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USIS Washington File

03 February 2000

Tenet Says Russian Safeguarding of Nuclear Materials Is a Concern

(CIA Director also concerned about Russia-Iran ties) (670)
By Susan Ellis
USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet
says the United States will be concerned about the security of Russian
nuclear weapons and associated materials, regardless of the political
path Russia chooses.

Tenet made his remarks during a February 3 Senate Armed Services
Committee hearing on Threats to U.S. National Security. The committee
also heard testimony by Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, director of the
Defense Intelligence Agency.

While there is "no evidence to suggest there's ever been a diversion
of a weapon...it's fissile material that I'm more worried about,"
Tenet said during questioning by committee chairman Senator John
Warner, Republican of Virginia. "It's the brain drain that I'm more
worried about, and where people (scientists) who no longer have the
wherewithal to be supported may end up," he added.

Tenet said he is also concerned about "Russian proliferation
activities with regard to countries like Iran." He said Russia's
strategic relationship with Iran goes "beyond a relationship based on
weapons or money, that allows the Russians some leverage in that part
of the world."

Iran's development of the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile,
"and the development of longer-range missiles that have been the
product of extensive Russian assistance" is a concern, he said, adding
"Iran's emergence as a secondary supplier of this technology to other
countries is the trend that worries me the most."

Wilson concurred with Tenet saying that the "safeguarding of nuclear
material and weapons" in Russia is of prime concern. He said that
while Russia is committed to safeguarding such materials, "the
organizations that do that mission are stressed by the same economic
shortfalls and readiness shortfalls as (are) the rest of the armed
forces (in Russia). And while we don't have evidence of loss of
control, until the environment improves, it will be a great continuing
concern."

Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, called the hearing
"enormously important...in preparation for the consideration of the
defense authorization." The Clinton administration's new defense
budget request will be presented to Congress on February 8.

He said the American people must hear "about how the nature of the
threat has altered....I think we have to deal with that changed
threat."

Asked by Kennedy whether a "policy of Mutually Assured Destruction
(MAD)" which provided deterrence for some 40 years, still makes sense
with countries like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, Tenet responded:
"When you talk about someone like Kim Chong-il in North Korea, I don't
think anyone could tell you what his precise deterrence calculus is."

North Korea's domestic situation, he continued, demonstrates that that
country's leader "views these weapons not just as a military
application, but at the heart of his economic foundation."

Tenet said in his view the United States has "to determine how
forward-deployed we want to be with our diplomats and with our
military, with our intelligence community...and then take these tools
and apply them in a way that maximizes our leverage."

He said he could "make a case for more intelligence dollars" and for
"paying careful attention to the infrastructure of the State
Department," whose facilities and resources have "been decimated
around the world. The flagship of what the United States is is in
embassy and political reporting, and it's the first node of
information that we have."

Tenet stressed that decisions must be made about "how you sustain a
long-term investment in all of these disciplines to maximize the
influence of the United States." The debate is needed, he added,
because many people "have assumed that at the end of the Cold War,
everything is fine, the world is safe, our prosperity saves us. And if
I have learned anything around the terrorist millennium threat, this
country is at greater risk today that it (has) ever been."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)