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Is Russia Running Interference for NK Nuke Program?

The discrepancy between the Russian estimate of the North Korean claimed nuke test was about 20 to 30 times larger than those of the United States, Japan and South Korea - all based on seismographic measurements. It was instantly suspicious. With that in mind, consider a technical assessment of the North Korean blast by the Federation of American Scientists published at the Strategic Security Blog.

There is no question that the political and security implications of the test are huge and almost entirely negative. The technical implications are more mixed; the technical significance of the test is somewhat less than meets the eye.

There was early confusion about how large the explosion actually was, with U.S., French, and South Korean seismologists reporting a yield equivalent to about 500 tons of high explosive, that is half a kiloton, while the Russians reported that the yield was in the range of 10 to 15 kilotons, or twenty to thirty times larger. From the beginning, the source of this huge discrepancy was difficult to understand. Soon, the Russian seismic data were released and it became clear that even their own data did not support the Russian claim. Most reports as of yesterday had settled on the lower yield figure of about half a kiloton. [Emphasis added.]

Now the question is, why would Russia knowingly overestimate the success of the North Korean test? Did they know something we did not? Did they have confidence of the size of what was to be tested and based their 'estimates' on that knowledge? Is this potentially proof that it was indeed a dud and not a dupe by the North Koreans?

To be sure, this adds curious context to Russia's relative silence following the provocative NoKor test, a silence which was followed by effectively dropping a boat anchor in the American sanctions proposal. Remember that China opposed the proposal only after Russia was first to balk.

Perhaps it is time for President Bush to once more 'see the heart and soul' of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was five years ago, shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks in a November 2001 meeting between the two leaders in Crawford, Texas, when President Bush said, "And the more I get to know President Putin, the more I get to see his heart and soul, and the more I know we can work together in a positive way." One would be naturally curious as to what the President may find in the former KGB operative this time around.

It appears possible that the Russians are running interference for the North Korean nuclear program just as they have been for the Iranian nuclear program.