Containing Russia's Nuclear Firebirds

Containing Russia's Nuclear Firebirds: Harmony and Change at the International Science and Technology Center

Glenn E. Schweitzer
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
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    Containing Russia's Nuclear Firebirds
    Book Description:

    In Containing Russia's Nuclear Firebirds, Glenn E. Schweitzer explores the life and legacy of the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. He makes the case that the center's unique programs can serve as models for promoting responsible science in many countries of the world. Never before have scientists encountered technology with the potential for such huge impacts on the global community, both positive and negative. For nearly two decades following the Soviet Union's breakup into independent states, the ISTC has provided opportunities for underemployed Russian weapon scientists to redirect their talents toward civilian research. The center has championed the role of science in determining the future of civilization and has influenced nonproliferation policies of Russia and other states in the region. Most important, the center has demonstrated that modest investments can encourage scientists of many backgrounds to shun greed and violence and to take leading roles in steering the planet toward prosperity and peace. Schweitzer contends that the United States and other western and Asian countries failed to recognize the importance, over time, of modifying their donor-recipient approach to dealing with Russia. In April 2010 the Russian government announced that it would withdraw from the ISTC agreement. After expenditures exceeding one billion dollars, the ISTC's Moscow Science Center will soon close its doors, leaving a legacy that has benefited Russian society as well as partners from thirty-eight countries. Schweitzer argues that a broader and more sustained movement is now needed to help prevent irresponsible behavior by dissatisfied or misguided scientists and their patrons.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4471-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE A Unique Experiment for Security and Prosperity
    (pp. 1-17)

    Economic chaos prevailed as the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen independent states in 1991. Once-secret research and development organizations throughout the new Russian Federation began to open their doors to foreign visitors, who indicated that they might finance advanced technology activities directed to peaceful purposes. Initially, the Russian government tried to orchestrate the efforts of a handful of well-controlled Russian institutions to attract foreign customers. But soon scores of other institutes and enterprises within the country joined the hunt for new revenue sources.

    In short order, these institutions began exercising an increasing amount of autonomy from central control. Their representatives...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Off to a Fast Start (1994–2000)
    (pp. 18-34)

    The political turmoil in moscow in the fall of 1993 led President Boris Yeltsin to abolish the Russian Parliament (then called the Supreme Soviet) that was created when the Soviet Union splintered into fifteen separate countries. My Russian colleagues anticipated that in the wake of this political clash, the Duma, which was established soon thereafter as Russia’s key legislative body, would spend many months and perhaps years wrangling over a host of issues affecting both the nation’s role in a rapidly changing world order and the internal governance of the country. Only then, they predicted, would the legislators turn their...

  7. CHAPTER THREE An Era of Euphoria (2001–2006)
    (pp. 35-55)

    The istc entered the first decade of the twenty-first century on a high note. Praises for its work were coming from all directions. Governments in North America, Europe, and Asia were pleased with their financial investments as both nonproliferation and scientific returns seemed obvious to all. Funding of the istc was on a steady course. By the early 2000s, the annual funding level for projects involving Russian scientists was averaging between sixty-eight and seventy-eight million dollars, although beginning to decline.¹

    The Russian government had significantly reduced a number of bureaucratic difficulties. For example, the process for obtaining Russian government approvals...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Unraveling of the Moscow Science Center (2007–2011)
    (pp. 56-84)

    With strong words of praise from the funding parties and accolades from scientists throughout Russia and other member states, in 2007 the istc seemed poised to continue blazing new pathways for coordinating international interests in many fields of science. The following istc-sponsored workshops and seminars in cities of Russia during 2007, plus a comparable number of events in other member states as well, illustrated the broad reach of the center across scientific areas of international interest:

    Astrophysical research: Berdsk

    Nano and giga challenges in electronics and photonics: Sarov

    Stem cell research: Moscow

    Anticancer drug discovery: Moscow

    Aerospace technologies: Moscow


  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER FIVE The World Market for High-Tech Expertise
    (pp. 85-103)

    As the soviet union splintered into fifteen independent nations, “stop the brain drain in Russia” became the mantra of both nonproliferation specialists and promoters of international scientific collaboration in many countries. Indeed, concern over a brain drain in dangerous directions was the primary driver for the establishment of the istc. The world’s largest scientific community had gone into a cascade of downward organizational and economic spirals, with few hospitable landing sites below.

    Applied research institutions suddenly lost most of their financial patrons. They had employed 80 percent of Russia’s research and development workforce. At the same time, the institutes that...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Long Road to a Silicon Valley in Russia
    (pp. 104-125)

    Thomas edison often said, “If I can’t sell it, I don’t want to invent it.”¹ Both aging Russian researchers and the new generation of scientists now realize that a successful transition to a market economy requires more attention to Edison’s practical philosophy. For the time being, with very few exceptions, Russian researchers should keep in the distant background their dreams of emulating the theoretical findings of Albert Einstein.

    As noted in previous chapters, the Soviet system frequently separated the organizational responsibilities for technological invention from responsibilities for converting new technologies into practical applications. Government authorities determined the technological approaches that...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN U.S.-Russia Bilateral Engagement Programs
    (pp. 126-152)

    As the istc was being established in the early 1990s, a number of U.S. government departments and agencies were rapidly increasing their expenditures for technology-related contracts with Russian organizations. These expenditures soon climbed into the tens of millions of dollars each year. Within a few years, annual U.S. government spending levels had reached hundreds of millions of dollars for bilateral projects involving Russian facilities that had previously depended for survival on the country’s defense budget, which was rapidly shrinking.

    A large portion of this spending from abroad was to help ensure that dangerous Russian materials would not surreptitiously become available...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT The Nuclear File
    (pp. 153-169)

    When diplomats first raised the concept in 1991 of an international center to support redirection of Russian weapons scientists’ expertise to civilian tasks, the threat of primitive nuclear bombs constructed by disenfranchised rogue groups was in the forefront of the discussions. The possibility of a nuclear catastrophe dominated istc deliberations for many years. Even when other types of proliferation threats moved onto center stage, the nuclear issue was repeatedly cited as a principal rationale in Washington, Brussels, and Tokyo for continuation of istc programs.

    Beginning in 1992, Russian nuclear authorities in the Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) had the host-country...

  14. CHAPTER NINE The Biosecurity File
    (pp. 170-183)

    Rapid advances in the biological sciences and biotechnology hold the promise of dramatically improving human health, the food supply, environmental conditions, and other aspects of life. Most biological advances and innovations have originated in the industrialized countries. Now, broad diffusion of biological knowledge and biotechnology capabilities is under way. This trend provides new opportunities for less advanced countries to use achievements of others.

    The spread of advanced biotechnology techniques, however, is accompanied by potential risks. Skills that contribute to advances in medicine, agriculture, and environmental preservation overlap with know-how that could be used for adapting dangerous biological pathogens for nefarious...

  15. CHAPTER TEN The Aerospace File
    (pp. 184-198)

    Many stories were circulating in Russia during the early days of the istc about the export of rocket and missile components from large Russian enterprises to states in the Middle East and South Asia, where some local officials had questionable security agendas. Analyzing the known and unknown activities of recipients of military hardware produced in Russia was a high-priority agenda item during diplomatic discussions involving Western and Russian officials, as legacies of the Cold War dominated many interactions in Moscow and other capitals. The following story was but one of dozens of reports that raised eyebrows in a never-ending saga...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN Measuring Success
    (pp. 199-218)

    The international nonproliferation community has widely recognized the importance of redirecting underemployed Russian weapons scientists to civilian careers during a time of economic turmoil throughout the country. Each redirected weapons scientist who has changed his or her career has become a small plus sign on a huge screen depicting multifaceted responses to the challenges of reducing incentives for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The istc can take credit for many pluses that increasingly blacken the screen, although neither the individual importance nor the aggregated significance of the black impressions—in the near term or in the long term—can...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE Replicating ISTC Experiences While Avoiding Pitfalls
    (pp. 219-234)

    As the doors of the istc headquarters in Moscow slowly began to close in 2011, a handful of officials from member governments were searching for ways to preserve the center’s legacy. They correctly assumed that lessons learned from transforming a radically new idea about curtailing proliferation into a successful program over seventeen years, with most efforts carried out in Russia, should be of broad international interest in the years ahead. These officials had a large array of allies in this effort—namely, the tens of thousands of scientists who had positive memories of their participation in istc-supported programs.

    A prominent...

  18. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Way Forward
    (pp. 235-248)

    In 2010, reflecting on the successes of the istc, the former director of a leading Russian nuclear research center bitterly condemned Russia’s impending withdrawal from the istc Agreement with the following assertion: “All Russian stakeholder agencies united in fighting against the istc. They were scared of the istc’s successful corruption-free system of allocations of research funds, without kickbacks. What if the country’s leaders suddenly realized that the same experience could be applied to other research projects? How would they then participate in the growing sales of Audis and Mercedes in the impoverished country?”¹

    Meanwhile, the possibility of dangerous consequences of...

    (pp. 249-250)

    Nobel peace prize or not, government officials around the world have recognized the unique role that the istc has played in restraining flocks of nuclear firebirds from flights into dangerous nesting areas.

    The Russian government has decreed that the country’s involvement in the activities of the istc is no longer necessary. The other member states will continue to embrace the work of the center, and hopefully Russia will preserve and broaden the many positive imprints of the center throughout the country. These impacts have demonstrated time and again that Anton Chekov foresaw the global trajectories of learning many decades ago...

  20. APPENDIX A. Agreement Establishing an International Science and Technology Center
    (pp. 251-259)
  21. APPENDIX B. Protocol on the Provisional Application of the Agreement Establishing an International Science and Technology Center
    (pp. 260-261)
  22. APPENDIX C. President Dmitry Medvedev’s Decree No. 534, August 11, 2010
    (pp. 262-262)
  23. APPENDIX D. Diplomatic Note on Russian Withdrawal from the ISTC Agreement and Protocol
    (pp. 263-263)
  24. APPENDIX E. ISTC Project Funding and Beneficiary Scientists, 1994–2011
    (pp. 264-270)
  25. NOTES
    (pp. 271-284)
  26. INDEX
    (pp. 285-293)