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Central Asia and the Caucasus 1540 Reporting

Regional Overview

Central Asia and, to a lesser extent, the Caucasus are situated on a strategic trade route connecting South Asia with the Russian Federation and Europe. All the countries in the region are now states parties to the NPT, CTBT, CWC, and BTWC and have submitted reports to the 1540 Committee, yet the region remains a focal point in the international effort to secure and prevent trafficking in nuclear, chemical and biological (NCB) weapons-related materials.

Due to the strategic location of the region and the presence of WMD-related materials, Central Asia and Caucasus drew the U.S. and other Western states' attention after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most countries in the region, therefore, started receiving assistance in export and border controls and physical protection of materials and facilities prior to the adoption of UNSCR 1540 in 2004, but such assistance has helped the implementation of the resolution in subsequent years.

NBC Capabilities and Security

Prior to 1991, all of the states in the region were part of the Soviet Union and had access to WMD systems and related technologies. For example, during the Soviet era, Kazakhstan had nuclear weapons on its territory. However, in April 1995, the new government of Kazakhstan returned these weapons to the Russian Federation. Each of the countries in the region housed Soviet anti-plague facilities, and many still possess facilities that house deadly pathogens. Because of economic priorities in the aftermath of the Cold War, many of the export control mechanisms in Central Asia and the Caucasus remained nascent at the time of UNSCR 1540’s initial adoption.

Kazakhstan possesses the world's second largest uranium reserves and a dynamically developing nuclear industry. In 2012 Kazakhstan became the world's top uranium producer, accounting for 36 percent of the global supply from mines.[1] Most of the uranium recovered by in situ leaching also comes from Kazakhstan, as well as Uzbekistan.[2] Kazakhstan has secured cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding with Canada, China, India, Japan, and Russia on the supply of natural uranium, fuel production, construction of nuclear power plants and a uranium conversion facility. Apart from increasing uranium exports, however, implementation has been slow, and the plans for joint construction of small and medium-sized  reactors with Russia were put on hold in February 2009.[3] According to International Energy, the joint construction of nuclear power plants with Russia will begin in 2013. [4] Kazakhstan operates three research reactors, while the Pu producing BN-350 reactor in Aktau was shut down in 1999. Kazakhstan had large amounts of spent nuclear fuel containing HEU and Pu in Aktau, but in November 2010, a multi-party operation to move the entire inventory to a secure facility in Eastern Kazakhstan was completed. Kazakhstan plans to construct large light-water reactor in its southern region, as well as to build smaller units in the west and regional cities. [5] Kazakhstan worked together with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the UK government, and the IAEA to package and transport spent fuel containing over 10 tons of HEU and 3 tons of Pu to a special Baikal-1 facility at Semipalatinsk.[6] Earlier, in a series of shipments between December 2008 and May 2009, Kazakhstan and NNSA repatriated 73.7 kg of spent nuclear fuel from the Institute of Nuclear physics in Alatau to Russia.[7] Both operations were carried out under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). At the Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010, Kazakhstan's president also pledged to convert the research reactor at the Institute of Nuclear Physics from HEU to LEU fuel.[8] The other two research reactors are designed to operate on HEU, and material still remains on site. Kazakhstan joined the G-8 Global Partnership in January 2012, and the country is also a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).[9]  In May 2012, Kazakhstan established a new State Agency for Atomic Power Industry, which aimed to regulate the nuclear power industry, ensure the security of nuclear materials and facilities, and strengthen nonproliferation efforts in Kazakhstan.[10]

Uzbekistan operates one research reactor, which has run on LEU fuel since 2008.. Currently, efforts are being made to repatriate all remaining HEU from Uzbekistan to Russia for reprocessing and storage; in 2012, New Zealand contributed NZ$500,000 towards this effort. [11] Both fresh and spent HEU fuel was also repatriated from Uzbekistan to Russia in 2004 and 2006, respectively.[12]] Armenia's Metsamor nuclear power plant is operated by Russia; the spent fuel is meant to ultimately be returned to Russia, although it currently remains in storage in Armenia.[13]

In 2012, Georgia and Armenia ratified the 2005 Amended CPPNM, and passed nuclear security and safety related regulations, which enabled them to strengthen the physical protection of radioactive materials. Azerbaijan reinforced its system to prevent illicit trafficking of nuclear materials by creating a national registry of all radioactive sources. [14]

One of the important concerns in the region has been the condition and security of facilities hosting culture collections and biological materials of proliferation significance. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia have participated in the U.S. government's Nunn-Lugar Biological Threat Reduction Program, receiving assistance in consolidating and securing pathogen collections, enhancing safety and security of bio facilities, and improving the capability "to detect, diagnose, and report bio-terror attacks and potential pandemics."[15] Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also worked with the United States in addressing the risks posed by the former open-air testing ground on the Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea.

None of the states in the region have pursued chemical weapons programs, but during the Soviet time, a chemical weapons testing ground was located in Uzbekistan, and a chemical weapons production plant was build in Kazakhstan, though it never went into full operation. All the states in Central Asia and Caucasus are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Export and Border Controls

The geographical location of the region is particularly relevant to the implementation of UNSCR 1540 given that two major drug trafficking routes pass through a number of Central Asian states - originating in Afghanistan and terminating in Europe or the United States. The primary concerns of the region are related to trafficking in illicit materials and, correspondingly, weak border controls and the corruption of border officials. There have been relatively few confirmed cases of illicit trafficking involving fissile material in small quantities in the region,[16] but many more instances of trafficking in radioactive materials were reported. A potentially greater number of cases involving radioactive and nuclear materials remained uncovered, especially in the earlier years after the break-up of the USSR. The data on illicit trafficking in proliferation-relevant chemical and biological materials are not available.

Of the states in the region, Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan have the most developed export control systems, which is particularly important in the case of the latter given its nuclear industry. Several states have based their domestic control lists on the European Union's Unified Dual-Use Control List. Under the provisions of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, member states (all five Central Asian republics) should require IAEA safeguards and the Additional Protocol as conditions of nuclear supplies.

All states in the region have received assistance through the U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program, and other programs designed to aid states in securing borders and countering illicit trafficking. Most states have installed radiation detection equipment at a number of checkpoints, although it is unclear whether the use and maintenance of the equipment will be domestically sustainable for all of the countries in question. The five Central Asia states receive assistance from the US Department of Energy in enhancing their capacity to effectively implement export controls through commodity identification, end-user, and licensing trainings and workshops in the region.

Internal Security and Terrorist Threats

A number of separatist and extremist groups have operated on the territories of Central Asia and the Caucasus since the breakup of the Soviet Union. There has not been much terrorist activity in Central Asia in terms of attacks since 2002 when the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was crippled during the war in Afghanistan. However, concerns linger about the penetration into the Central Asian territory of militants from South Asia and the Middle East. The ethnically diverse and volatile Fergana Valley, shared by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, has received particular attention in this respect. Groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active in the region.[17]

There are also various border disputes in the region and a number of other destabilizing factors that challenge nonproliferation efforts. Georgia no longer controls its Northern provinces, two of which – South Ossetia and Abkhazia – have declared independence, and the country fought a short war with Russia in August 2008. Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan also present a major source of instability in the region, and could lead to a regional arms race. [18] Kyrgyzstan experienced two violent changes of government in just over five years. Ethnic violence against the Uzbek population in the Osh province of Kyrgyzstan in 2010 highlighted not only the volatility of inter-ethnic relations but also limited capacity of the government to enforce the rule of law. In mid-June 2010, up to 100,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees fled from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan following ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan. [19] In 2012, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper indicated that the Central Asian states were extremely vulnerable to violent extremism; he also predicted that ethnic violence might recur in Kyrgyzstan’s southern regions. [20]

International Treaties and Agreements

All states in the region are party to the major nonproliferation treaties. The Central Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty, which entered into force on 21 March 2009, requires each of the five states to adopt the IAEA Additional Protocol, implement physical protection measures in line with IAEA guidelines, and to observe the testing ban of the CTBT. None of the states in the sub-region is a significant producer of missiles or their components, and none is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Most of these states, however, have signed on to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, and Kazakhstan is a party to the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate Range and Shorter Range Missiles (INF).

Regional Adherence to Nonproliferation Instruments and Organizations

Regional Organizations and Cooperation

Implementation of controls and regional cooperation in Central Asia and Caucasus are complicated by the fact that several countries continue to suffer from socio-economic problems, political instability and conflicts. Georgia and Kyrgyzstan have experienced the so-called "color revolutions," followed by reorganization of governmental agencies and services. Kyrgyzstan subsequently went through several more political crises, including ethnic clashes in its Southern Osh province in 2010. Georgia's attempts to restore territorial integrity increased its tensions with Russia, and relations remain strained following the 2008 war between the two countries. Georgia, therefore, cannot ensure robust border control. Armenia and Azerbaijan have not yet resolved the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and cannot be expected to cooperate meaningfully. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, who border Afghanistan, are among the key countries in international trafficking of illicit goods and substances, especially drugs, and their national capacity to counter such threat is severely lacking. While a variety of regional and sub-regional arrangements are in place, a number of them seem to overlap, and the effectiveness of implementation of most of them is hard to assess.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), one of the activities of which is to promote cooperation in combating terrorism within Russia, China and Central Asian states. A permanent Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure was established in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 2002 after member states signed the "Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism" in June 2001. As a result, SCO members seek to cooperate through the exchange of information, development of joint legal frameworks, and the provision of practical assistance.[13]

The Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan are members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which collaborates on trade issues including border security and drug trafficking.

The Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC) includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. One of the aims of the community is to develop common guidelines for border security. In July 2010, at the 10th EURASEC Summit, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus signed a declaration on the creation of a customs union between the three countries. Along with the reduction of customs duties, the union makes it easier for goods to pass through the member states without additional documentation.[14]

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) is an Asian Development Bank initiative involving Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Its Regional Trade Facilitation and Customs Cooperation Program seeks to promote customs reforms and modernization and has held regional training forums.

Since the end of the Cold War, a number of international assistance programs such as the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, the programs of the International Science & Technology Center (ISTC), and EU Framework Programs in healthcare have been working in the region to help secure facilities with sensitive materials and provide opportunities for cooperative research. Other international efforts such as the U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) program are helping the states secure their borders and strengthen the capacity of customs officials.

Three workshops specifically addressing the implementation of UNSCR 1540 have been held in Central Asia. The first workshop, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan in October 2006, was oriented toward the region as a whole. During the workshop, participants discussed ways to address the needs of the states in the region and outlined approaches to increase national capabilities. In October 2007, as a result of some of the recommendations from the first workshop, the Kyrgyz Republic held a national seminar in Bishkek to address its specific needs. Participants at the Kyrgyz workshop included members of various Kyrgyz ministries and observers from other Central Asia states, the UN, OSCE, the EU, and several Western states. The workshop in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, took place in February 2009 and was aimed at raising awareness about UNSCR 1540 implementation requirements, reviewing examples of other states' successful efforts in this regard, and assisting the Uzbek side in identifying implementation assistance needs. Workshop participants included representatives of the Uzbek parliament, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health, and State Customs Committee, as well as representatives of the UN 1540 Committee, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, VERTIC, and officials from neighboring states.

In addition to EXBS and DOE programs mentioned above, the U.S. Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative is helping several states in Central Asia secure funding for projects in order to prevent trafficking in nuclear materials. EU's Border Management Programme for Central Asia (BOMCA), launched in 2002, includes the five Central Asian states and works to build inter-agency and cross-border cooperation for more effective border security and fight against drug trafficking. Finally, several states in the region continue to build the capacity of their customs administrations through cooperative endeavors with the World Customs Organization and the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program.

Outreach Activities

  • Sub-Regional Training Course: Training of Trainers on Radiation Detection Techniques for Front Line Officers, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, April 23-27, 2012
  • Ministerial Conference of the Central Asia Border Security Initiative (CABSI) on 16-17 April 2012, Vienna, Austria
  • Implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia 3rd Expert Meeting Addressing Pillar III of the Strategy co-organized by the CTITF, UNRCCA and the EU, co-financed by the Government of Norway with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan July 21-22, 2011 in Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • "Implementing the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia," expert meeting, the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), EU and the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA): Dushanbe, Tajikistan, March 29-30, 2011
  • Central Asia Border Security Initiative, Conference on Border Security and Cross-border Cooperation in Central Asia: Dushanbe, Tajikistan, March 2011
  • Thematic Meeting of experts of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1540, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the CIS Executive Council, Moscow, Russian Federation, December 15-16, 2009
  • Workshop for Central Asian Countries on Non-proliferation and International Legal Cooperation against Biological, Chemical and Nuclear Terrorism, UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC/TPB), OSCE, UN Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, December 1-3, 2009
  • Training workshop on Implementing UNSCR 1540 in Uzbekistan: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, February 2009
  • UNODC/TPB, Government of Turkmenistan - National Workshop on criminal law aspects of countering nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism in the light of relevant universal instruments, November 25-26, 2008, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  • Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA-CIS) - Joint Committee meeting on amending the model counter-terrorism legislation of the CIS, October 22-23, 2008, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
  • Seminar on Implementing UNSCR 1540 in Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, November 2007 (chairperson's statement)
  • UNODC-OSCE Regional Workshop on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, April 2007 (chairperson's statement)
  • Seminar on Implementing UNSC Resolution 1540 in Central Asia and the Caucasus: Almaty, Kazakhstan, October, 2006 (chairperson's statement)
  • WCO Customs and Police Trade Security Conference: Baku, Azerbaijan, May 2005
  • U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) Program: The Seventh Central Asia and Caucasus Regional Forum on Nonproliferation and Export Control, Almaty, Kazakhstan, June 2003.


1540 National Reports

  • 1540 Committee, National Reports, New York: United Nations Organization, www.un.org.

1540 Matrices

  • 1540 Committee, List of Matrices of Member States, as Approved by the 1540 Committee, New York: United Nations Organization, www.un.org.

National Legislation

  • 1540 Committee, List of legislative documents by submitting UN Member States, New York: United Nations Organization, www.un.org.

Offers/Requests for Assistance

  • 1540 Committee, Requests for Assistance, New York: United Nations Organization, www.un.org.
  • 1540 Committee, Assistance from Member States, New York: United Nations Organization, www.un.org.

Treaty Participation

  • The International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program, The Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes, Monterey: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nti.org.
  • "Convention on Nuclear Safety," International Conventions & Agreements, Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
  • "Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material," International Conventions & Agreements, Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
  • "Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management," International Conventions & Agreements, Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
  • "Multilateral Arms Regulation and Disarmament Agreements," New York: United Nations Organization, http://disarmament.un.org.
  • United Nations Treaty Collection, "Extract from the Report of the Secretary-General on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (DOC. A/62/160)," New York: United Nations Organization, http://untreaty.un.org.

Information on 1540-related Regional Activities

  • 1540 Committee, Chairperson's Statements and Outreach Activities, New York: United Nations Organization, www.un.org.
  • "IAEA Meetings and Conferences," Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, www-pub.iaea.org.
  • "Calendar of Events," The Hague: Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, www.opcw.org.
  • "Regional Conferences," Lyon: The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), www.interpol.int.

General Information

  • BBC Monitoring, Country Profiles, London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk.
  • "The 2008 World Factbook," Washington, D.C.: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, June 19, 2008, www.cia.gov.
  • "Background Notes," Washington, D.C.: U.S. State Department, www.state.gov.

Information on NBC Capabilities

  • "Country Profiles," Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
  • "Country Briefings," London: World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org.
  • "Country Nuclear Power Profiles," Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, 2003, www-pub.iaea.org.
  • "Nuclear Research Reactors in the World," Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.or.at.
  • "The Model Nuclear Inventory: Accountability is Democracy, Transparency is Security," New York: Reaching Critical Will, 2007, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  • David Albright and Kimberly Kramer, "Civil HEU Watch: Tacking Inventories of Civil Highly Enriched Uranium," Washington, D.C.: Institute for Science and International Security, August 2005, www.isis-online.org.
  • "Civil Plutonium Produced in Power Reactors," Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Materials, Washington, D.C.: Institute for Science and International Security, 2005, p. 3, http://isis-online.org.

Information Pertaining to Terrorism

  • UN Action to Counter Terrorism, Reports by the UN Secretary General, www.un.org.
  • Office of the Secretary of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2008, www.state.gov.

[1] "World Uranium Mining," World Nuclear Association, August 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[2] "In Situ Leach (ISL) Mining of Uranium," World Nuclear Association, March 2010, www.world-nuclear.org.
[3] Kazakhstan: Nuclear Chronology, 2000-2009, NTI, www.nti.org.
[4] "Russia to Take Part in Construction of Nuclear Power Plants," International Energy, June 8 2012, www.en.in-en.com
[5] "Kazakhstan Reaffirms Nuclear Power Commitment," 15 March 2012, World Nuclear News, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[6] Kazakhstan: Nuclear Overview, NT, www.nti.org; "NNSA Secures 775 Nuclear Weapons Worth of Weapons-Grade Nuclear Material from BN-350 Fast Reactor in Kazakhstan," NNSA Press Release.
[7] "NNSA Announces Removal of More than 73 Kilograms of Highly Enriched Uranium from Kazakhstan," NNSA Press Release, Mar 19, 2009, www.nnsa.energy.gov.
[8] "Presidents Nazarbayev and Obama Meet in Washington, DC to Discuss Kazakh-US Strategic Partnership," Embassy of Kazakhstan News Bulletin, April 12, 2010, www.kazakhembus.com.
[9] "Kazakhstan and the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit," Embassy of Kazakhstan in Canada, 20 March 2012, www.kazembassy.ca.
[10] "Kazakhstan Launching a State Agency for Atomic Power Industry," Tengri News, May 12 2012, www.entengrinews.kz.
[11] John Key, "PM: Nuclear Security Summit an Important Step Forward," distributed by the New Zealand Government, 27 March 2012, www.beehive.govt.nz.
[12] NTI HEU Resource Collection, www.nti.org.
[13] Armenia: Nuclear Overview, NTI, www.nti.org.
[14] "The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Preparatory Secretariat: Highlights of Achievements and Commitments by Participating States as Stated in National Progress Reports and National Statements," 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, 27 March 2012,www.thenuclearsecuritysummit.org
[15] "Biological Threat Reduction Program," Defense Threat Reduction Agency, www.dtra.mil.
[16] To date, there were seven confirmed cases of seizure of fissile material in Central Asia and Caucasus, three of which took place at the border.
[17] Suicide bombing in Andijan ups the ante for Karimov," EurasiaNet, Uzbekistan, May 27, 2009, www.unhcr.org.
[18] "Putting People First, Reducing Frontline Tensions in Armenia and Azerbaijan, Nagorny Karabakh," Human Security Gateway, April 2012, www.humansecuritygateway.com
[19] "Central Asia and The Caucasus," Journal of Social and Political Studies, Volume 13 Issue 1 2012, www.ca-c.org.
[20]James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, "U.S. Intelligence Community Worldwide Threat Assessment Statement for the Record," U.S. Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, January 31 2012.
[21]"Eurasia: Uphold Human Rights in Combating Terrorism," 14 June 2006, Human Rights Watch, www.hrw.org.
[22] Jim Nichol, "Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests," Congressional Research Service, 18 May 2012.
[23] Dmitry Astakhov, "Customs Union Given a Start at the 10th EURASEC Summit," RIA Novosti, July 5, 2010, http://rt.com; "Customs Step Closer as Russian and Kazakh Economies Link up," June 30, 2010, http://rt.com.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.


This report is part of a collection examining implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in Central Asia and the Caucasus to-date.

the Terrorism Threat

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