ISTC officials concur that ISTC grants do not necessarily support all program scientists and engineers full-time, but they disclaim the implication in U.S. newspaper articles that ISTC funds are supporting FSU military work.5 Moreover, ISTC officials stressed in response to the articles that the ISTC's goal was never to prevent all weapons scientists and engineers from working on weapons-related research in the FSU but rather to offer opportunities for other research to reduce the risk of proliferation. The committee found no evidence of ISTC funds supporting military work.

CRITICISM WITHIN RUSSIA

Russian critics of the ISTC and related scientific collaborative programs claim that the programs allow foreigners to steal Russia 's best ideas and brightest scientists, as discussed in the previous chapter. While the committee was confronted with these allegations by several institute heads and by Russian officials, most people with whom the committee met were supportive of the ISTC. In contrast to the early criticisms in Russia, the committee found the ISTC to be well received by the Russian Foreign Ministry and the technical institute managers interviewed for this report. One official at the Ministry of Atomic Energy noted that the “ISTC is our only hope. . . . [It] complements Russia's philosophy of disarmament and collaboration. . . . Russia does not plan to go back to the Cold War era. . . . [Therefore] we have to work [with the West] to remove all barriers. ”

THE COMMITTEE'S ASSESSMENT OF THE ISTC

The committee was aware of the criticisms made by members of Congress, the GAO, and the news media before its meetings and visits to Russia and paid special attention to these matters. The committee reached its own independent judgments on the effectiveness of the ISTC in meeting its objectives, as described below.

THE ISTC'S PRIMARY OBJECTIVE

FINDING: The ISTC has met its primary objective of providing nonweapons-related work opportunities for weapons scientists and engineers.

The ISTC has given highest priority to meeting its primary objective of providing opportunities for weapons scientists and engineers, particularly those possessing knowledge and skills related to weapons of mass destruction or missile delivery systems, to redirect their talents to nondefense-related activities. The ISTC has endeavored to reach a large number of scientists and engineers in institutes throughout Russia and the other former Soviet republics.

As of March 1996, ISTC grants provided some amount of salary support to approximately 12,500 scientists and engineers in the FSU, the majority of whom possess skills related to weapons of mass destruction or missile delivery systems.6 The committee visited 13 institutes involved in ISTC activities and met about 100 skillful, energetic, and informed scientists who are now earning enough money to survive in their present establishments while working on nondefenserelated research and who, therefore, are less likely to emigrate (except, perhaps, to Europe or the United states).

The impact of ISTC funding on individual institutes varies greatly. At some of the institutes the committee visited, the ISTC was providing between 10 and 50 percent of the total budget. The director of the Institute for Applied Microbiology, for example, noted that the ISTC currently provides 10 percent of the institute's funds and that he hopes to increase the number of ISTC grants over the next several years. At Arzamas-16, the 50 or so ISTC-funded projects support some 1,200 scientists for about 50 percent of their time. At other institutes, ISTC support is less significant. At the Kurchatov Institute, for example, less than 2 percent of the budget comes from the ISTC.

While its activities are clearly directed at weapons scientists, the ISTC itself sets no requirement for a specific level of participation by weapons scientists in a project. Rather, each participating country establishes its own funding criteria. Under its so-called Purity of Objective Criteria, the United States requires that 60 percent of a project's personnel have weapons-related experience. The committee believes that the ISTC-funded projects involve appropriate numbers of weapons scientists and that those scientists are now working on nondefense projects.

As noted above, some critics of the ISTC have expressed concern that FSU weapons scientists may not be completely reoriented to nondefense-related research. It should be noted that the ISTC cannot, nor ever intended to, convert every FSU weapons scientist to 100 percent civilian work. Rather, by facilitating other avenues of work and providing incentives for weapons scientists to think about civilian applications of their work, the ISTC is decreasing the likelihood that they will want or need to sell their knowledge and expertise to hostile countries.

Based on committee discussions with directors and researchers, ISTC grants on average support 50 percent of individual researchers' time. The committee finds this to be desirable because the financial benefit

5  

While the GAO report never explicitly stated that ISTC funds were being used for weapons-related research, several newspaper articles, referring to a draft version of the GAO report, implied that U.S. funds may be supporting weapons-related research. See, for example, “Draft Report Says U.S. May Be Aiding Russian Nuclear-Arms, Nerve-Gas Work,” The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 1995, and “Russia Uses Pentagon Funds in Constructing New Nukes,” The Washington Times, May 23, 1995.

6  

Joint Statement of the Governing Board of ISTC from its March 28 –29, 1996, meeting.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement