Stockpile Market: The Legacy of Soviet Weaponry

By Litman, Leah | Harvard International Review, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Stockpile Market: The Legacy of Soviet Weaponry


Litman, Leah, Harvard International Review


In today's increasingly globalized and economically liberal market, one would hardly expect a country, rich in a resource for which buyers are paying some 200 percent of the face value of the item, to draft export control legislation on such a resource. This has been the case, however, for many Central Asian states. As former Soviet republics, they are faced with both a surplus of former Soviet military technologies and a large number of illegal markets in which the asking price for such technologies or information is far beyond that obtained by selling the commodities for "peaceful purposes."

At the end of the Cold War, the 12 former Soviet republics found themselves with remnants of the Soviet war machine in their territories. Consequently, these republics possessed the full armament of the former Soviet Union, including fissile material stockpiles, dual use technologies, uranium mining sites, ballistic missile production facilities, advanced conventional weapons, and nuclear warheads. The newly independent countries then faced the question of what to do with such materials. For nascent capitalist economies, the cost of safekeeping was too much to bear; the only economically viable option was to sell. However, many buyers of this technology were nations such as Iran, North Korea, Libya, and other "rogue" states. Since September 11, 2001, the markets for such weapons have drawn an increasing amount of attention, particularly with regard to terrorists looking to acquire the resources and information that would allow them to make some sort of nuclear or radioactive weapon. The international community has thus become increasingly concerned about what the former Soviet republics are doing with their weapons.

In a surprising turn of events, two newly independent states have taken a considerable amount of initiative in making sure their weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the republic of Georgia was left with three nuclear facilities and a large number of Soviet military bases that had weapons deposits. However, despite a tumultuous transition to independence from 1991 to 1995, there have been few worries about the Georgian supply of former Soviet weapons. With the establishment of the government headed by Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995, Georgia entered negotiations with the United States and Turkey, which resulted in a national initiative to control the Georgian supply of military technologies, including an ad hoc agency to oversee Georgia's military technology arsenal. …

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