[IWAR] RUSSIA mafia and nuc materiel

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Date: Mon Mar 02 1998 - 09:28:10 PST

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    Russian gangsters and nuclear material
          Copyright  1998 Nando.net
          Copyright  1998 Scripps Howard
       WASHINGTON (March 2, 1998 00:54 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) --
       Despite the black market in Russian military hardware, FBI Director
       Louis J. Freeh does not believe that Russian organized crime groups pose
       a threat to the national security of the United States.
       Experts on foreign affairs and nuclear disarmament, however, said that
       Russian mobsters quite possibly could steal and then sell nuclear
       material that ends up in a terrorist's bomb on the East Coast.
       Even Freeh himself, last October, said the "possibility and the threat"
       of nuclear weaponry from the former Soviet Union falling into the hands
       of criminals or terrorists is "extremely high."
       But during a November trip to Russia, Freeh held a joint press
       conference with his Russian counterpart, Interior Minister Anatoly
       Kulikov. Freeh downplayed the threat posed by Russian mobsters,
       suggesting they were not comparable to the Sicilian Mafia and stating
       that he was not aware of any documented links between organized crime
       groups and the trafficking of radioactive materials.
       Freeh's remarks earned him a skeptical headline in the Moscow Times, an
       English language newspaper: "FBI Boss: No 'Mafia' in Russia." The words
       reflected the cynicism of Moscovites who have seen gangland-style
       shootouts between criminal organizations.
       In December, Freeh reiterated his estimation of Russian mobsters.
       "They do not, as a criminal entity, pose any threat to the national
       security of the United States," he said at a news briefing.
       Robert Gallucci, a senior state department official under both
       Republican and Democratic administrations, described Freeh's comments as
       "One of the greatest threats to international security and our own
       national security comes from the enormous quantities of fissile
       (nuclear) material that exists primarily in Russia," said Gallucci,
       former assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs
       and now dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
       He said the radioactive elements removed from dismantled nuclear weapons
       and from nuclear power plant waste in Russia amount to large stashes of
       "bomb fuel" in a country where physical security is compromised, where
       people in the military and research establishment are not paid well and
       where organized crime operates aggressively and pays handsomely.
       Russian mobsters would find a ready market for any stolen radioactive
       materials in Iraq, Iran and Libya, all of which are shopping for nuclear
       weapon components and maintain ties to terrorist groups, Gallucci said.
       "It would be foolish not to view the organized crime element in this
       equation as an important factoid," he said.
       A report issued last year by the Center for Strategic and International
       Studies and chaired by former FBI Director William H. Webster warned
       that "the potential criminal diversion and trafficking of nuclear
       materials must be viewed as a direct challenge to U.S. national
       Former Ambassador Jack F. Matlock Jr. said the national security threat
       from the Russian mob is "indirect," similar to the threat presented by
       most organized crime that operates in the United States.
       "One thing that makes the Russian organized crime different is ... the
       fact that they may gain access to weapons of mass destruction there more
       easily than here," said Matlock, who served as U.S. envoy to the Soviet
       Union during the Reagan administration.
       Amy Knight, author of "Spies Without Cloaks: the KGB's Successors," said
       observers inside and outside Russia believe the state security services
       charged with safeguarding nuclear materials may be aiding criminal
       "Everybody is out to make a buck," said Knight, a lecturer at Johns
       Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
       Russian police already have cracked organized crime rings that were
       stealing and selling non-nuclear military hardware, said Dr. Vladimir
       Brovkin, of the United Research Centers on Organized Crime in Eurasia at
       American University.
       "There's no smoking gun yet ... of (smuggled) nuclear stuff. That
       doesn't mean it didn't happen," said Brovkin.
       What makes Freeh's recent comments even more puzzling are how they
       compare with his Oct. 1 testimony before a congressional committee.
       Freeh was asked about the possibility of "international criminal
       elements" smuggling nuclear material out of Russia.
       "We have not seen any hard evidence of suitcase-sized nuclear devices
       either unaccounted for or falling into the hands of criminals or
       terrorists," Freeh said. "However, the possibility and the threat of
       that is extremely high and something which occupies much attention, not
       just from the criminal law enforcement point of view but from the
       national security point of view. If you can buy, as we saw two years
       ago, 2.7 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium in Munich or
       Prague, the same channels of access for those materials could quickly or
       easily lead to a full -- a fully operational device."
       During that same testimony, Freeh talked about how the Russian mob had
       grown larger and more sophisticated than any organized crime the United
       States has seen, how the mobsters had established links to South
       American drug cartels and were aided by former KGB agents.
       In his Moscow visit and his December briefing, Freeh provided a less
       menacing assessment, saying Russian organized crime groups presented a
       "very serious crime problem" for the United States but differed
       significantly with the Italian Mafia.
       "The organized crime groups in Russia are not similar, in fact are very
       dissimilar from the Mafia groups in Sicily," Freeh said. "The hierarchy
       in the Sicilian structure -- there's no such hierarchy in the Russian
       groups. They're much more loosely affiliated. They have different
       structures as well as different fields of activity."
       The Moscow Times suggested that Freeh toned down his remarks during his
       visit there as a show of confidence that Russian authorities can rein in
       their spiraling crime rate. His press conference was followed by FBI
       officials presenting a half-dozen plaques to high-level Russian law
       enforcement officers for their help in solving a variety of cases.
       Jacob Kipp, a Russian expert at the University of Kansas, said that
       Freeh's job requires him to maintain relationships with Russian law
       enforcement organs. As for dismissing the Russian mob as a national
       security threat, Freeh likely is abiding by an older, more traditional
       definition of national security in which threats come exclusively from
       other nations, not rogue outfits such as terrorists, said Kipp. They're
       Freeh "is a law enforcement officer," Kipp said. "And we should remember
       By MARK JOHNSON, Media General News Service. Distributed by Scripps
       Howard News Service.

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