Cold War throwbacks get cash lifeline

RUSSIA’s weapons scientists will get an extra $20 million to keep them from selling their know-how to the highest bidder. Last week, the US Congress agreed to provide additional funding for the Department of Energy’s Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) programme. In the late 1980s, the engineers who designed the Soviet Union’s liquid-fuelled submarine-launched ballistic missiles were threatened with unemployment by the end of the Cold War. Many left for North Korea. There’s little doubt that Russian expertise, combined with Chinese help, accelerated North Korea’s missile programme, say experts on weapons proliferation. The Department of Energy uses the IPP to prevent history from repeating. It funds former Soviet scientists who worked in secret military research cities such as Arzamas-16 and Chelyabinsk-70, designing chemical, nuclear and biological weapons and refining missile technology. “It searches to see if military technologies have commercial potential,” says Paul White, acting director of the Center for International Security Affairs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Last week’s grant of $20 million will provide an important boost for the programme, say experts in weapons proliferation. But for the programme to succeed in the long run, Western companies need to show more interest in the technologies on offer. “It’s effective in employing senior scientists at Russian institutes, but its ability to actually get commercial joint ventures is more limited,” says Frank Von Hippel of Princeton University in New Jersey, an expert on nuclear proliferation. Given Russia’s current economic woes,
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