U.S. Blacklists Russian Institutes

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. State Department has compiled a secret list of 20 Russian research institutes suspected of helping Iran's missile program and is restricting the flow of U.S. research funds to some of those institutes. The existence of the list, which was revealed on 17 April by the newspaper USA Today, is raising concerns among some experts that it could undermine Western efforts to steer defense scientists in the former Soviet Union (FSU) into peaceful research. "I just hope the baby isn't thrown out with the bath water," says Barry Gale, a foreign affairs officer at the Department of Energy.

Since the Soviet Union unraveled 7 years ago, Western countries have sought to prevent the former superpower's defense scientists from being lured to countries that sponsor terrorism, such as Libya and Iran. The main strategy has been to provide small grants for peer-reviewed nonweapons work often involving Western collaborators.

The list of suspect institutes is particularly sensitive, explains a State Department official, because it includes "some entities about which there is a suspicion but no particular proof" that their scientists are aiding Iran. Among the listed institutes, Science has confirmed, are the Central Aerodynamic Institute in Zhukovsky, the Moscow Aviation Institute, and Baltic State Technical University in St. Petersburg. U.S. officials have already vetoed some projects at these institutes, Russian sources have acknowledged.

Officials running the defense conversion programs are left wondering how to proceed. Gerson Sher, director of the U.S. Civilian R&D Foundation for the Independent States of the FSU (CRDF), says his organization must clear with the State Department any future grants that would award department funds--State has committed $2.55 million to CRDF--to institutes suspected of helping Iran. In a situation worthy of Catch-22, CRDF can only guess which institutes might be on the classified list. "We're reading tea leaves along with everybody else," says Sher.

Posted in Europe, Policy