Russia is pulling out of a program that poured $1 billion from the U.S. government and other foreign donors into the research labs that built the Soviet Union's vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Officials with the International Science and Technology Center are negotiating to close the Moscow headquarters of the organization, which was formed in 1994, three years after the Soviet Union collapsed. The center gave tens of thousands of experts in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare the chance to engage in civilian research and work with colleagues from the U.S. and other nations that once stood on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
The program helped pay the salaries of Russian weapons scientists who otherwise might have sold their services to rogue regimes or terrorists after the Cold War, but it long outlived the crisis that inspired its creation. Russia came to regard the intergovernmental program as obsolete as the country's economy surged over the past decade.
Russia's U.S. ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, who negotiated the establishment of the center, told The Associated Press that his country no longer needs it. "The mission has been accomplished," he said. "It is a little bit outdated." U.S. congressional investigators concluded that U.S. taxpayer money helped Russia's weapons institutes stay in business by recruiting younger scientists and retaining key personnel who might otherwise have moved to the West -- a finding at odds with the program's goal of reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
Foreign aid programs helped keep Russia afloat as it lurched from crisis to crisis in the 1990s. But the Kremlin has been phasing these programs out in recent years, saying in effect it no longer needs to be treated as a charity case. In August, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's office issued a brief statement announcing Russia's withdrawal from the program in six months. The center's director, Adriaan van der Meer, said he is negotiating the terms of the closure and hopes to win an agreement for "an orderly wind down" over the next several years of 355 Russian projects worth about $155 million.
Van der Meer said the center will continue working in Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and several Central Asian states, where it runs about $95 million worth of projects. Over the past 17 years, the center has tracked space debris, developed fusion power, searched for vaccines against deadly diseases like Ebola and much more. When the program began after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian economy was in shambles and the government struggled to pay salaries in secret cities where armies of technicians, engineers and scientists designed and built weapons.
"It really provided a lifeline in the 1990s for people who were underpaid or underemployed and might otherwise have gotten desperate enough to sell their services elsewhere," said Matthew Bunn of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Today Russia pumps more oil than Saudi Arabia, holds almost $500 billion in currency reserves and by one measure has the world's seventh-largest economy. Increasingly, the Russian government has regarded foreign aid as an embarrassing reminder of its past dependence on aid. But some arms control experts said Russia's decision may also have been motivated by security concerns.
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, executive director for research at the Belfer Center, said that both Russia's Federal Security Service and the FBI have long worried that Russian and U.S. weapons scientists working together on peaceful projects might inadvertently spill state secrets. "That's the risk for everybody, but they consider it a higher risk than we do," Ryan said.
The U.S. contributes about one-third of the money for the center's projects, van der Meer said, while the European Union pays for another third, and Canada, Norway, Japan and South Korea the rest. Arms control advocates such as Ryan say the program still plays a vital role by supplementing salaries at underfunded weapons institutes and fostering ties between Russian and Western scientists.
A 2007 Government Accountability Office study of U.S. Energy Department collaborative research programs in Russia found that senior officials at many former Soviet labs believed there was no longer any need for Western financial support. Lab officials in Russia and Ukraine told the GAO, Congress' investigative arm, that foreign grants had helped them recruit and retain key personnel, preventing them from emigrating to the United States or other advanced industrial nations. These officials told the GAO that there was "little danger of scientists migrating to countries of concern," according to the 2007 study.
The center was prohibited from funding weapons work: The point was to introduce weapons scientists to civilian research. Congress objected when it discovered in 2008 that some of the institutes receiving U.S. aid were also working with Iran's nuclear program, specifically the recently completed nuclear power plant at Bushehr. The U.S. has long contended that Iranian officials use the Bushehr civilian power project as cover for pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iran has always denied it is seeking to build atomic weapons.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have roller-coastered since the center opened in 1994, reaching a high point after the September 2001 terrorist attacks and a post-Cold War low in the aftermath of the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. Under the Obama administration's reset of ties with Russia, Moscow has agreed to let the U.S. ship military supplies to Afghanistan through its territory, supported tough new U.N. sanctions against Iran and signed the New START treaty reducing the ceiling on both countries' nuclear arsenals.
Despite these improvements, U.S. intelligence officials say Russia remains wary of U.S. intentions. "Russian military programs are driven largely by Moscow's perception that the United States and NATO are Russia's principal strategic challenges and greatest potential threat," James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told Congress in March.
Russia has recently launched a $700 billion drive to modernize its nuclear and conventional military forces by 2020.
Henry Sokolski, who once served as the Pentagon's deputy for nonproliferation policy and is now director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, said the International Science and Technology Center leaves a mixed legacy. "Whatever good it might have done to deflect weapons activities, it probably undid by supporting these institutes, which are weapons institutes," he said. Ryan said that even if Western aid has helped Russia's military institutes, they represent little threat to the U.S. compared with the weapons programs of countries like Iran and North Korea.
"We have disagreements (with Russia), but we're not on the verge of war," he said. "If you look at the results of the product of the Russian military-industrial complex right now, I don't think we ought to be concerned."
Van der Meer credited the Moscow center with creating almost from scratch a civilian research community in Russia, where in Soviet times 85 percent of scientists worked in military labs. Tens of thousands of them worked in "closed cities" that didn't appear on any maps. Van der Meer and several U.S. officials said they hoped the center's programs could continue in some form in Russia. "It would be very silly to destroy the investment of over $1 billion over the years," van der Meer said.
The rebel-linked kavkazcenter.com website confirmed that the militant was killed on Thursday in a clash with security forces in Chechnya that also claimed the lives of at least two other militants. "The rats have started coming out of the woodwork," the war-torn republic's Kremlin-appointed leader Ramzan Kadyrov told news agencies after the death was confirmed. "Each one of them will be either arrested or destroyed." Russian officials said Moganned had been operating in the Northern Caucasus since 1999 and by 2005 had emerged as the main "coordinator" for handling money that was coming in from abroad to support the militant underground.
He had also served under the notorious fellow Arab-born militant Khattab until his death in a clash with security forces in 2002. This "marks a tremendous success in the fight against the terrorist underground," Alexander Cherkasov of the Memorial rights group told Moscow Echo radio. "He has been the head of the Chechen Arab (militants) since 2006." Moganned's death marks a particularly important victory for the regional authorities of Chechnya because the rebel had made it his mission to oust Kadyrov from power. "He has caused many difficulties for Ramzan Kadyrov," Cherkasov said.
Russia has frequently pointed to the role played by foreign forces such as Al-Qaeda in its 15-year-old North Caucasus insurgency. President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the rise of Islamists in the North Africa and Middle East revolts could impact Russian security and further accused neighbouring Georgia of providing a safe haven for the guerrillas. The first North Caucasus conflict began at the end of 1994 in Chechnya when local fighters -- almost all them former members of the Soviet armed forces -- stood up against Moscow rule.
That war ended in 1996 with Chechnya enjoying de-facto sovereignty but still suffering through endemic poverty that produced a rife climate for the rise of organised crime. The second campaign began in October 1999 and included two rebel camps -- one composed of Chechen and the other of Arab militants. Some of the Arab fighters stayed in the region and expanded their operations once Russia reclaimed control of Chechnya to the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan.
The insurgency has recently had rival leaders who included Moganned in Chechnya and the feared warlord Doku Umarov -- the self-proclaim Emir of the Caucasus Emirate who is often identified as Russia's top enemy. Russian security officials said a growing rivalry between them was prompting each to stage ever-more brutal attacks aimed at winning respect among the guerrillas and securing control of the overall insurgency.
The past year has seen Moscow rocked by a bombing at the country's busiest airport that killed 37 in January 2011 and a twin suicide attack that claimed 40 lives during morning rush hour on the metro in March 2010. But both of those strikes were claimed by Umarov. The National Anti-Terror Committee committee said Moganned was planning in the coming weeks to ship a large group of rebels through the mountain gorges that separate Chechnya from Georgia.
Ex-Mujahedeen Help Lead Libyan Rebels
Abdel Hakim al-Hasady, an influential Islamic preacher and high-school teacher who spent five years at a training camp in eastern Afghanistan, oversees the recruitment, training and deployment of about 300 rebel fighters from Darna. Mr. Hasady's field commander on the front lines is Salah al-Barrani, a former fighter from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which was formed in the 1990s by Libyan mujahedeen returning home after helping to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan and dedicated to ousting Mr. Gadhafi from power.
Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan army veteran who worked for Osama bin Laden's holding company in Sudan and later for an al Qaeda-linked charity in Afghanistan, is training many of the city's rebel recruits. Both Messrs. Hasady and Ben Qumu were picked up by Pakistani authorities after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and were turned over to the U.S. Mr. Hasady was released to Libyan custody two months later. Mr. Ben Qumu spent six years at Guantanamo Bay before he was turned over to Libyan custody in 2007.
They were both released from Libyan prisons in 2008 as part of a reconciliation with Islamists in Libya. Islamist leaders and their contingent of followers represent a relatively small minority within the rebel cause. They have served the rebels' secular leadership with little friction. Their discipline and fighting experience is badly needed by the rebels' ragtag army. Among his followers, Mr. Hasady has the reputation of a trained warrior who stood fearlessly at the front ranks of young protesters during the first days of the uprising.
And his discourse has become dramatically more pro-American, now that he stands in alliance with the West in a battle against Col. Gadhafi. "Our view is starting to change of the U.S.," said Mr. Hasady. "If we hated the Americans 100%, today it is less than 50%. They have started to redeem themselves for their past mistakes by helping us to preserve the blood of our children." Mr. Hasady also offered a reconsideration of his past approach. "No Islamist revolution has ever succeeded. Only when the whole population was included did we succeed, and that means a more inclusive ideology."
Messrs. Ben Qumu and Barrani were on the front lines and couldn't be reached for comment. Some rebel leaders are wary of their roles. "Many of us were concerned about these people's backgrounds," said Ashour Abu Rashed, one of Darna's representatives on the rebel's provisional government body, the Transitional National Council. "Al-Hasady told me he only wants to remove Gadhafi and will serve under the authority of the local governing councils, and so far he has been true to his word."
After the uprising began in Libya, Mr. Hasady told several journalists that he had joined the fight against the Americans during his time in Afghanistan. He now says he was misquoted and that he only settled in Afghanistan because Islamists of his ilk were unwelcome everywhere else. For the U.S., the situation recalls the problems that followed America's ill-fated alliance with the Afghan Mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. Many went on to al Qaeda and other violent radical Islamist groups.
Adm. James Stavridis, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's supreme allied commander in Europe, pointed to this concern when he told a Senate committee on Tuesday that U.S. intelligence has picked up "flickers" of al Qaeda among rebel groups in Libya. He also said they were a minor element among the rebels. Col. Gadhafi has gone out of his way to paint the popular uprising against his rule as an al Qaeda plot. He has singled out Mr. Hasady and the city of Darna as the capital of an alleged Islamist emirate, a baseless claim.
Local enmity for the Libyan leader runs deep. The first uprising against Col. Gadhafi's rule took place in Darna in 1970, less than a year after he seized power. The city proudly boasts that the first political prisoner killed by the Gadhafi regime was a Darna native.
Al Qaeda present among Libyan rebels
But there wasn't much to report, not yet at least. "At this point I do not have details sufficient to say there is a significant presence of al Qaeda or any other terrorist presence," he added. By the end of the day, the "flickers" comment had gone viral, coming as it did as the first official admission of the presence of al Qaeda elements among the rebels in Libya, which had been a subject of much speculation lately. "There is no question that al Qaeda's Libyan franchise, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition," Bruce Riedel, former CIA officer and a leading expert on terrorism, told HT. It has always been Gaddafi's biggest enemy and its stronghold is Benghazi. "What is unclear is how much of the opposition is al Qaeda/Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - 2% or 80%," Riedel added.
Administration officials are tending towards a lower percentage, as did Stavridis at the hearing. Citing intelligence reports he said the rebels leaders are "responsible men and women struggling against Gaddafi". Questions have been raised about the rebels and their leaders - members of the Interim Transitional National Council, which is based in Benghazi -most of whom are former members of Gaddafi's administration or military. "It is obvious now that this issue is run by al Qaeda," Gaddafi said in a phoned-in broadcast to his people on February 24.
The US agrees. And is worried as it has said arming the rebels is among the many options under consideration. Though a decision has not been taken, the possibility has been repeatedly confirmed as an "option on the table". But the US government is now facing a different kind of heat - and purely on account of suspected al Qaeda links of the rebels: couldn't it have done a some more research before getting into bed with them? "We're still getting to know those who are leading the Transitional National Council," said secretary of state Hillary Clinton in London. "And that will be a process that continues."Source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/Al-Qaeda-present-among-Libyan-rebels/Article1-679511.asp
General Leonid Ivashov (left) with journalist Christopher Bollyn from American Free Press
General Leonid Ivashov was the Chief of Staff of the Russian armed forces when the September 11, 2001, attacks took place. This military man, who lived the events from the inside, offers an analysis which is very different to that of his American colleagues. As he did during the Axis for Peace 2005 conference, he now explains that international terrorism does not exist and that the September 11 attacks were the result of a set-up. What we are seeing is a manipulation by the big powers; this terrorism would not exist without them. He affirms that, instead of faking a "world war on terror", the best way to reduce that kind of attacks is through respect for international law and peaceful cooperation among countries and their citizens.
The analysis of the essence of the globalization process, the military and political doctrines of the United States and other countries, shows that terrorism contributes to a world dominance and the submissiveness of states to a global oligarchy. This means that terrorism is not something independent of world politics but simply an instrument, a means to install a unipolar world with a sole world headquarters, a pretext to erase national borders and to establish the rule of a new world elite. It is precisely this elite that constitutes the key element of world terrorism, its ideologist and its "godfather". The main target of the world elite is the historical, cultural, traditional and natural reality; the existing system of relations among states; the world national and state order of human civilization and national identity.
Today's international terrorism is a phenomenon that combines the use of terror by state and non-state political structures as a means to attain their political objectives through people's intimidation, psychological and social destabilization, the elimination of resistance from power organizations and the creation of appropriate conditions for the manipulation of the countries' policies and the behavior of people. Terrorism is the weapon used in a new type of war. At the same time, international terrorism, in complicity with the media, becomes the manager of global processes. It is precisely the symbiosis between media and terror, which allows modifying international politics and the exiting reality. In this context, if we analyze what happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States, we can arrive at the following conclusions:
1. The organizers of those attacks were the political and business circles interested in destabilizing the world order and who had the means necessary to finance the operation. The political conception of this action matured there where tensions emerged in the administration of financial and other types of resources. We have to look for the reasons of the attacks in the coincidence of interests of the big capital at global and transnational levels, in the circles that were not satisfied with the rhythm of the globalization process or its direction. Unlike traditional wars, whose conception is determined by generals and politicians, the oligarchs and politicians submitted to the former were the ones who did it this time.
2. Only secret services and their current chiefs x or those retired but still having influence inside the state organizations x have the ability to plan, organize and conduct an operation of such magnitude. Generally, secret services create, finance and control extremist organizations. Without the support of secret services, these organizations cannot exist x let alone carry out operations of such magnitude inside countries so well protected. Planning and carrying out an operation on this scale is extremely complex.
3. Osama bin Laden and "Al Qaeda" cannot be the organizers nor the performers of the September 11 attacks. They do not have the necessary organization, resources or leaders. Thus, a team of professionals had to be created and the Arab kamikazes are just extras to mask the operation. The September 11 operation modified the course of events in the world in the direction chosen by transnational mafias and international oligarchs; that is, those who hope to control the planet's natural resources, the world information network and the financial flows. This operation also favored the US economic and political elite that also seeks world dominance. General Leonid Ivashov with journalist Christopher Bollyn from American Free Press
The use of the term "international terrorism" has the following goals:
Hiding the real objectives of the forces deployed all over the world in the struggle for dominance and control;
Turning the people's demands to a struggle of undefined goals against an invisible enemy;
Destroying basic international norms and changing concepts such as: aggression, state terror, dictatorship or movement of national liberation;
Depriving peoples of their legitimate right to fight against aggressions and to reject the work of foreign intelligence services;
Establishing the principle of renunciation to national interests, transforming objectives in the military field by giving priority to the war on terror, violating the logic of military alliances to the detriment of a joint defense and to favor the anti-terrorist coalition;
Solving economic problems through a tough military rule using the war on terror as a pretext. In order to fight in an efficient way against international terrorism it is necessary to take the following steps:
To confirm before the UN General Assembly the principles of the UN Charter and international law as principles that all states are obliged to respect;
To create a geo-strategic organization (perhaps inspired in the Cooperation Organization of Shanghai comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) with a set of values different to that of the Atlantists;
to design a strategy of development of states, a system of international security, another financial and economic model (which would mean that the world would again rest on two pillars);
To associate (under the United Nations) the scientific elites in the design and promotion of the philosophical concepts of the Human Being of the 21st Century. To organize the interaction of all religious denominations in the world, on behalf of the stability of humanity's development, security and mutual support.
General Leonid Ivashov
General Leonid Ivashov is the vice-president of the Academy on geopolitical affairs. He was the chief of the department for General affairs in the Soviet Union's ministry of Defense, secretary of the Council of defense ministers of the Community of independant states (CIS), chief of the Military cooperation department at the Russian federation's Ministry of defense and Joint chief of staff of the Russian armies.