BITS Research Report 97.1
November 1997

II. Domestic and International Politics

Nuclear and Conventional Arms Race and Disarmament in Relations Between Russia and NATO

by Alexander I. Nikitin

 

Changing geopolitical context for the NATO-Russia Relations

Geostrategic changes resulting from the end of Cold War, partition of Soviet Union, establishing of political democracies in former communist states, dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and creation of the new independent states included both destabilizing factors raising international disorder and factors increasing prospects for the establishing of cooperative security system and promoting disarmament (both conventional and nuclear) in Eurasia. Certain positive outcomes were achieved in the 90's in terms of geopolitical context for relations between Russia and NATO. Among these outcomes the following are mostly important.

Division of the Soviet Union, its infrastructure and military heritage has been accomplished though uneasy domestic transformation but still without major open international clashes and didn't directly threaten European security.

Uncontrollability of nuclear strategic or tactical warfare or any parts of conventional armed forces in the FSU (which was a serious concern for the international community in the critical moments of partition of the Soviet Union) was finally prevented

System of arms control and disarmament agreements which has been challenged by the legal disappearance of Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact was saved and reconfirmed involving new independent states who shared responsibilities and inherited arms control and disarmament obligations.

Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons policy was reconfirmed, issue of "inherited nuclear status" for countries like Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan resolved. These countries joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty in a status of non-nuclear states and accomplished by now passing of the nuclear weapons from their territories to Russia or dismantlement of them.

System of export control in FSU (so important to prevent further spread of most modern conventional and especially nuclear armaments) ruined by the partition of the country and 'open borders' between new independent states has been redesigned and mass leakage of nuclear materials and technologies from FSU has been basically prevented

System of political and military integration within the Commonwealth of the Independent States was initiated and developed on the principles which remain non-confrontational to the West and NATO.

These factors among other changes of geopolitical context provided a new foundation for a dialogue between Russia and NATO on the matters of political aspects of European security and military provisions for it in both nuclear and conventional spheres.

 

Nuclear Factor in Relations NATO-Russia

Post Cold War political and strategic environment has brought deep changes into the sphere of nuclear policy of NATO states as well as nuclear policy of Russia. Relations between NATO and Russia in the nuclear sphere couldn't be anymore interpreted as limited to mutual deterrence. Danger of direct massive nuclear confrontation has been dramatically decreased. At the same time logic of deterrence and of nuclear balance unfortunately continue to manifest itself in strategic concepts and policies of NATO nuclear states and of Russia.

One of the central places in 'nuclear' relations between NATO states and Russia is currently occupied by the intensive debates on the status and prospects of nuclear arms control and disarmament. Intensive process of implementation of START I agreement and of parallel (but unilateral) initiatives of reductions of tactical nuclear arsenals is partly blocked by the contradictions around START II treaty and unclear prospects of the announced START III process.

 

New security concerns and process of arms limitation and reduction

At September 1994 summit between Presidents Eltzyn and Clinton in Washington they agreed to expedite ratification efforts and postulated that once START II is in force, the sides would accelerate deactivation of strategic systems assigned for elimination. USA and Russia also committed themselves to have experts begin considering and examining further strategic arms reductions in form of prospective START III.

Between signing of the START II in January of 1993 and ratification efforts of 1995-1996 there were almost two years of pause caused among other reasons by formal grounds not to resume ratification process. By provisions of the Treaty, START II couldn't enter into force until START I was in force. And START I was halted by the unwillingness of Ukraine to join the NPT in a mode of non-nuclear country as meant by the May 1992 Lisbon Protocol to START I. Only when Ukraine after intensive domestic debates has joined the NPT in December 1994, and START I was empowered, serious ratification process for the START II resumed.

After about a year of debates on January 1996 the US Senate approved a resolution on ratification of START II by a vote of 87 against 4. Among unilateral declarations in-built into ratification resolution the one which has the most far-reaching influence onto future START debates is the one which argues that defenses against ballistic missiles are essential for new deterrent strategies and urges both countries to move forward "cooperatively" in their development and deployment. Knowing clear unwillingness of the Russian side to go along the way of developing missile defense systems and constant applies to preserve ABM treaty limiting such systems in its initial meaning, such declaration of the US Senate fueled the flame of debates in Moscow about the "disproportional consequences" of the treaty to two sides.

Basic concerns expressed and amendments proposed on the Russian side could be grouped into at least three categories: related to strategic balance, related to cost and period of implementation, and related to preservation of ABM treaty.

Concerns and debated suggestions of amendments and modifications of the treaty from the Russian side could be summarized as follows.

  • Reversible Strategic Potential (rearmament potential) of the sides is to be balanced. Rearmament potentials concern deals with a possibility to reinstall for operational use of warheads which are removed but not destroyed (currently START II allows Russia to have about 650 reversible warheads, while the USA could posses as many as 4,500-5,000). There are different possible methods of dealing with this disbalance. One would be allow Russia to retain and download all of its SS-19 missiles. Another is undertake measures making reversibility of American Trident SLBM downloading and nuclear reorientation of conventional bombers more difficult or costly.
  • Deadline originally set for reaching START II ceilings (2003) was hardly realizable for Russia due to budgetary and technical constraints. In spring of 1997 the deadline was agreed to be shifted to the December 31, 2007. That was a part of compromise reached between President Clinton and President Eltzyn in Helsinki summit. This decision removes one of the most persistent argument of the opponents of ratification of the Treaty.
  • Compliance with ABM Treaty in narrow meaning is to be guaranteed by both sides. It is recommended to formulate at the resolution of ratification that Russia would break its participation at START II treaty if the USA would essentially violate or leave or prepare to leave the ABM treaty. By preparations to leave ABM treaty it is meant essential upgrade of financing of R&D aimed at creation of strategic missile defense systems prohibited by the treaty, as well as creation, testing or deployment of defense systems (and their components) limited by the ABM treaty.

Again Jopint Statement of March21, 1997 by two Presidents provide some space for compromise, though, ironically, both sides consider the Statement to be a unilateral victory: Russian side reads it as a further prohibition of violations of ABM Treaty while American side reads it as a permission to continue with current shape of missile defense research.

  • Methods of liquidation of warheads and silos are economically and ecologically unfavorable to Russia and more favorable to the USA. It is suggested to try to modify at least procedures of destruction of silos as well as to receive technological aid in ecologically safe methods of elimination of toxic geptil fuel of solid-fueled missiles.
  • Destruction of silos of missiles dismantled under treaty envisages sensible extra costs and in case of need of recovery new silos are too costly for current Russian economy. Critics of the Treaty propose to relax the START II limit of 90 on the number of SS-18 silos that may be converted, to allow all 154 silos left under START I to be converted for single-warhead ICBMs.
  • Russia might try to negotiate a permission to deploy at sea at least one new type of SLBMs or deploy of newly elaborated SLBM in silos on land (downloaded to single warhead)
  •  
  • Window of vulnerability at the end of first 7 years long stage of reductions is foreseen by Russian strategists if MIRVed launchers would be, as required by stages scheme, cut down to 120 at most (1200 warheads) while permitted SS-25s would be produced and deployed slowly (if at all), not sufficiently to close widening gap with US.
  • To avoid window of vulnerability and to be able to meet time pressure Russian side might try to re-negotiate or omit phases (stages) of reductions within general length of treaty's implementation
  • Finally, and most important from the point of view of NATO-Russia relations, there is a clear political linkage between NATO enlargement and Russia's readiness to reduce armaments. Such link has not ouly "ideological" meaning. Some Russian strategic planners are seriously frightened by the implications for the strategic balance of the probable deployment of tactical nuclear or/and high-precision medium- and long-range conventional weapons on the territories of new Central European potential NATO members taking into consideration significant counterforce potential which such weapons could have against weakened Russian nuclear arsenal.

More concerns and amendments are debated. At the same time it is clear that some of them are of different scale and importance than others. Basically, the final term of implementation is negotiable as far as Russian side is ready to the basic provisions of the Treaty. Some other concerns could be met "on the margins" without endangering the treaty as such.

The only two conditions which could bury the treaty are:

  1. clear willingness of Russian side to link START II with full compliance of sides to ABM limitations multiplied by the clear willingness of the US side to proceed with elaboration of the national missile defense system;
  2. linkage between fate of nuclear arms reductions and enlargement of NATO.

"Norwegian model" (no nuclear deployment on the national territory in peace time) if applied to Central European countries and Belarus might serve as ground for compromise possibly in the long run sultable for both NATO and Russia.

 

Cooperation in the nuclear sphere

(areas of relative consent between NATO and Russla)

Areas within a nuclear sphere where there is at the moment more or less elaborated recognition of the consent of the interests of NATO states and Russia could be summarized as follows.

First of all, there is a shared interest in further non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction.

USA, other NATO states and Russia acted in rather cooperative manner during preparations and review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

There is only one major point within non-proliferation field where interpretations of NATO and Russia diverge: this a case of possible deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of future new NATO members from Central Europe. This possible broadening of geographical scope of deployment of nuclear weapons though legally similar to already existing arrangements between US and Western European allies, is interpreted by Russia as violating the essence and in some aspects concrete provisions of the NPT regime.

Further implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban agreements reached in 1996 is also within an area of mutual consent between NATO states and Russia. In 1980's and 90's there were at least three periods when unilateral Russian and US temporary moratoria on nuclear tests coincided creating initial opportunities for negotiating a test ban. The pressure onto France at the last stage of negotiations to cut 'last-minute testing series' came from both other NATO states and from Russia. Currently neither three NATO nuclear states nor Russia show any signs of willingness to revise 'stop tests' policy. Necessity to assure technical reliability and maintenance of already existing arsenals in the absence of ground testing might lead to broadening of lab-to-lab cooperation programs between the USA and Russia on the matters of computer-simulated testing if such cooperation wouldn't be limited by the worsening of overall political relations between the West and Russia.

Verified cut-off of production of weapon grade materials is an important and promising area of arms limitations. Of course already existing stocks of weapon grade fissile materials first of all in Russia and the USA are excessive and thus cut-off of further production is not a dramatic turn of the policy. But still this is important area where common language between the sides is mostly found. The residual plutonium production in Russia on Krasnoyarsk atomic power plants does not represent a political problem; there is a political willingness on the Russian side to find alternative ways of electricity supply without producing plutonium as a side product of reactor operation, and cooperation exist on the matters of verification of cut-off of weapon grade materials production.

There is certain understanding on the necessity of coordinated nuclear reductions and restructuring of triads:

  • if START II is still in dispute (ratified by US, put 'on hold' by Russia) implementation of START I proceed as planned accompanied by the signif~cant cuts in tactical nuclear arsenals under parallel unilateral initiatives (1992) of the USA and Russia;
  • Russia and USA committed themselves at the Helsinki summit of 1997 to open soon the START III negotiations on deeper cuts of arsenals (which is expected to remove obstacles from the way of START II ratification by Russia). These START III talks reflect a readiness of Russia and the West to try to compromise on the following matters:
  • lower ceilings for strategic arms limiting warheads by the level of 2000-2500 or even 1000-1500
  • inclusion of SLBMs and some other previously "untouchableĽ classes of weapons into the process of cuts and reductions;
  • expanding of agreement on reductions from strategic to tactical nuclear weapons area;
  •  
  • elaboration of new methods of verification and inspections for the new classes of nuclear weapons and carriers;
  • negotiating (at last!) scale and methods of liquidation of nuclear warheads (in contrast to elimination of mostly carriers and launchers only as envisaged by all previous nuclear disarmament treaties);

What is urgently needed in the sphere of nuclear disarmament additionally to possible START III negotiations is an elaboration and implementation of measures against accidental or non-intentional use of nuclear weapons. And finally, special set of measures should be aimed to provide peace-time safety of nuclear weapons; this is a point where cooperation between Russia and Western nuclear powers is critical and where transparency and technical cooperation could help a lot.

 

Contradictions of interests in a nuclear sphere (areas of contradictory interests and current debates between NATO nuclear states and Russia!

  • Recognizing listed above cooperative possibilities in the nuclear sphere it is important to consider areas where interests and nuclear policies of NATO states and Russia currently are contradictory towards each other and might remain a source of tensions:
  • Reversible (upload reserve) nuclear potentials keep to be a subject for complaints about unbalanced consequences of reductions;
  • Tactical nuclear weapons continue to be out of any formal bilateral arms control patterns, agreements or negotiations;
  • Conventional disarming strike capabilities (ability to destroy nuclear weapons of one side by conventional high-precision powerful weapons of the other) are growing, and NATO enlargement might seriously increase NATO's ability in this respect which is percelved as a threatening possibility by Russia;
  • Willingness of the USA to develop quick adaptive targeting capabilities devaluate announced postures of detargeting;
  • New Nuclear Guarantees remain a subject of mutual concerns: US "nuclear umbrella" to new NATO members and possible Russian "nuclear umbrella" for Tashkent Treaty states
  • Missile Defense technology development (and political strategies of their deployment) bring new complications to the arms control sphere:

TMD (theater missile defense) seems to be crucial for deterrence against regional and non-traditional (sub-strategic) threats, at the same time further upgrading it to the systemic NMD (national missile defense) could be lethal for existing strategic arms limitation regime.

NATO Enlargement: Beyond the Problem of Russian Security Interests

Enlargement of NATO (which has entered a practical stage after the July 1997 Madrid summit of NATO) is a multidimensional issue. It is obvious that enlargement decision and debates have become a major stumbling block on the way of further development of cooperative relations between Russia and NATO. It is important to analyze quite wide group of consequences of enlargement policies which are creating complications for the European cooperative security though are not directly connected with problem of Russian security interests. Going beyond Russian security concerns anyone still need to cope with such issues as speedy militarization of the Central Europe, new dividing lines between 'invitees' and 'non-invitees' to NATO, cost-benefit analysis and issues of inadequate transparency in a process of enlargement.

 

Militarization of Central Eastern Europe

In the time of peace and after end of Cold War this is NATO enlargement which becomes a reason of and a motivation for unprecedented growth of military spending in Central Eastern Europe. - President of Poland announced plans to increase country's defense spending by 100% till the year 2002. - Ministry of Defense of Czech Republic plans to more than double its budget for weapons procurement until 2000. - Hungary has announced a 22% increase of a military budget for 1997 and trend to keep growth during following years. - Slovenia has allocated $493 million from its quite tiny national budget for 10-years long expenditures for military reform. But now it plans to spend all money allocated for ten years already before the end of 1998 under the pressure of requirements in case of joining NATO. - Lithuania motivates double increase of military spending from 3 to 5-6% of the overall national budget in 1997 by the necessity to prepare to future application for NATO membership.

Instead of demilitarization of the Central European part of the continent and in the absence of any recognized threat Central European region is entering a new spin of arms accumulation. This is not a peacekeeping aimed section of armed forces which receives most attention and investment. Instead Hungary, Poland, Romania are purchasing advanced weapons systems like Cobra attack helicopters, F-16 and F-18 fighters (Romania even is manufacturing in cooperation with US producer 96 Cobra helicopters on its own territory).

Under such trends it is extremely important to assure that both NATO and Russia give clear priority to CFE-II talks. Current conventional arsenals of NATO, Central European and European CIS countries are lower (with exception of Belarus) than allowed CFE ceilings. New even lower ceilings are to be introduced. NATO enlargement shouldn't become a fuel for intensified militarization of the region between current NATO states and Russia. Arms limitations and reductions should become an important part of both NATO security 'package' for Central Europe and new compromise in Russia's relations with NATO.

 

Cost of Enlargement

Existing analytical estimations of the potential costs of NATO enlargement for NATO itself and for new member-states remain quite underdeveloped.

The "Study on NATO Enlargment" issued in 1995 practically failed to provide any serious estimate of the costs. The most developed publicly open estimate is the one prepared by the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued in March 1996. The study of US Congress estimates the cost of enlargement of Visegrad for the first 15 years will be between $ 60,6 billion and $124,7 billion.

Potential new NATO members, according to existing CBO estimate, may be asked to increase their defense expenditures by at least 60% and possibly over 80% to meet costs of enlargement. It is estimated that existing NATO members would be requested to contribute between $18,6 billion and $72,9 billion, depending upon concrete configuration of enlargement. Potential new members from Visegrad countries would be requested to spend between $42 billion and $51,8 billion over 15 years.

Independent estimations of costs of enlargement are undertaken (besides US CBO) by RAND Corporation, British American Security Information Council and other think tanks. All of them show that such a scale of spending could quite significantly influence the configuration and trends of economic reforms and development of Central European countries. For some countries whose economy continue to be far from full revival (Baltic states, Romania, Bulgaria, FYROM, etc.) mentioned proportions of costs shares may be truly prohibitive, at least within a decade from now on.

 

Demand for transparency

Lack of transparency has become a feature of the relations between NATO and cooperation partners countries already on a stage of implementation of Partnership for Peace programme and this problem has been sharpened by preparations to enlargement.

Most of current negotiations between NATO and cooperation partners is tended to be organized at "16+1" format with clear denial of possibility to make content of negotiations publicly open though in many cases it clearly touches security concerns of the neighboring countries. Individual Partnership Programs were negotiated and adopted without making them available to other Partners (the only exception is Hungary which decided to make its IPP publicly available). A lot of mutual suspicions and questions could be avoided if development of IPP and negotiations with Central European candidates for membership wouldn't be kept semi-secret. This sets a dangerous trend and fuels unnecessary suspicions. Just as examples, content and formats of NATO's military interaction with Poland aren't irrelevant for Belarus and Ukraine, or plans for military exercises of NATO jointly with Baltic states are of concern for Russia.

Elaboration of a Baltic Action Plan in late 1996 in a mode of internal document and without any consultations to Belarus or Russia whose security interests are touched upon by the military developments in the Baltic region became another step in the wrong direction (plan as such is probably a useful cooperative tool but it is how it was developed and presented that matters). As a study published jointly by British, American and Belgian research centers points it, "secrecy in NATO relations with Partner countries already reflects a hierarchy of relations between those countries who are favored by NATO for early membership, and those who would be left out. In addition, this secrecy raises the level of anxiety in Russia about NATO's real intentions".

This trend could be reversed by practice of IPP making available for Partner countries through NACC channels and by taking into consideration concerns of neighbor states in process of enlargement consultations. And this is not only Russia which is raising concerns in this respect. As, for example, Defense Minister of Romania stresses that if Hungary were admitted to NATO ahead of Romania and without enough transparency, it would be "detrimental to the region's balance and could even lead to an arms race".

 

Measures for Promoting Disarmament in NATO-Russia Relations

There are some debates within NATO circles whether an Alliance is setting up a right or wrong precedent by concluding with Russia and later Ukraineat separate political and wouldn't this endanger collective cooperation mechanisms like NACC. At the same time basic foundations for concluding such a charter with Russia could be found in Article 4 of the Washington Treaty which presuppose possibility of developing specific relations between Alliance and individual states.

More than that: one of the main differences between PfP and NACC was that PfP openly aimed at differentiation in format, essence and scale of Alliance's relations with different partner states. In this respect concluding an individual framework charter of relations with Russia remains in accordance with partnership mainstream rather than contradicts it.

Analysis of preliminary debates and statements made by sides concerning the general political and more specifcc military-strategic framework of relations between NATO and Russia brings to the negotiations table certain list of more or less interconnected principles and measures which could promote a disarmament process in relations between Russia and the Alliance.

 

Steps on a doctrinal level

Further reconsideration of militarv doctrines (strategic concepts and postures) aiming at mutually non-threatening, non-offensive, transparent and cooperative military policies. Doctrines and operational manuals must deeply reflect change of character of challenges and missions of armed forces

 

Steps in the sphere of nuclear weapons and nuclear policy

  • Moving Away from Launch-on-Warning Postures
  • Measures to reduce the danger of accidental or non-intentional use of nuclear weapons
  • Verifiable advanced de-targeting
  • De-alerting measures
  • Responsible policy of non-proliferation including possibly commitment of non-deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of any states where they are not deployed now
  • Enhanced transparency measures
  • Cooperation in elaboration of more effective and ecologically adaptable methods of elimination of warheads, launchers and fissile materials
  • Develop joint mutual risk-reducing planning for the case of deterrence measures against third parties ("rogue" states, terrorists, counterproliferation actions, etc.)

 

Steps in the shere of conventional forces and armaments

  • Adaptation of structure of armed forces and armaments to the changed character of challenges and missions
  • Elaboration of further measures preventing sides from a possibility of an offensive massive use of armed forces (de-alerting, transparency etc.)
  • Further adaptation of the CFE Treaty to new security environment
  • Commitment of early mutual notification of all military exercises and of relocation of contingents/armaments exceeding certain agreed level
  • Refusal from military exercises in immediate proximity of each other borders, territories and waters
  • Orientation towards basic interoperability of Russian and NATO contingents for the cases of cooperation in conflict management (basing upon experience of IFOR)

Relations between NATO and Russia in the 90's went through different stages. Overall balance of the changes since the end of Cold War in these relations is definitely positive. Europe and the world became more secure and less tensed since NATO and Russia committed themselves by concluding a Founding Act on relations in 1997 to developing a partnership and assure non-confrontational mode of relations. But an intermediate period in NATO-Russian relations which lasted since collapse of the Soviet Union and till the full formation and security self-determination of the new independent states including Russia, is coming to an end.

Both NATO and Russia are staying on the threshold of new decisive turn in their security policiesThe dialogue between Rusia and NATO should be activated to upgrade NATO-Russian relations to a new level of strategic partnership. The alternative is a drawback to the confrontational mode of relations and that would be an unparalleled loss of historic opportunity and a step against basic security interests of Russia and of Alliances' nations.

 

Russian Public Opinion and the Russian Nuclear Legacy

by Phil Rogers

 

Abstract: This is an assessment of public opinion in Russia toward nuclear waste and nuclear power and an evaluation of the extent to which public attitudes have any effect on public policy in these two realms. Most of the analysis is based on interviews with Russian experts on this issue, including sociologists, environmental scientists, environmental journalists, and environmental activists. The point of the article is to define what we do and do not know about that topic so as to more effectively structure future research that the author hopes to conduct. The article concludes that even though Russian public opinion evinces a healthy sceptism about nuclear waste and nuclear power since Chernobyl and even though in the last year the publc has been increasingly willing to voice that anti-nuclear sentiment in local referenda, at the present time, this opinion is ambivalent, parochial, and somewhat ineffectual. Whether or not this will continue to be the case is the subject for future research.

To make this determination, this future research should:

  • make more specific distinctions on the issues (e.g. between attitudes toward the disposal of nuclear waste, attitudes toward the construction of new facilities, or operation of current nuclear power plants).
  • make more specific distinctions as to the reasons why voters take an apparent "anti-nuclear" stance in local referenda seperating protest votes on unpaid wages from real anti-nuclear sentiments.
  • give more attention to the public's willingness to incur economic costs to sustain this anti-nuclear position.
  • look for any evidence of a correlation between socio-economic status or perceptions of economic stability or instability and anti-nuclear sentiments.
  • look for the depth of differences between those in effected areas (e.g. the so-called "Plutonium Cities") and those father away from the danger zones.
  • look for generational differences in the attitudes of the "post Chernobyl" generation.
  • pursue a more in-depth analysis of the sense of "political efficacy" in different segments of the public, and, most important of all,
  • be careful of jumping from estimations of public oppostion to prospects for real political change without taking into account the signifant political obstacles in the way of anti-nuclear action.

 

Growing Nuclear Scepticism & Nascent Political Activism in the Russian Vox Populi.

From one perspective, there are grounds for real optimism in changing Russian attitudes towards the "nuclear issue." By all accounts, the Chernobyl tragedy was a catalyzing experience for the nascent Russian enviromentalist movement (which really began with the first signs of Gorbachev's glasnost). After the Chernobyl incident, the membership in anti-nuclear enviromental groups grew rapidly and spread throughout the vast Russian federation. In what is perhaps a classic Russian fashion, the number and location of environmental NGOs proliferated rapidly so that now today there are over 150 environmental NGOs scattered from the Western borders of Russia to the Pacific Coast. Moreover, there is growing evidence of an environmental concern in the general public and a cynical sceptism about nuclear issues that extends far beyond "professional" anti-nuclear activists to the general public. Between December 1993 and 1994, this political anti-nuclear sentiment, found fruition in a nuber of different events. For example, in a poll in Sept. 1994, Vadim Vinichenko concluded that evironmental concerns were now a much more important issue than they had been in the past (Vinchenko: 1995). That new importance was reflected by the fact that Russian anti-nuclear groups increasingly brought nuclear issues to be considered before local referenda in Chelybinsk which may bring about the resettlement of 124,000 Tatars exposed to extensive radiation in what is possibly the world's most radiation-poisoned zone. (Kudrick, Igor, Bellona: Oct. 11, 1997). And in Krasnoyarsk Krai, anti-nuclear activists stopped the construction of a radioactive waste storage/disposal facility in the area. Possibly as a partial result of environmental pressure, Russia will shut down 18 nuclear reactors by 2010 (Reuters, January 10, 1997). For example, the VVER-1000 reactor at Kalinin NPP was 70% complete when work was halted in 1990. To date, the zenith of the enviromental movement and the most important victory occurred in the referendum in Kostronoma in December 1996 when 87% of the people who voted in the referendum rejected the call to restart construction of a nuclear power station. This is significant because the Ministry of Nuclear Energy campaigned hard claiming that to stop the plant would cost 20,000 jobs. The public rejected such patently exaggerated claims.

 

Complicating Issues: Wage Disputes not Nukes and Reversable "Successes"

For all the apparent progress, the interpretation of these events is not as straightforward and positive as it might seem. In the first place, in interpreting the results one must separate anti-nuclear sentiments from other motivations. This has not always been done by some analysts and has lead to major misconceptions and exaggerated claims. To take one example, there is good evidence to suggest - claims of some environmentalists to the contrary - that the strikes in the Amursky Shipyard in November, 1996, the Zveda Yard of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in June 1997, and the Nerpa Yard on the Kola Penisula in June 1997 where far more a reaction to delayed wages than to concern with nuclear/environmental issues (Kudrick, Igor, Bellona, June 16-1, July 1). Indeed, there is good reason to believe that if the wages had been promply paid, these political protests would not have occured. Perhaps even more telling is that the success claimed by the enviromentalists is often short-lived or overstated. For example, the "victories" which were claimed in places like Krasnoyarsk and Chelybinsk, were at least partly reversed by subsequent government actions which declared early decisons invalid or succeeded in significantly slowing their implementation (Robert Otrung.) Sometimes, the reaction to environmental initizves made no attempt at subtle subterfuge. In July, 1997 plant workers and perhaps some local police physically attacked enviromental protestors of the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant. Commenting on this picture of confused motives and phyrrhic environmental victories, environmental activist Alexander Yablokov suggested that the claim of "pure" enviromental motives was at best "paradoxical." (Yablokov: 1997: 219). How then should one properly interprete these mixed results?

 

Different Public Reactions to Three Different Nuclear Questions:

One of the first things to do to lend greater clarity to the analysis of this issue is to disagretate public reponses to "nukes" in general into three different manifestations of the nuclear question: (1) disposal of nuclear wastes (military and civilian); (2) nuclear power for generating energy and nuclear-related facilities such as enrichment plants, and (3) facilities for the development and deployment of nuclear weapons and weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Russian public opinion is strongly and consistently anti-nuke on the first, "passive-aggressive" on the second, and either ignorant or apathetic (at best) about the third or responsive to Communist or Nationalistic crys "foreign control"on the third (at worst). The vehement, almost visceral reaction to toxic waste is the easiest to see. In every instance in which this is the only issue, - virtually all segments of the population consistently rally to defeat the construction or operation of local sites. This is especially the case when one speaks of "importing" nuclear waste from other states. Not so with the issue of nuclear power. There seems to be some ambivalence here. Consequently, the experts are split on the future public attitude on this topic. In short then, the public reactions to EITHER the environmentalists or the pro-nuclear power people seem to be "passive-aggressive." It may move in the direction of the more powerful or immediate flow but it always does so with some reluctance and ambivalence in the opposite direction. Finally, the general public knows very, very little about Russian nuclear weapons. Their general ignorance is not their fault; the Russian government has kept a tight lid on this issue. The public is consequently reluctant to get into this debate at all. With some exceptions, (usually related to nuclear dumping) it is not an issue which typically is raised. The differences on these issues are largely based on impressions of the various experts. It should be explored more systematically to see if this is, in fact, a real difference.

 

Political & Cultural Context for Russian Evironnmental politics:

A world of a severe economic crisis & incomplete democratization.

One of the tempations for Western analysts of the Russian domestic debate on nukes is to extrapolate analysis from the West directly into analysis of Russia. This temptation must be resisted because the political and economic context in which the Russian environmental debate now occurs - is fundamentally and qualitively different than anything in the West and these differences carry profound implications for the analysis of this issue. The starting point for analysis is to remind oneself that Russia is in a state of a severe economic recession. This recession is the backdrop against which all other political issues in Russia must be evaluated. What are the implications of this recession for the issues at hand? First, in relative terms, environmental issues simply do not top the agenda for most people. It is true that enviromental issues have now moved up to the number three concern - but the gap between this issue and the first two concerns (crime and the economy) has not really narrowed. These have been the two primary areas of concern for some time. (79% listed organized crime and 70% listed the economy compared to 49% listing the environment). The only exception to this, and it is an important excpetion, is when the environmental concerns are literally at your backdoor e.g. nearby nuclear waste site. A second implication of the economic recession is that there are fewer educational, personal, and financial resources for local environmental NGOs to use in their propaganda battles with the local nuclear power companies. If one peruses the list of regional Russian environmental NGOs it is striking how many of the office and home phone numbers are the same. In short, there is often little or no money for an office. The NGO may have shrunk to a literal handful of people operating in a mode of economic survival. Sadly, at the same time that the economic recession produces lethargy toward environmental issues and an financially anemic response by environmental NGOs, the economic recession exacerbates already dire environmental conditions. For example, the necessary maintenance of vitrification equipment has been neglected for financial reasons and the result is that liquid nuclear waste is pumped into the ground and solid nuclear waste is buried in a very unstable state.

The probability of contamination of local water tables is greatly increased as a result. Finally, the end result of a lack of funds is inertia in policy. In a few instances this is an environmental boon - construction of new nuclear power plants can slow to snail's pace or stop altogether as funds dry up. It may be this factor as much or more than nuclear protests and public opinion which has halted the construction of new nuclear power plants in Russia. But this inertia also thwarts more positive developments such as efforts to move nuclear waste sites away from heavily populated areas or water supplies. Apart from the economic recession, the second political backdrop to the Russian environmental movement is the fact that the democratic revolution is working its way only imperfectly - and only in fits and starts - into Russian environmental politics. In fact, there are at least four severe obstacles to democratic polilitical participation in Russia. First, it is extremely difficult to get accurate information because the government has "securitized" the issue. The political scientist Ole Waever has warned of the dangers of such an action precisely because it gives the government immense power. To illustrate the extent of this power, one might simply point out that information about water supplies and water quality for Russian cities over 300,000 is considered a state secret. It is on these grounds that Alexander Nitkin was imprisoned. This "securitization" of enviromental information is a product of both a federal law passed by the Duma and a Presidential Degree by Yeltsin. This is ironic because both the Presidential decree and the Duma Legislation violate the Russian Constitution. For this reason, the Socio-Ecological Union is taking this law to the Russian Supreme Court. It is not clear at this stage how successful they will be. Second, there is an absence of real procedural and political power that ensures adequate political participation in the local democratic process. A good example of this is the fact that even though two laws passed the Duma on this issue (Protection from Radiation and Nuclear Health) the laws were written only in the most general terms and they do not specifiy precisely how the pullic is to be included. As a result, the interpretation of the law was left up to local and regional authorities. Third, these local officials are often recycled party functionaries whose understanding of political participation is, to say the least, somewhat limited. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the sense of political efficacy of some of the effected groups may be low. Political efficacy is defined as a belief that one's political participation in the system can be meaningful or effective. There is both external efficacy and internal efficacy. External efficacy is defined as the belief that the system will be responsive to the demands of those who participate. A sense of internal efficacy is defined as the belief that you as an individual have the requisite skills to get the system to respond. Several analysts argued that much of the public in the parochial areas - e.g. the Plutonium cities - may have a low sense of both external and internal political efficacy. The irony may be that those Russians with a higher sense of political efficacy - hence those more likely to do something - may be in places like Moscow and St. Petersburg which are less at risk for nuclear pollution. This is an hypothesis so far untested by empirical data. If it is correct, however, it has important policy implications which could give some direction to regional environmental NGOs. Specifically, it suggests that these environmental NGOs must do more than simply inform the local populace about the dangers of nuclear pollution - they must convince the populace that something can be done about it and that those local people can do it.

 

Exploring Subsets of General public opinion

Finally, more empirical work needs to be conducted to look for evidence of differences within this broader public opinion (never a monolithic entity in any society) and factors that seem to correlate with these differences. This is the case first of all within the environmental acitivists themselves. Oleg Yavlinsky (Russian Environmentalism: Leading Figures, Facts, and Opinions, Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyje Otnoshenija Publishing House: 1993) has written a very interesting and important description of variations within the Russian environmental movement. But variations on specific issues - such as attitudes towards nuclear power and tactics for changing policy should be more explored.

There also seems to be a significant debate among Russian sociologists about the political legacy of Chernobyl. While everyone agreed that the political shadow of Chernobyl had caused public opinion to shift from supportive or neutral attitude toward negative or suspicious ambivalence toward nuclear power, the continuing power of the legacy seems to be the matter of dispute. How long the Chernobyl effect will last and whether it can be overridden by other concerns seems to be a matter of dispute among the sociologists. Some analysts see a future not unlike the US domestic case where the public increasingly realizes that nuclear power plants are financially unprofitable and begins to shift toward alternate sources of power. In the US, the construction of nuclear power plants has indeed stopped, and it is highly unlikely that it will be revived. Contrast that with the French system. A more cynical prediction of the future is one in which segments of the Russian public living near the plants are bought out by such things as free power.

A third possible division is based on proximity of the danger. There is some evidence that suggests that even the local environmental movements have an attitude characterized as "NIMBY" i.e. not in my backyard. When the danger is close and real to them, environmental issues rank high. However, when the danger is far away, the issues drop off in salience. The discussion is about moving nuclear waste to another site far away regardless of the comparative merits for disposal of such factors as geographic formations, etc. More exploration of this issue would be useful. It would be especially helpful to do comparative public opinion studies of, e.g. Moscow and Tomsk.

A fourth interesting subset would be the local officials and nuclear power plant workers. There is some reason to believe that they do not themselves have a totally uncritical attitude toward issues such as nuclear waste, though this needs to be explored. More importantly, the attitudes of these individuals towards democratic participation and the extent to which they might be pursuaded to adopt a more progressive view are also quite important. Finally, it might be interesting to do more extensive work looking for any generational differences (before and after Chernobyl), gender differences, educational and socio-economic differences. While some of this analysis has been done, it has been somewhat limited in focus.

 

Conclusion:

The point of study is to identify what we know - and what we do not know about Russian public opionin toward nuclear issues. In summary form we can say that we know that the Russian public is seriously concerned about the possible toxic effects of nuclear radiation especially from nuclear waste sites. They will no longer be easily duped by Government duplicity on this matter. We know that when nuclear waste sites are close that often the public tends to react to move or close the site. However, there are also a number of things about which we can only speculate as this article has done. First, the attitude toward nuclear power plants - as opposed to nuclear waste sites - is a little more ambivalent. Second, the impact of the economic recession and the undemocratic system on public attitudes needs further exploration. Finally, there are a number of subsets within the general public that must be examined, for example, the difference in attitudes of Tomsk versus Moscow.

Russia is faced with both the need to clean up the environmental legacy of the Cold War and the political legacy of centuries as an authoritarian state. Its ability to cope with the environmental nightmare it faces will be the single best test of the degree of real democratization it has attained. The legacy of the Cold War in the US and Russia is one characterized by three demons from the past:

  1. The false faith in Nuclear Power as a cheap, efficient energy source and the economic and political investment in it which creates a political inertia hard to reverse. While it is quite possible to slow or stop new construction projects, it is much more difficult to get investments, subsidizes for creating new plants or converting old ones.
  2. A massive proliferation of hundreds of tons of nuclear waste including highly radiated material involved in the nuclear weapons including not only the fissile material and radiative "enhancement" material, and irradiated equipment.
  3. The securitization of environmental energy policies and the consequent legacy of "secrecy"and "duplicty"from the government and public passivity which still persists.


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