An interview by Anatoly Antonov, director of the Foreign Ministry's Security and Disarmament Department, on the non-proliferation aspects of the G8 policy with the newspaper Vremya Novostei.
Question: The G8's non-proliferation documents on peaceful uses of sensitive nuclear technologies, which the G8 adopted in Sea Island (2004) and Gleneagles (2005), are sometimes viewed by developing countries as a deliberate attempt to keep them away from modern achievements. What can we do to preclude such an interpretation?
Answer: We should create political and economic conditions that would discourage the non-nuclear countries' desire to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies. The goal is to elaborate multilateral attitudes to the nuclear fuel cycle that would guarantee access to the relevant services for the non-nuclear countries that pledge not to create a full nuclear cycle. But it is especially important to prevent terrorists from getting hold of weapons of mass destruction.
Q: The idea is formulated in UN Security Council resolution 1540, which was adopted in April 2004. How is it being fulfilled?
A: Our priority is to ensure the fulfillment of all its clauses by all countries. We have created Committee 1540, which analyzes national reports provided by 124 countries and additional information supplied by 40 states. Much is to be done in this sphere, and therefore we think the Security Council should extend the mandate of Committee 1540.
Q: Is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) effective in the modern world? The 2005 conference on it failed to adopt a consensus final statement, while the nuclear scandals involving North Korea and Iran act as a kind of anti-promotion.
A: The NPT is an invaluable element of international security and stability, which the follow-up conference has proved, even though it failed to formulate practical recommendations for strengthening the NPT. However, it has reaffirmed the main point -- that the NPT can and must be used to deal with new challenges and threats to the non-proliferation regime.
Settling the situation with the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea remains on the G8 agenda. We will continue the search for new political and diplomatic approaches to settling this problem. We will use the services of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to find a mutually acceptable solution on Iran, which would allow Tehran to develop nuclear power engineering and at the same time ensure a purely peaceful dimension of its nuclear program. The solution of the North Korean nuclear problem entails the country's re-accession to the NPT, the resumption of IAEA inspections, removal of the international cordon around North Korea, and broad economic assistance. An effective site for creating the necessary mechanism is the six-party talks [between China, the United States, Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea - Ed.].
Q: The IAEA Committee on Safeguards and Verification was set up by the organization's Board of Governors at the G8 summit initiative in Sea Island. What is the Committee doing now?
A: We are outlining the range of questions it would tackle, as it should not copy existing verification structures of the IAEA. It could be used to promote the fulfillment of Resolution 1540, to improve the safeguards mechanism, and to standardize the additional protocols to NPT safeguards. So far, this instrument of ensuring the transparency of national nuclear programs is effective in 71 countries. In 2005, the G8 called on non-members to step up their accession to the NPT. The work on the standardization of the additional protocol will continue this year.
Q: Has control of nuclear exports been reinforced?
A: On the G8 initiative, the Nuclear Suppliers Group is strengthening control over the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies [uranium enrichment and chemical processing of nuclear fuel waste - Ed.] and elaborating criteria of their delivery. Sensitive nuclear technologies can be used to create nuclear weapons. The G8 will continue working on this question.
While the rules of transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies are being coordinated in the multilateral format, the G8 is pursuing a "strategy of prudence" adopted in Sea Island and reaffirmed in Gleneagles. It means that the G8 member states will not initiate new programs of the transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies to countries that do not possess them.
Q: Doesn't this violate the principle of guaranteed access to the "peaceful atom" for non-nuclear countries that have pledged not to create a nuclear fuel cycle?
A: A year ago, the IAEA published the report by the Expert Group on multilateral approaches, which stipulates a mechanism of helping the countries with "moderate" energy requirements to develop a nuclear power industry without the expensive full nuclear fuel cycle. It is working on the practical aspects of the concept. And the G8 will address this issue within the framework of the energy security agenda of Russia's G8 Presidency.
Q: What about India, which is not an NPT signatory and hence is denied access to peaceful nuclear technologies?
A: We cannot ignore India's energy requirements. It is a rapidly developing country with a good non-proliferation record. We should probably make an exception in this case without adopting new norms that may erode the non-proliferation regime.
Q: What does Russia plan to do during its G8 Presidency to combat biological threats?
A: Fighting infectious diseases is a priority of our G8 Presidency. The non-proliferation agenda includes a joint inventory of international mechanisms and efforts to ensure biological security. We are preparing a follow-up conference on the convention on the prohibition of biological weapons.