News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1997
Briefer: JAMES B. FOLEY

RUSSIA
3-4Update on US view of Lebed's report; Assurances of nuclear safety
4CSIS/Webster report; Russian mafia cartel-drug connection


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 141
DAY OF WEEK, MONTH AND DATE, 1997 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

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QUESTION: Alexandr Lebed is repeating his charge about the lack of security for Russian nuclear weapons, the loose-nuke story. Does the State Department still think that everything is secure in Russia on this question?

MR. FOLEY: Of course, it is difficult for us sitting here to be 100 percent certain. Russia is a vast territory and control of nuclear weapons is obviously a matter of critical importance to Russia,-- to the Russian Government as they have indicated to us. It is also a national security concern of the United States.

Now, we have been in ongoing dialogue with the Russians about this issue, about the control, the safety, the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons materials. It is obviously in their interest to see that that security is ensured. They have assured us that the situation is under control. They have discounted those reports that were uprooted by General Lebed and others. We have no information that indicates that the case is otherwise. I would add, as well, that we have significant assistance programs under the Nunn-Lugar legislation that authorize American support for Russian efforts to maintain control and security over their nuclear weapons establishment.

QUESTION: How recent are these assurances?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I would only be guessing because I do not have any information about what contacts we might have had in the last days; but, certainly, it was something that would have been raised during the Gore-Chernomyrdin meetings in Moscow last week. Yes, Bill?

QUESTION: Jim, the CSIS report, headed by William Webster, was released on Monday said that even the Russian Government was unsure of the reliability of the people safeguarding their nuclear devices. In the report, it says unless more is done, there will be no longer - will be a matter of speculation about loose nuclear weapons. And the British, I believe, a couple of weeks ago announced that they were going to dedicate more of their intelligence,-- I think the M-6 Intelligence Unit would be shifted to the Russian mafia cartel-drug cartel connection that was outlined in that Post article on Monday. I would just ask, is the United States Government shifting more of its intelligence and other law enforcement assets to preclude any exchanges, sales of nuclear and other types of high tech weapons?

MR. FOLEY: I think you won't be entirely surprised, Bill, if I confirm our policy of not commenting on intelligence matters as such. However, as I stated in response to the previous question, this is a great priority of American foreign policy and of our relationship with Russia. We believe it is a great priority of the Russian Government, itself. The article you mention without getting into it, because I do not have it before me, though, talks about the problem of law enforcement and the growth of so-called mafias in Russia. The report by Mr. Webster is undoubtedly a serious study. We also cooperate with the Russians on law enforcement matters, and the whole issue of international crime and international mafias in the post-communist era is a trans-national issue of critical importance that is also at the top of our agenda with the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Did the State Department basically accept the connection between the Colombian cartels and the Russian mafia on weapon sales and drug transfers to Russia, et cetera? Is that accepted as accurate?

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to ask our experts on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics if they make that connection. Dave.

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