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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 35, March 1999

US Report Criticises Programme to Help Russian Scientists

On 22 February, a report from the US General Accounting Office (GAO) expressed serious reservations and criticisms about US non-proliferation programmes to prevent the leakage of weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) technology from the former Soviet Union. In particular, the GAO found that just over half - 51% - of the money allocated up to June 1998 to a programme to persuade Russian weapons scientists not to work in potential proliferator countries had gone no further than the US Department of Energy (DOE) which is responsible for administering the scheme. Furthermore, the GAO found that some of the projects involved were related to dual-use technologies that "could unintentionally provide useful defense-related benefits to Russian and other [former Soviet] scientists." The GAO found no evidence, however, that this had actually occurred. The report concluded: "Although in general the program is employing weapons scientists on a part-time basis, it has not achieved its broader non-proliferation goal of long-term employment through the commercialization of projects."

Speaking on the day of the report's release, Senator Helms expressed outrage at its findings: "It is absolutely unacceptable for the Clinton Administration to donate the US taxpayer's money to Russian scientists who spend their time working on poison gas, biological agents and new nuclear weapons designs for the Russian Government. That must stop."

Reports: GAO criticizes effort to keep Russian weapons scientists at home, Washington Post, 23 February; Russian scientists getting US money, Associated Press, 23 February; Report raps US program to help Russian scientists, Reuters, 23 February.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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