Cablegate: Russian Science: Puti..
PP RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHMO #1974/01 1201310
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301310Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9804
INFO RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1928
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001974
STATE FOR STAS, EUR/RUS, EUR/ACE, OES/STC
OSTP FOR MARBURGER
BERLIN FOR HAGEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2017
TAGS: KIPR KPAO TBIO RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN SCIENCE: PUTI...
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001974 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR STAS, EUR/RUS, EUR/ACE, OES/STC OSTP FOR MARBURGER BERLIN FOR HAGEN E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2017 TAGS: KIPR KPAO TBIO RS
Classified By: EST Counselor Daniel O'Grady for reason 1.4(d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: During his April 26 address, President Putin announced an unprecedented GOR investment in a single scientific field -- 180 billion rubles (approximately seven billion USD) for nanotechnology to be disbursed over a four-year period. Putin had stressed his personal interest in the growing field last week when he visited the Kurchatov Institute, Russia's unofficial nanotechnology headquarters. Accompanied by First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov and Minister of Education and Science Fursenko, Putin toured the Kurchatov facilities and emphasized that nanotechnology represents "the future" of Russian science. EST spoke with Dr. Oleg Stepanovich Naraikin, Deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute, during an April 26 evening representational event at Spaso House. Beaming with pleasure, Dr. Naraikin accepted our congratulations on what is sure to be a windfall for the Kurchatov Institute in its role as scientific coordinator of the GOR's push to catch up in what Russian officials still demur from christening a "race." END SUMMARY.
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2. (C) On April 18, Putin visited the Kurchatov Institute with Fursenko and Ivanov, the former in his capacity as the head of the GOR nanotechnology working group and the latter in his new role as Russia's science tsar. Putin used the visit to Kurchatov to display his knowledge of nanotechnology and lay the foundation for his April 26 funding announcement. While at Kurchatov, Putin waxed eloquent on the possibilities for defense-related innovation that nanotechnology represents, although Ivanov sought to downplay the military aspects by insisting that Russia was not intent on a starting a new arms race. On April 26, Putin dedicated the bulk of his science-related remarks to nanotechnology, dubbing nanotechnology the "locomotive" of international science. He equated nanotechnology's growing significance with that of nuclear science in the 1930s. (Note: The parallel holds special resonance for Russian scientists as the Kurchatov Institute was the cradle for the Soviet Union's nuclear physics program, much as its current leadership hopes to make it the birthplace for Russian nanotechnology. End note.)
3. (C) Putin outlined the scope of GOR funding for nanotechnology, promising an investment of 180 billion rubles, much of which is to be financed through the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and "a series of tenders." One hundred billion rubles of this will come from the Stabilization Fund and be funneled into a nanotechnology corporation; a further 30 billion rubles will be added to the corporation from other GOR sources. Yet another 50 billion rubles will be spent on nanotechnology outside of this framework. Putin demanded that the Duma draft and pass the necessary legislation as soon as possible, vowing that the state would provide all necessary resources to build the country's nanotechnology infrastructure.
4. (C) Naraikin, who joined Kurchatov Director Dr. Mikhail Koval'chuk for lunch with EST recently, could not contain his delight at Putin's remarks on April 26. Confiding that he and his colleagues had anticipated the sum and scope announced by Putin, Naraikin commented that the President had demonstrated a detailed grasp of the Kurchatov Institute's work as well as strong opinions on which areas of nanotechnology offer the most potential for development when he had visited the Kurchatov Institute on April 18. Naraikin said he had participated in the roundtable discussion with Ivanov, Putin and Fursenko that had followed their tour of the Institute. When asked whether the 180 billion rubles represented the start of a competition that could rival the "space race" of the 1960s, Naraikin demurred from answering directly, instead offering that nanotechnology "is very fashionable right now" among scientists and officials of various countries. The huge sums involved, however, do MOSCOW 00001974 002 OF 002 represent a departure from Russia's earlier attempts to match the nanotechnology investments of other countries, Naraikin acknowledged.
5. (C) Naraikin said he is confident that there is enough scientific capacity within Russia to consume the new funds. (NOTE: In comparison, President Bush sought 1.8 billion USD in FY2008 funding for the U.S. nanotechnology program, which is already well-established. END NOTE) Naraikin noted that the Kurchatov Institute, in its role as scientific coordinator, had a queue of more than 150 promising projects that required funding. While Russia's nanotechnology expertise may not yet boast the breadth or depth of other countries, it would rapidly rise to the challenge, he promised. Naraikin hastened to add that the Kurchatov Institute would not play any role in the financial management of Putin's promised funding, but would instead set the scientific criteria for funding and judge research proposals.
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6. (C) Naraikin is overly optimistic in his assessment of Russian science's ability to use such enormous funds effectively. EST attended a national nanotechnology conference in March held in Nizhniy Novgorod; while the number of young scientists there was striking, few institutes have the required infrastructure -- or even the personnel with real expertise -- needed to make good use of the new money in the near future. Ivanov conceded on April 18 that Russia has no system in place to train specialists in nanotechnology. Putin's bountiful gift to Russian science will serve other purposes, however. He has anointed the field where Russia intends to place its bets, which will help attract young students to science. If, as he has promised, much of the funding goes to RAS institutes, that may help bring about generational change within the RAS over the next few years, as younger scientists, with their expertise in this relatively young field, move to the forefront with priority projects and research. Additionally, young scientists may be more inclined to stay within the RAS system than move to the private sector if the bulk of nanotechnology money goes to the RAS.
7. (C) Also certain to benefit are those institutes conducting defense-related research. Ivanov, fresh from his service as Defense Minister, was prominently displayed on the Kurchatov Institute's website following the Presidential visit. Ivanov figured in nearly all the photos posted; Fursenko appeared in only one. Ivanov's assurance on April 18 that Russia is not looking to spur on a new arms race contradicts his general demeanor and comments with regard to the ties between Russian science and defense. On April 19, for instance, he enthusiastically told members of the military-industrial commission in Yekaterinburg that nanotechnology will "transform" warfare and that Russia must adapt, which is more in keeping with his other public remarks on science. Early signs of Ivanov's guidance on research point to a possible remilitarization of Russian science, following a decade of the RAS operating quite independently from GOR Ministries and priorities. BURNS