U.S. Seeks to Plug Russian Nuclear Leaks

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How much oversight is the Russian government exercising over its nuclear secrets? American officials are increasingly concerned about the answer to that question. On Tuesday, for the second time in six months, the United States moved to impose economic sanctions against several nongovernmental institutions in Russia, including a university, believed to be assisting Iran with nuclear and missile technology. "Once again," says TIME diplomatic correspondent Douglas Waller, "U.S. officials found themselves in the position of putting fingers in different holes in the nuclear dike."

The dike is collapsing, because Russia's economy badly needs the money. "Russian military sales help generate much-needed hard currency for the battered domestic economy," says Waller. Russian regulators are also ineffective. "In some cases, the Russian government doesn't even know what military technology is being exported by others because of the huge black market within the country," says Waller. The laxness has forced U.S. agencies to take matters into their own hands. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger refused to give details about the latest sanctions, but in the past the U.S. has cut off dealings with the offending institution. That's a pretty weak finger to plug such a dangerous hole.