Bringing Our Campaign Against Russian-Iranian Rocket Cooperation Back to Earth
Testimony of Henry Sokolski
Presented Before a Hearing of
The U.S. House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
“H.R. 1883, Iran Nonproliferation Act of l999”
July 13, l999
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the committee for inviting me to speak on H.R. 1883, The Iran Nonproliferation Act of l999. I believe that passage of this legislation is critical to assure U.S. nonproliferation efforts are taken seriously in Russia. More important, it should encourage U.S. officials to take a second look at the premises behind the nonproliferation programs formulated with Russia at the end of the Bush and at the beginning of the Clinton administrations and to make the changes needed to assure that these programs’ goals are achieved. Certainly, if our government continues to make payments to the Russian Space Agency while it and its subsidiary organizations proliferate missile technology to Iran, no good will come of it. Contempt for U.S. nonproliferation objectives in Russia and elsewhere will grow; needed impetus to reform current U.S. policies will wither; and the U.S. taxpayer will be put in the absurd position of paying ever more to help Russia create an intolerable security threat literally aimed against the U.S. and its friends.
Some, of course, will argue that suspending U.S. payments to the Russian Space Agency for work on the International Space Station is self defeating, that the Agency is trying to control the entities that report to it and that passage of H.R. 1883 will only penalize them for their efforts. Perhaps, but their current efforts are simply not all that good. More important, the Russian Space Agency is critical to turning off the Iranian assistance of the space entities it supervises. In fact, the Russian Space Agency was identified by the Russian press as itself having actively recruited scientists from these entities to help Iran develop long-range missiles. Needless to say, several of these Russian Space Agency entities have been identified as having helped Iran as well.
Given these facts, the Russian Space Agency should not be surprised by Congress’ proposed action: Shortly after offering to bring Russia in as a partner in the International Space Station project, Administration officials testified before Congress that if the Russian Space Agency or any of its entities failed to uphold the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime, it could jeopardize continued Russian participation in the project. As such, H.R. 1883, merely extends current policy. It trusts that the Russian Space Agency will live up to its earlier nonproliferation pledges, maintains existing U.S.-Russian obligations on the International Space Station, and allows further payments once the Russian Space Agency demonstrates that it has cut off its assistance to Iran.
To make this happen, Section 6 of H.R.1883, which calls for suspending further payments to the Russian Space Agency until certain determinations of good nonproliferation behavior can be made, is critical. Strip it out of H.R. 1883, and all that remains is sanctions legislation that is no stricter than existing law. In fact, only Section 6 is geared to leverage against future Russian missile proliferation at a key node before it occurs. It is the Russian Space Agency, after all, that coordinates and funds many of the activities of its subsidiary entities. Going after individual entities under the Russian Space Agency after they have proliferated -- as the White House recently did in sanctioning Glavkosmos -- may provide retribution, but itâs an ineffective way to deter Russian missile proliferation. Indeed, most of these entities are quite small, have little or no contract work with the U.S., and, therefore, are of only marginal concern to the Russian Space Agency. Just the opposite is the case with U.S. payments to the Russian Space Agency for work on the International Space Station. These payments constitute a major source of capital to the agency.
But what of the need to keep Russian rocketeers busy? Wonât every U.S. dollar that’s kept from Russian participation in the International Space Station (or other space activities) simply encourage Russia to try to make up the difference by selling even more rocket know-how and hardware to the world’s Irans? Perhaps, but its hard to see how Russia could close the gap through such additional sales since it already is having to heavily finance its Middle Eastern and South West Asian nuclear and rocket exports as it is. More important, whatever Russia might do in response to the U.S. suspending space cooperation, it could hardly be an argument for sending more U.S. dollars to the Russian entities that we fear might now or in the near future go after such tainted trade. In fact, there will never be enough NASA money or U.S. demand for space launch services to accomplish this goal. We may have to suspend business with Russian space authorities to assure that U.S. cooperation does not end up subsidizing Russian missile proliferation, but the reason U.S. satellite makers and NASA ought to seek Russian space services is that they have something attractive to offer, not that such business could keep Russia too busy to proliferate.
In conclusion, I believe passage of H.R. 1883 will help stop Russian missile proliferation to Iran. Of course, other steps will be needed but not passing H.R. 1883 or watering it down will only make matters worse.