Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 20, November 1997
US Buys Moldovan JetsOn 4 November, the US announced that it was purchasing 21 MiG-29 fighter aircraft from Moldova - see Documents and Sources. According to Defense Secretary William Cohen, the aircraft are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and the aim of the purchase was to prevent their sale or diversion to would-be proliferators, particularly Iran. The purchase was concluded under the aegis of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme between the US and former Soviet republics. The price paid for the MiGs was reported to be $40 million. Asked what use the US would find for the planes, Cohen stated: "We're going to study them. We're going to analyze them. And I'm sure that the Air Force will come up with some utilitarian use for them."
On 10 November, Russia's Defence Minister, Igor Sergeyev, claimed that the fighters were not nuclear capable. Sergeyev told the Interfax news agency: "The report that the MiG-29C carries apparatus that the plane could use to carry nuclear weapons is a lie."
The deal also proved controversial in Moldova. According to Parliamentary deputy Nicolae Andronic, the Government had failed to meet a legislative obligation to seek Parliamentary approval for the deal. Andronic stated (13 November):
"It is a dubious deal. The Government broke the law and misled the United States... I doubt the US Congress would accept such behaviour on the [US] President's part..."
Reports: US not shopping world arms bazaar - defense officials, Reuters, 5 November; US buys from Moldavia MiGs sought by Iran, Itar-Tass, 6 November; MiGs sold to US can't carry nuclear arms - Russia, Reuters, 11 November; Moldova deputies call US MiG sale illegal, Reuters, 13 November.
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