IN its first public report, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service unveiled findings that 16 Asian, African, and Latin American countries either possess or are "on the road" to having nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
Controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is now a top priority of the Russian intelligence service following the end of the cold war, Russian spymaster Yevgeny Primakov told reporters at a press conference unveiling the report last week.
"Russia is not interested in the emergence of new states possessing weapons of mass destruction along the perimeter of its borders," said Mr. Primakov, who was an adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Primakov has headed the external spy service since it was formed last year from the foreign wing of the Soviet KGB secret police.
The Russian intelligence service identified several countries as already having deliverable nuclear weapons, including Israel, India, and Pakistan. It says several are close to developing such weapons, including Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and South Africa. The report also discussed countries described as having the potential to develop weapons of mass destruction, including Argentina, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Brazil, Taiwan, Chile, South Korea, and Libya.
Libya, for example, has stockpiled 70 to 80 tons of chemical weapons, the Russians say, and it is researching biological weapons. Egypt is described as capable of producing a range of chemical weapons, including nerve and other poison gases. Primakov criticized Arab nations for not signing the recent international convention to eliminate chemical weapons, though he also assailed the United States for having a "double standard" by tacitly accepting Israeli possession of nuclear weapons. No flight of expertise
The report, which was prepared in part based on Russian intelligence information, provides information for the first time on nuclear programs in countries that received Soviet assistance in the past. Primakov and other senior intelligence officials say they have found no evidence to support press reports that unemployed Russian nuclear experts are now working in Iraq, North Korea, or other countries.
But Primakov acknowledged the danger of those specialists going abroad to work in fields adjacent to nuclear-weapons research. Even for nuclear specialists, "if we don't do anything to provide scientists and experts here with a decent standard of living, it is only natural that such a person ... may sign a contract," says Gennady Yevstafyev, who heads the Russian intelligence department on arms control. He proposes creating an international commission to control nuclear scientists' movements.
Following the cold war's end, control over mass-destruction weapons has been identified as a main area of cooperation between Russia and the West. The Russians support the Western conclusion that Iraq, once a close Soviet ally, was well on its way to having nuclear and biological weapons to accompany its chemical-weapons stock. At the time of Desert Storm, however, the Russian report asserts, the Iraqis were still some distance from having a nuclear weapon.
The Russians worry that, despite the United Nations program to destroy Iraq's capability to build weapons of mass destruction, Baghdad is still working to revive these programs, particularly an ability to produce long-range missiles. The Iraqis may still be hiding fissionable materials the report adds, "But even if they are, the production facilities capable of making nuclear ammunition are destroyed." Iran's dummy corporations
Iran, the rival of Iraq and a country that borders the former Soviet Union, does not yet possess nuclear weapons but has an extensive research program underway, the Russians report. Without assistance, however, nuclear weapons production is 10 years away, they assert.
The Russians warn that the Iranians have set up dummy companies to evade international controls on technology that can be used to make nuclear weapons. Still, imported equipment remains accessible to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and no evidence of a secret "parallel" nuclear program in Iran has emerged yet.
Neighboring communist North Korea, another former Soviet ally, is described as also having a nuclear-weapons program that is at "an advanced stage, though its scientific and technological level is not very high." The Russians, who assisted the North Korean civilian nuclear research efforts beginning in the 1960s, say North Korean Army experts are part of the program.
Talks between North and South Korea aimed at opening facilities to full international inspection have recently foundered.
The North Korean ambassador to Moscow told newsmen here that his country would refuse even existing IAEA inspection unless South Korea and the US cancel military exercises scheduled for March, the Itar-Tass news agency reported Jan. 28.