The agreement between the U.S. and the Russian Federation "Concerning the Safe Transportation, Storage and Destruction of Weapons and the Prevention of Weapons Proliferation" was extended for seven years

International Security Index iSi




On May 2, more than 40 friends and partners of the PIR Center gathered at the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN. Among them were heads and high representatives of delegations participating in the third session of the Preparatory Committee of the NPT Review Conference, the world's largest experts in the field of non-proliferation, graduates of PIR Center programs working in New York, young scientists and master students of double degree in the field of non-proliferation.


"Can it really be true that PIR Center is a quarter of a century old today? It would be a great occasion for a grand celebration, wouldn’t it. But I still cannot quite believe it.

When me and a tiny team of my associates were establishing PIR Center in the spring of 1994, working in a small room on the corner of Tverskaya Ulitsa and Strastny Boulevard overlooking the Pushkin statue in the very heart of Moscow, I could hardly imagine that this great institution would live long enough to see the new century and indeed the new millennium. If someone told me back at the time that it would mark its 25th anniversary in Moscow, Geneva and New York, or that greetings would be pouring in from all over the world to what is now a highly reputable international nongovernmental organization, I probably wouldn’t believe them. After all, how many fly-by-night NGOs have we all seen over the years – here today, gone tomorrow?," Vladimir Orlov, PIR Center Founder.


"Today a member of the PIR Center Executive Board, a member of the IMEMO (Institute of World Economy and International Relations) Directorate, Army General, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Hero of Russia Vyacheslav Trubnikov celebrates his 75th birthday. Vyacheslav Ivanovich, having reached the greatest heights of public service, you remained open to new ideas, plans and actions. We are happy to work with you for almost ten years! You are a source of soft, but mighty and attracting power, which is especially important in relations with the new generation of specialists – those who will construct a new world. Many well-known and beginning diplomats and military men, scientists and journalists throughout Eurasia are grateful for your inspiration and support, for your wise and precise judgement. We wish you good health, optimism and high spirits! We look forward to new meetings with you! Keep it up!" – PIR Center Director Albert Zulkharneev. 

Syrian chemical weapons – a solution found?

On September 9, 2013 during the press conference in London Secretary of State John Kerry, replying to a question, said: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S. military strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week to international community”. The White House tried to downgrade the statement referring to it as a figure of speech, and pointing to the fact that Damascus would never comply. Nevertheless, the proposition was taken up by Russian MFA and delivered to Syrian side by the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. After that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that “Damascus welcomes Russian initiative”, which was also supported by the UN, Arab League, EU, China, Iran and, with some reservations, by the USA. Congress vote on military intervention to Syria was delayed. US President Barack Obama declared, that he is ready to examine Russian proposition.

Russia and the USA are ready for cooperation

The idea that the USA and Russia could work together on WMD threat reduction isn’t new. On June 21, 2013 PIR Center President Vladimir Orlov in his comments to Kommersant newspaper (in Russian) on a perspectives of Russian-American cooperation in WMD security, said: “Nowadays Russia at its own expense is completing the destruction of our stocks of chemical weapons. But the parties could transfer their cooperation in this field to third countries”. The experience of the Russian Federation and the United States in combating the spread of WMD, according to PIR Center President, will be in demand in the Middle East (including Syria). The upcoming opportunity could not only resolve the Syrian chemical weapons question, but also become a solid basis for US-Russian cooperation.

Our analysis

Authors indicate an urgent threat connected to the Syrian chemical weapons: “A far more serious threat, however, is the possibility of chemical weapons being seized by the rebels. There is no comprehensive information about the size of the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons and precursors. This lack of information makes it more difficult to keep track of the state of the Syrian WMD arsenals. The world's secret services - especially the US and Israeli agencies - are keeping a very close watch on the Syrian chemical weapons sites. Nevertheless, there is still a real threat of those weapons falling into the hands of rebels or Islamist terrorists.”

Current situation in Syria develops almost exactly the same way as was predicted by PIR Center authors: “Clearly, in case of confirmation that Syrian government troops have used weapons of mass destruction, the existing balance of power will shift <…>. The United States <…> will gain broad international support for a legitimate military operation to secure all known Syrian chemical weapons sites. Little is known about the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. There is, therefore, a real possibility that not all of these stockpiles will be taken under strict international control, and that some of them will end up in the hands of radical Islamists. The situation in Syria, meanwhile, will probably unfold according to the Iraqi scenario”.

PIR Center experts have already proposed their recommendations for solving Syrian question and reiterate their position. In the article «Prospects for resolving the problems of nuclear security and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East: the experience of the Global Partnership» to be published in the Security Index journal Artem Blashchanitsa says: “The only acceptable alternative is the one, wherein the main concerned parties for the peaceful settlement will achieve a ceasefire regime between Damascus and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

PIR Center experts Artem Blashchanitsa, Aleksandr Plugarev and Aleksandr Cheban in the article for Russia Confidential, stress the idea that such a scenario “will become possible if the United States, Russia and other countries manage to exert effective diplomatic pressure on both of the warring factions and force them to agree to a ceasefire”. In June PIR Center experts proposed the following recommendations for achieving such scenario:

  * The United States, Russia and other countries should exert effective diplomatic pressure on both of the warring factions and force them to agree to a ceasefire. The situation has reached a dead end; it is therefore important to make sure that we will get a peaceful stalemate instead of a pointless bloodbath, with a growing risk of chemical weapons use.

 * The United States, Russia and Iran might then be able to reach a compromise, and identify some mutually acceptable (or equally inconvenient, but practical) ways of safeguarding their own interests in that conflict

* If the negotiations succeed, the next logical step after forming a national reconciliation government must be for that government to declare all existing chemical weapons arsenals and sites, and to begin eliminating those arsenals - possibly with international help.

Evgeny Buzhinsky, Lieutenant-General (ret.), PIR Center Vice President:

“We need to understand all the difficulties of the process of elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. I cannot remember such a huge and difficult operation in history.

First of all, there is a difficulty of verification. Syria faces a civil war right now, and observers, who will be sent to secure the chemical facilities, would face a great danger (all observers were evacuated from Syria with the beginning of civil war in 2011)”. Not many Europeans will agree to become observers under such conditions. We could expect that Americans will be ready to accept these conditions, providing their own security, but in this case Damascus would hardly agree to tolerate a large armed American contingent on his soil.

Secondly, chemical weapons are not normally moved from the country and are disposed on-site during several years.

If due to the urgency of task we imply the physical transportation, the operation becomes unprecedented. The most ambitious project up to date, on the experience of which we can rely, was the withdrawal of Soviet nuclear weapons from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to Russia. Back then, in the beginning of 1990-s in the framework of Lisbon agreement, the operation ended successfully, but it took several years to complete the task even with a transportation scheme, special trains, special containers, and direct railway connection. With Syrian chemical weapons there will be a need for improvisation. The only way to transport the chemical weapons would be by sea, and to get to the ports you will have to use the roads. In that case there is a high possibility of facing a rebel attack. Even if we suppose, that all chemical weapons in Syria is stored in a binary condition (which is not confirmed), it is still dangerous.

Thirdly, the funding question appears – such sorts of expenses are definitely not included in the current Russian budget.

Nevertheless, I believe, that Russia is ready to actively participate in the realization of this proposal to prevent the overthrowing of Bashar al-Assad. We have seen on several occasions how the limited strikes with clearly marked targets developed into military operations supporting one side of the conflict.”