are much more likely to be viewed as barriers by large U.S. or European pharmaceutical companies than from the standpoint of an early-stage research biotechnology company. The latter would not require GMP facilities. The committee believes that many U.S. biotechnology companies are not well informed about the opportunities that exist in the FSU. The U.S. companies are small and highly focused on achieving profitability without distractions and hence are not inclined to actively search out partnerships with Russian institutes. Yet with open lines of communication and a mechanism through which to collaborate, U.S. biotechnology firms have the potential to benefit from some FSU technology and R&D.


The committee's review of the ISTC's primary and secondary objectives yields a fairly positive assessment of the ISTC after two years, with noted caveats and areas for improvement. What, then, of the overall goal of the ISTC—to reduce the threat of proliferation? After two years, what more do we know about emigration and the threat of diffusion of weapons know-how?

Chapter 2 gave an overview of the emigration by FSU scientists and engineers that has been occurring since the mid-1980s and noted the difficulties in assessing emigration as it relates to scientists and engineers involved in research on weapons of mass destruction. During all of its visits and discussions, the committee sought facts concerning the emigration of such scientists and engineers. Not surprisingly, we heard no outright admissions of core weapons scientists leaving for undesirable countries.

The committee did find many scientists and engineers who continue to do outstanding work. There are two factors that mitigate against large-scale emigration. One is that the Russian Government still exercises control over its weapons scientists and other individuals with security clearances, particularly those in the closed cities. The second is the desire of these scientists to continue to work in their own country and to do work that will benefit their country. Unfortunately, both of these factors are very difficult to measure.

While anecdotal evidence, particularly in the early 1990s, suggested that large numbers of scientists were leaving the country, no data have emerged to indicate that any scientists or engineers possessing crucial weapons expertise have fled to rogue countries. Although the ISTC cannot be solely credited with this positive result, it can certainly take credit for being a positive contributing factor.

FINDING: The proliferation risk remains high, and the ISTC continues to have a role in mitigating that risk.

A recent assessment by R. Adam Moody provides a sanguine update16 Remarking on the absence of reliable data concerning the emigration of Russian nuclear scientists and engineers, Moody concludes that, based on an analysis of information from some 150 sources, a “mass exodus of scientists and engineers from the post–Soviet states has not occurred.” He adds a statement from a U.S. government official who works on emigration issues: “For those few people who will be tempted to share critical information for money, there is little that can be done, regardless of whether that person is Russian, American, British, or any other nationality.”

Therein lies the dilemma in assessing emigration figures as they relate to nuclear issues. The overall figures can help predict the impact of internal and external emigration on the future of Russia 's science and engineering enterprise. But figures on the emigration of scientists and engineers with knowledge of weapons of mass destruction do not yield a ready diagnosis. One or two defectors to North Korea or China—rumors are rife about both countries—could create inestimable damage. For now there is no way to accurately measure the extent of the participation of Russian nuclear scientists and engineers in the diffusion of nuclear knowhow.

The economic and social conditions remain poor for scientists and engineers, particularly in the weapons institutes. The following points, raised in earlier sections, merit reiteration:

  • The key weapons institutes in the FSU are not downsizing commensurate with budget reductions. Consequently, their staff members receive very low salaries and have poor working conditions.

  • Although directors are applying all possible funds to salaries, at the expense of facilities and equipment, salaries remain at a poverty level.

  • There have been overtures from undesirable parties and the temptation must be significant.

Hence, although there is no evidence of weapons scientists selling out to rogue states, the risk that any would do so remains great.


R. Adam Moody, “Reexamining Brain Drain from the Former Soviet Union,” The Nonproliferation Review, vol. 2, no. 3, 1996, pp. 92–97.

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