government, or may be carrying out a coordinated government policy. So, although the MTCR makes the Russian government responsible for missile-related exports, actual government control may or may not be in place.

1993. Russia, faced with U.S. sanctions for the export of Category I rocket engines and their production technology to India, agrees in July to halt the transfer of the technology, to limit the export of hardware, and to abide by the rules of the MTCR without yet becoming a full member of the regime. In return, the U.S. agrees to make Russia a partner in the space station project and to allow satellites with U.S. components to be launched by Russian rockets. This U.S. concession is reckoned to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Russian space program. But Russian transfer of rocket engine technology to India -- which is supposed to have ceased -- is reported to continue another six weeks until all aspects of the agreement are formally in place, resulting in the transfers being 60-80% completed.

1994. There are no public reports of Russian Category I exports. But the U.S. government is concerned about Russian activities -- including Category II exports to China, India,and Libya; the Russian transport of missile equipment from North Korea to Syria; and reports of Russian missile experts in such countries as China, North Korea, and Iran. For these reasons the U.S. refuses to approve full Russian membership in the MTCR. The criteria for MTCR membership have never been made public.

But official U.S. testimony states that they include the ability to control missile-related exports and the actual cessation of actions inconsistent with the

1995. The U.S. catches Russia aiding Brazil in the development of a Category I space launch vehicle but waives the imposition of sanctions. At the June Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting, the U.S. agrees to support full Russian membership in the MTCR -- presumably because the U.S. believes that Russia has met the criteria for membership. In August the other members also approve, and Russia becomes a full member. One month later, in September, a Russian Lieutenant General is quoted in the Russian press as saying that, if NATO expands eastward, Russia will export nuclear and missile items to Algeria, India, Iran, and Iraq. Two months after that, in November, Russian missile guidance equipment -salvaged from submarine-launched ballistic missiles with ranges in the thousands of kilometers -- is transferred to Iraq. U.S. officials say that this transfer may not have been authorized by the government of the Russian Federation.

1996. In January, well connected Russians renew the threat to link U.S. behavior to Russian restraint in missile exports. In February, some six months after Russia has joined the MTCR, an official of the Russian Duma Defense Committee states on the record that, if NATO expands eastward, Russia will export missiles to China and India. By February, Russian firms are concluding contracts to help Iran produce liquid-fueled ballistic missiles. Starting in May the U.S. protests to Russia and Ukraine over discussions with China to supply SS-18 ICBM technology -- a possible violation of the START I Treaty as well as of MTCR pledges. During this year, some entity in Russia makes an "illegal" export -so termed by the Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee -- of eight Scud launchers and 24 to 32 Scud missiles to Armenia. Mr. Chairman, it is one thing to talk about "loose nukes", where individuals may attempt to steal small amounts plutonium in their coat pockets. But it is quite another thing to envision "loose Scuds", where dozens of complete missiles and their launchers are illegally spirited out of Russian control.

1997. Israeli officials, speaking on the record, report that Russia is helping Iran produce SS-4 type missiles with a range on the order of 2000 kilometers. SS-4's are banned by the INF Treaty, and transfers of their production technology are banned by the MTCR. Because of the inaccuracy of these missiles, they can only be effective with mass destruction payloads. Israel reports Russian transfers of SS-4 components as well as production technology and announces an Iranian test of an SS-4 rocket engine. Israel also reports that Russia is willing to stop these transfers if Israel will enter economic arrangements advantageous to Russia. The U.S. is reported to raise these matters with Russia at a Gore Chernomyrdin meeting. In spite of the Israeli reports of a Russian quid-pro-quo offer, a senior U.S. source speculates that the transfer may be "beyond the control" of the Russian government. And unidentified U.S. officials say the intelligence on these transfers is weaker than the intelligence on other Russian Category I transfers to Iran -specifically, transfers of Scud missile production technology, which are also banned by the MTCR.

Implications for policy

I shall now discuss some policy implications that follow if these reports are substantially accurate.

If the reports are true, Russia has exported Category I missiles and has exported missile items intended for the delivery of mass destruction weapons in spite of the MTCR's "strong presumption to deny" such exports. If the reports are true, Russia may have exported complete Category l production technology to Iran in spite of the MTCR's flat prohibition against doing so. If the reports are true, Russia is either incapable of controlling such exports or is unwilling to control them -- or both -- in spite of such capability and willingness being key criteria for membership in the MTCR and key elements of the 1993 U.S.-Russian agreement for space cooperation.

If the reports are true, the policy implications are as follows:

(l) Space cooperation. Because Russia has violated the 1993 bargain under which the U.S. has agreed to make Russia a partner in the space station project and to approve Russian launches of Western satellites, the U.S. is no longer obligated to continue this space cooperation.

(2) MTCR membership. Because Russia has failed to fulfill key criteria for MTCR membership, continued Russian membership is no longer in the interest of the regime. Membership criteria are important because, once in the regime, a member can cause mischief through access to information exchanges, a veto on regime decisions, info,eased access to missile-related technology, and protection from u.s. sanctions. The regime has no procedures for expelling a member. But international security -- with or without Russia in the regime -- promotes Russian national security- So it may be appropriate for the Russian Federation itself to leave the regime until it is capable of and willing to abide by its rules.

(3) Sanctions. Because Russia is a member of the MTCR, current U.S. law exempts from sanctions those Russian entities making exports approved by the Russian government. Congress need not open up the question of whether sanctions should apply to MTCR members other than Russia. But with respect to Russia, the Congress may want to consider whether such sanctions are necessary to change the cost- benefit calculus of Russian exports. One way to apply sanctions would be to require Presidential certification of Rust, Jan behavior consistent with the MTCR. Legislation could require that the President make such a certification before the U.S. can approve the continuation of space cooperation with Russia or imports or exports of MTCR- controlled items from or to Russia.

(4) Intelligence Because a key assumption of National Intelligence Estimate 95-19 was that Russia would not egregiously violate the MTCR, the conclusion of that NIE -that North America would not face missile threats from additional nations before the year 2010 -- needs to be reassessed. The NIE described exports from countries such as Russia as a "wild card", and the independent panel reviewing the NIE criticized the assumption of Russian compliance. The fact is that the Russian behavior that I have described blows the NIE's assumptions to smithereens.

Mr. Chairman, the U.S. and Russia have a great many common interests. Moreover, the Russian Federation is not a monolith. For these reasons, it is important to target U.S. actions against those Russian entities benefiting from Russian contributions to missile proliferation. It is important not to link other, completely separate elements of the U.S.-Russian relationship to missile non- proliferation issues.

But, having said this, we are faced with four years of reports of Russian missile proliferation- We cannot afford to tolerate cheating against basic rules of international security- We need remedial action.