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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 24, March 1998

Ukraine Keeps Missiles, Agrees Not to Sell Turbines to Iran

On 6 March, Ukraine announced it would not proceed with a sale of turbines to Iran for use at the Bushehr nuclear reactor to be constructed by Russia. The turbines were due to be designed and built by the State-owned AOA Turboatom nuclear plant in Kharkiv.

The announcement was made during a visit to Ukraine by US Secretary of State Albright (see Documents and Sources for extracts from a 6 March press conference in Kiev with Albright, President Kuchma and Foreign Minister Udovenko). In the run-up to Albright's visit, the US had made plain its extreme displeasure at the prospect of the sale, hinting less than lightly that it had the potential to badly dent US-Ukraine relations and economic cooperation, particularly with regard to nuclear energy. According to reports, the cancellation now opens the way for the US Westinghouse Electric Corporation to bid for a $1.2 billion contract to complete the construction of two Russian-designed reactors in Ukraine.

On 7 March, Iran's Government radio station broadcast an angry response to the news, later carried on Iran's official news agency, IRNA:

"Ukraine is the biggest loser... [T]he country has lost its political and economic credit because of the failure to respect its commitments, and it will not be qualified to enjoy promotion of relations with Iran for some time... The people of Ukraine and their independent political groups and parties will protest after having witnessed Albright's humiliating treatment of the country's leaders and the threat to reduce American aid..."

The same day, IRNA quoted a spokesperson from Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy (MinAtom) as saying: "Russia has sufficient capability to complete this project and if turbines manufactured in Ukraine are not used, undoubtedly those produced by Elekrosila in St. Petersburg or other Russian manufacturers can be used instead..."

In the United States, apart from evident Administration satisfaction, the news was warmly welcomed by the American Jewish Congress (AJC). In a 6 March statement, AJC President Phil Baum commented:

"Ukraine's cancellation today of a $45 million deal to provide nuclear technology to Iran is a welcome development in the battle to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of outlaw nations. It is especially noteworthy as a demonstration of high moral resolve, given the economic loss to Ukraine this action may entail. ... President Kuchma [has] warned, however, that Russia would be only too glad to fill the gap left by the Ukrainian action..."

Three days before the announcement, President Kuchma insisted - in a move sure to have disappointed the US - that Ukraine was intent on retaining its medium-range missiles: "Ukraine will have [the missiles] regardless of the opinion of this or that country... We have already cut so much [of our armed forces] that there is nothing left to cut..."

Reports: Ukraine keeps medium-range missiles, Associated Press, 3 March; US wins Ukrainian export pledges, Associated Press, 6 March; Albright hails Ukrainian-Iranian nuclear breakthrough, Reuters, 6 March; AJ Congress hails Ukraine's cancellation of rich nuclear deal with Iran and calls on Russia to do the same, PR Newswire, 6 March; Ukraine will end nuclear deal with Iran, Reuters, 6 March; Iran condemns Ukraine for scrapping nuclear deal, Reuters, 7 March.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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