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By Sast Report Correspondants


nuclear weapons


"If you study the [news] ... you will find, very often, that the issues are rarely in the headlines, barely in the leading paragraphs, and sometimes not even mentioned anywhere."
Walter Lippmann


Osama bin Laden recently stated, that he has nuclear and chemical weapons and might use them to respond to U.S. attacks.

"I heard the speech of American President Bush yesterday. He was scaring the European countries that Osama wanted to attack with weapons of mass destruction. I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent," he stated.

Also, Osama bin Laden said that terrorism against Americans is justified because of the "massacre of Muslims by their government" in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq.

"... We are carrying on the mission of our Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him. The mission is to spread the word of God, not to indulge massacring people. We ourselves are the target of killings, destruction and atrocities. We are only defending ourselves. This is defensive Jihad. We want to defend our people and our land. That is why I say that if we don't get security, the Americans, too, would not get security."

"This is a simple formula that even an American child can understand. This is the formula of live and let live." he stated. "If the enemy occupies a Muslim territory and uses common people as a human shield, then it is permitted to attack that enemy."*



* * E X C L U S I V E * *

The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment concluded as early as in 1977 in a government report on "Nuclear Proliferation and Safeguards", that "given the weapons material and a fraction of a million dollars, a small group of people, none of whom have ever had access to the classified literature, could possibly design and build a crude nuclear explosive device. The group would have to include, at a minimum, a person capable of searching and understanding the technical literature in several fields, and a jack-of-all-trades technician."
Well placed Russian sources repeatedly told SAST REPORT that two briefcase nuclear weapons have already reached the US shores. The weapon identified is a small 8-kilogram device that carries at least 2 kg of fissionable Plutonium and Uranium. The device, of Russian make, carries a serial number 9999 and manufacturing date October 1988.

The design of the device is very simple.

The radioactive materials consist of Uranium and Plutonium both kept in separate compartments. At the top of the two compartments is placed the charging mechanism. The charging mechanism can be activated through a timer or even through a cell phone command.

These briefcase nuclear weapons are not the only Russian atomic demolition munitions missing. According to a former Russian general, numerous small suitcase-sized nuclear weapons have disappeared from the inventories.




Gen. Alexander Lebed
Gen. Alexander Lebed,
"100 small nuclear devices
are not under the control of
the armed forces of Russia."
Photo Archive

On 1 October 1997, former Russian National Security Adviser Gen. Alexander Lebed, a decorated veteran of the Russian war in Afghanistan, testified before the Congressional Military Research and Development Subcommittee, that perhaps 100 small nuclear devices were missing from inventories under his control. Gen. Lebed, who ran in the 1996 presidential election and finished third, said the devices were a "perfect terrorist weapon," made to look like suitcases, "and could be detonated by one person with less than 30 minutes of preparation," according to documents.

"General Alexander Lebed was well known for his rhetorical use of language. I met him several times in Moscow while I was assigned to the American Embassy (1998-2001) and always found him to be more than willing to incite alarm. I also met with Congressman Curt Weldon on a number of occasions, several of which were focused on addressing this issue. Both men were fond of seizing opportunities to highlight the then somewhat chaotic state of affairs in Russian security, especially in the field of nuclear weapons."
 Mr. Brannon
"I'm saying that more than a hundred weapons out of the supposed number of 250 are not under the control of the armed forces of Russia," Lebed said in an interview with CBS 60 Minutes which was broadcast on 7th September 1997. "I don't know their location. I don't know whether they have been destroyed or whether they are stored or whether they've been sold or stolen, I don't know," General Lebed added, who later in 1998 was to win the election for governor of one of Russia's largest provinces, Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia, in which are situated the formerly concealed cities Zheleznogorsk and Zelenogorsk which played a role in the early Russian Nuclear Program. Zheleznogorsk (formerly known as Krasnoyarsk-26), the site of production of Plutonium, electricity and district heating and a town with a history of defense plants such as nuclear facilities built within caverns and space research enterprises, and Zelenogorsk (formerly known as Krasnoyarsk-45), the location of enriching of Uranium, are closed cities.

The Russian government immediately tried to discredit the gruff retired paratrooper general's testimony, as a relic of the Cold War. But on 2 October 1997 a prominent Russian weapons scientist and a respected member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksey Yablokov, who was former environmental advisor to President Boris Yeltsin while serving on the Russian National Security Council, testified before the Military Research and Development Subcommittee of the House National Security Committee that he was "absolutely sure" that the Russians produced small nuclear weapons for combat use.

 Former Congressman
 Curt Weldon,
 says General Lebed
 told him about
 the missing
 Russian suitcase-
 sized nukes.
 Photo Archive
"I can tell you unequivocally we built these devices similar to this and so did the Soviets during the Cold War," said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., "The defense minister of Russia told me to my face, 'Yes, congressman, we built these devices. Just as your country built them during the Cold War.'" This was during a meeting in Moscow in December 1997 with Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.

 A mock-up device
 resulting in a
 atomic weapon"
 Photo Archive
In a later House Floor Speech** the gentleman from Pennsylvania, a former fire chief and mayor of the working-class Philadelphia-area town of Marcus Hook, stated: "Mr. Speaker, ........ I was with General Alexander Lebed 2 1/2 years ago in May in his office in Moscow when he outlined to me that one of his responsibilities when he worked for Yeltsin as security adviser was to locate 132 suitcase-sized nuclear weapons that the Soviet Union had built, and using all the influence of his office, he was only able to locate 48 of those devices. Each of these small atomic demolition munitions carrying a capacity of one to 10 kilotons. That is about the size of the bombing of Hiroshima, 10 kilotons, so it would produce a massive, massive explosion. After Lebed told us the story, and there were five Members of Congress with me from both parties, I came back to Washington and I asked the CIA if we had any information to know whether or not Lebed would in fact know this information that he had told us about trying to identify these small nuclear devices and whether or not we knew if they were safe. The CIA told me we did not have any way of knowing whether or not Lebed was being factual with us."

Rep. Weldon also repeatedly voiced his concern about the secrecy the Russians were maintaining in connection with the vast underground complex in the Southern Urals in the region of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Yamantau Mountain (Yamantau Gora), which is assumed to be a military command center, large nuclear facility and/or bunker, located inside a rock quartz mountain. Though the exact dimension and location of the complex is not known, it seems to be situated near the Yuryuzan nuclear production facility and the Yuryuzan national level nuclear weapons storage facility at the closed city of Tryokhgorny (formerly Zlatoust-36) in the region of the Chelyabinsk Oblast. Located nearby is also one of the remaining Russian nuclear weapon laboratories at Snezhinsk. Another closed city, Mezhgorye (thought to have formerly been Beloretsk or Beloretsk-15 and Beloretsk-16), is also located in the Bashkortostan region and supposedly built over the facility. Although the Americans have received various different answers as to what exactly the complex in the Urals is, the Russian Yamantau Mountain complex is generally assumed to be the counterpart of one of the American underground military facilities, Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (now renamed Cheyenne Mountains Directorate) in Colorado.

In July 2000 a credible source of SAST REPORT affirmed that he knew personally that Russia produced small nuclear weapons for combat use, and that many of them were missing. The source stated that he worked in the department of these smart weapons, and that he knew what he was talking about. He stressed that all of the missing nuclear devices are fully functional, except for one. The source added that he sometimes feels ashamed, ... [inaudible] and that he thinks it is important that it is known to the public.

In August 2001, two hours before a further meeting with this Russian source, the journalists of SAST REPORT were detained in a secret detention center for 18 hours in Innsbruck, Austria. They had to leave all their press items, the equipment and most of their personal belongings. Concerning the source, there's been silence ever since.

Photo: Congressman Christopher Shays    Photo U.S. House of Representatives
 Congressman Christopher Shays
 Photo U.S. House of Representatives
On September 24th, 2001, on New York City's 77 WABC Radio's Sean Hannity Show, Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations stated that terrorists may have access to as many as 60 briefcase nuclear weapons. Congressman Shays warned that a high ranking Russian official and advisor to President Vladimir Putin had initially admitted to his congressional committee that "out of 140 the Russians could only account for about 80 of them."

"... the Russians can't pay their employees. So some of this very sensitive, very expensive and very dangerous weaponry is being sold for ridiculously small amounts of money," Rep. Shays also warned.

Mr. Shays further stated: "If you asked me if bin Laden really had these weapons, I would say, probably not, but, on the other hand, I wouldn't be the least surprised if there were a nuclear explosion in Israel or the United States."

At about the same time as Congressman Shays was on the radio, Russian General Igor Valynkin, Commander of the 12th Main Directorate, known as the 12th GUMO (Glavnoye Upravleniye Ministerstvo Oborony), the part on Russia's Ministry of Defense that is devoted to nuclear security, told Izvestiya, that "such weapons had in fact existed, but "most" had been eliminated."

Photo: Dr. Robert B. Brannon, Professor of National Security Studies, at George C. Marshall European Center    Photo George C. Marshall European Center
 Mr. Brannon,
 "The real mystery
 to me is why none
 has surfaced"
 Photo George C. Marshall
 European Center
"Valynkin is known to me to be a truthful man with no hidden agendas, and he was in a position to be aware of the facts in the case directly, as opposed to the barely indirect knowledge that could have been attributed to General Lebed or Colonel Lunev. An honest broker, if there is such a person in the business of nuclear security in Russia," Dr. Robert B. Brannon, Professor of National Security Studies, at George C. Marshall European Center told SAST REPORT.

"This somewhat cryptic comment was picked up by a number of researchers and widely reported as confirmation that suitcase nuclear weapons were "out there", and that no one really knows where they are," he said.

Mr. Brannon, in November 2006, pointed out that "since then, despite widespread speculation, there is no new information about these weapons. If any of them were missing, they are still missing, and the real mystery to me is why none has surfaced - either as a weapon of mass destruction, or as contraband."

The International Atomic Energy Agency has documented 16 confirmed incidents involving highly enriched uranium or plutonium from 1993-2005.
In 2002, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the nation's largest nongovernmental organization focusing exclusively on nonproliferation issues, conducted a study*** to assess the allegations made by General (Ret.) Alexandre Lebed. The study concluded that portable nuclear devices did exist, despite the numerous denials by Russian officials prior to 2002. It further concluded that "the loss of any nuclear weapons, including portable devices, during the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine and other former Soviet republics was highly unlikely." (quoted on February 10 by ITAR-TASS with the statement of Deputy Chief of the General Staff Yuri Baluevski to the same effect)

In 2004 Dr.Dr. Nikolai N. Sokov, a senior research associate at CNS, who worked at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and later Russia, and participated in START I and START II negotiations published a follow-on:
"Two years ago, based on scanty information, CNS concluded that such weapons (a) existed and (b) were intended for special forces of the Ministry of Defense (Spetsnaz). We also tentatively sketched the likely characteristics of these weapons. Newly available information confirms and expands these conclusions. It has been disclosed that these weapons were indeed intended for Spetsnaz. Two versions of these devices were created - RA-155 for the army and RA-115-01 for the navy (to be used under water). The weight of one device was 30 kilograms and it could be armed by a single operator in just 10 minutes. These weapons, which were called "nuclear backpacks" ("yadernyi ranets"), had a yield of 0.5 to 2 kilotons and could contaminate areas of up to 10 square kilometers. They were kept at only two secret storage facilities and had never been released to troops.

Information vital for the assessment of the threat presented by these weapons if they had fallen into the wrong hands has also been confirmed, namely that "nuclear suitcases" have a very short shelf-life and have protection against unauthorized use. The former director of Research Institute No. 4 (the research arm of the Strategic Rocket Forces) General (ret.) Vladimir Dvorkin confirmed that portable nuclear devices were designed in such a way that they could not remain in the ready-to-use status for a long time because certain components had to be periodically replaced by experts (sources quoted in the CNS report mentioned regular maintenance at six-month intervals). In addition to some type of permissive action link (PAL) device, they were also protected against attempts to forcibly remove electronic locks. In the event of such an attempt, the weapon automatically switched into a "non-use" mode and would not explode."****

Univ.Prof. Dr. Friedrich Steinhäusler    Photo Centre for European Security Studies
 Mr. Steinhäusler,
 "Europe is insufficiently
 prepared for a terrorist
 attack involving nuclear

 Photo Centre for European
 Security Studies
A June 2004 report, headlined "Al-Qaida Possessing Russian Nuclear Briefcases: Fiction or Fact?", prepared by the Integrated National Security Assessment Centre, part of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service offered some interesting statements. "Al-Qaida is interested in acquiring nuclear capabilities in order to expand its attack arsenal," the heavily censored document says.

In the course of the European Security Conference Innsbruck in September 2006, Univ.Prof. Dr. Friedrich Steinhäusler, expert in strategic preparation to terrorist threats and protection of security sensitive materials, told SAST REPORT that according to his information these small nuclear devices are still missing. He also pointed out that these nuclear weapons must be regularly maintained. "Unmaintained they would not be fully functional," Mr. Steinhäusler insisted.


Photo: Dr.Dr. Nikolai N. Sokov    Photo Sokov
 Mr. Sokov advises to remain
 alert but cautions against
 unnecessary panic

 Photo Sokov
In a statement Mr. Sokov told SAST REPORT: "There is no evidence that any of the portable nuclear devices produced in the United States or the Soviet Union during the Cold War have been lost and all or at least almost all of them have been eliminated by now. It is not clear whether Russia has completed the elimination of all portable nuclear devices, although it apparently planned to do so."

"It is certainly advisable to closely monitor the issue just in case, but there is no reliable evidence to suggest that the threat is imminent or even realistic," he went on.

"A "home-made" portable nuclear device appears unlikely, simply because the technology and the materials that go into it require high technological level. Although terrorists could, theoretically, assemble a crude device, portable ones are a totally different matter," Mr. Sokov added.

Given the fact that any amount of missing nuclear weapons poses a serious potential hazard, it is, to say the least, somewhat astonishing, but in reality highly alarming, that some advisers and experts on international security have not been inclined to answer questions regarding the security threat of missing nuclear devices. The impression arises that they do not seem to find it important or disquieting that the location of special atomic demolition munitions is not known. It is not clear whether it is known to them that these small portable nuclear devices could be missing, and if this in their view is a topic far too sensitive to comment on, if information on this security threat is classified as "sensitive" or if they simply do not care.

David L. Goldwyn had it relayed through Sheila M. Moynihan, executive assistant at Goldwyn International Strategies, that he "will not be responding to the request for information regarding Russia's 'loose nukes'." Mr. Goldwyn served as national security deputy to Ambassador Bill Richardson, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations under former President Bill Clinton.

"Today, President Bush and President Putin announced the Global Initiative To Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The greatest threat we face today is the possibility of a secret and sudden attack with chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons ... The U.S. and Russia have also invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to serve as an observer."
Excerpt, Office of the Press Secretary,
Washington DC, July 15, 2006
Adrian Severin, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on External Relations, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and former Romanian Foreign Minister, usually well informed on such matters, has also not been available for comment and did not respond to written questions the newspaper submitted to him through Angus Macdonald, spokesperson for PACE.

Photo: IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei    Photo Dean Calma/IAEA
 IAEA Director General
 Mohamed ElBaradei

 Photo Dean Calma/IAEA
Laissez Faire at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, headquartered at the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria. No one, really no one is interested. And no one accepts the weighty responsibilities which rest on the IAEA with respect to the U.S. and Russia. It's not possible to interview IAEA chief and Nobel winner Mohamed ElBaradei, a spokeswoman said. And "this is no official statement of Mr. ElBaradei." In fact, the focus of the IAEA - since its creation in 1957 - has been to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy. Missing nuclear weapons is the one major area that is not covered by IAEA's mandate, she further stressed.

"The interplay of the press and the politicians is a "vicious circle". Each has its own goals, and the other stands in its way. The potential for destructive behavior on each side is high."
Sissela Bok

Animosity, incompetence and chaos at the meeting of European Defense Ministers in March 2006 in Innsbruck, Austria: Normally this is a good opportunity to discuss critical or sensitive issues at press conferences since all of the conference participants would most likely be available for comment. Our correspondents were simply banned from attending the meeting by Austria's police authorities under an unacceptable pretext. The authorities, acting utterly irresponsibly, and in a remarkably grotesque way, were not inclined to acknowledge the international press cards, thereby denying the public its right to know what those responsible plan to do in the case of missing weapons of mass destruction. Usually they speak in vague generalities when addressing the issue.

Not surprisingly, the expert on nuclear weapons and arms control recommended by the Chatham House, known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Lord Timothy Garden, a former British Assistant Chief of the Defense Staff, has kept very silent on this matter. Mr. Garden, who has advised the British Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense on global security issues has not commented on the question of the missing portable nuclear devices when approached by SAST REPORT.

Prof. Dr. Ian Goldin
 Mr. Goldin, committed to the mobilisation
 of research and ideas in the interests of
 Photo University of Oxford
Speaking before students at Innsbruck Faculty of Economics, former Vice President of the World Bank, Prof. Dr. Ian Goldin, University of Oxford, said that in a number of crucial areas, notably conflict and security, the evolution of the global institutions which govern these issues has not kept pace with the changing circumstances and needs. As the existing institutions were established based on ideas more than 60 years ago, they are lagging behind in responding appropriately to the current challenges they are facing in view of global developments. In event of for example a nuclear crisis there would be a call from the world leaders for an adequate institution to solve the subsequent problems. He cautioned, however, that it will take a very long time until such an institution would be able to respond to this key challenge. Mr. Goldin noted that after the tsunami in Indonesia "people had to wait for one year". Among the factors he pointed to were lack of funds and coordination which led to a fiasco of the world's largest ever international relief operation.




*Extracts from Osama bin Laden's interview with Hamid Mir of Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan in November 2001.
Access to the document
**Security Issues Relating to Russia, House Floor Speech by Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, House of Representatives, Washington, DC, 28 October 1999
Access to the document
***Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Suitcase Nukes: A Reassessment, Monterey, California, 23 September 2002
Access to the document
****Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, "Suitcase Nukes:" Permanently Lost Luggage, by Nikolai Sokov, Monterey, California, 13 February 2004
Access to the document

For further information:
Hearing before the Military Research and Development Subcommittee, "Russian Threat Perceptions and Plans for Sabotage Against the United States", Washington, DC, 26 October 1999
Access to the document
Press Release by Congressman Curt Weldon, Military Research and Development Subcommittee, Washington, DC, 26 October 1999
Access to the document



See also:

delta.GIF 29 Apr 02 | Europe
   Mort du Général Alexandre Lebed

delta.GIF 04 Mar 02 | South Asia
   La Guerre d'Afghanistan
   Al Qaeda threat lives on

delta.GIF 22 Oct 01 | South Asia
   Invasion de l'Afghanistan
   Airborne assault inside Afghanistan


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