OpinionMeister

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Putin Up to Old (KGB) Tricks

An article in the Washington Post, entitled "Russia Alleges Scientist Divulged State Secrets" sounds like it came out of the Soviet era. Link.
A Russian scientist has been charged with divulging state secrets to a South Korean manufacturer of car wheels, an action that human rights groups say they fear is part of a campaign by the security services to intimidate researchers from former Soviet facilities who now work with foreigners.

Oscar A. Kaibyshev, 66, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Metals Superplasticity Problems in the city of Ufa, was charged with illegally exporting dual-use technology and research and divulging classified material to ASA Co., a subsidiary of a Korean firm, Hankook Tire Manufacturing Co. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison. Dual-use technology can include military as well as civilian applications.

In a phone interview from Ufa, about 750 miles east of Moscow, Kaibyshev said his research involved processes that would make metals more flexible while preserving their strength and that such technologies were used in the automobile manufacturing and aviation industries.

"This is not secret work," said Kaibyshev, who founded the institute in 1985 and was suspended from his post on Jan. 18 after being charged three days earlier. "All this technology and the scientific basis of this technology was published in the literature. We worked openly. All our contracts were official." (...)

A group of scholars from the Russian Academy of Sciences reviewed Kaibyshev's work last year and found that it was not subject to mandatory export controls over dual-use technology, according to Kaibyshev and his attorney. But Gevis said that scholars from a closed government institute provided the court with another expert opinion, which held that Kaibyshev's work was classified and should not have been released.
The news from Russia under Putin keeps getting more and more like old news out of the Soviet Union. The sharing of scientific results, so common in the West, was considered to be espionage by the KGB, and its successor, the FSB, is manned by many of the same people. Putin himself is an ex-KGB official.

There can never be progress in a country where the laws are totally liquid. A scientist or a businessman must know if a given action is legal or not. It appears that in Russia, like in the Soviet Union, that determination is made only after the act is committed.

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