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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 25, April 1998

New Claims About Russian Gyroscope Sale to Iraq

On 13 April, the Centre for Policy Studies in Russia (the PIR Center) made new claims concerning the attempted sale of gyroscopes from Russia to Iraq in 1995. High-technology gyroscopes are key components of missile guidance systems. The gyroscopes in question were reportedly previously used in the guidance systems of Soviet RSM-50 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) dismantled under the START I Treaty. According to the PIR Center, the sale was agreed between Iraq and the facility responsible for part of the START I dismantling process, the Research and Testing Institute of Chemical and Building Machines in Sergiyev Posad near Moscow.

The new claims primarily concern the number of items scheduled to be sold. The transfer was uncovered in 1995 when a shipment was intercepted by Jordan. Reports at the time spoke of 115 gyroscopes being seized; however, according to PIR researchers, over 800 were due to be transferred. A preliminary sample batch of 10 gyroscopes did reach Iraq; these were dumped in the Tigris river to avoid detection but later retrieved by UN weapons inspectors.

According to the head of the PIR Center, Vladimir Orlov, the sale of the components was not explicitly prohibited under Russian law, which he characterised, during a 13 April press conference, as containing a number of "serious flaws" with regard to sensitive exports

(Editor's note: see Vladimir Orlov's article in Disarmament Diplomacy, No. 20 (December 1997) pp. 12-17, for a detailed analysis of these legal deficiencies).

Report: Did Russia sell gyroscopes to Iraq, Associated Press, 13 April.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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