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Are Pakistan and Russia Dependable American Friends?

Pakistan’s leader, General Musharraf, is Bush’s good friend, as Vladimir Putin is in Russia, but maybe the rest of us should look at this friendship a little more closely. Neither Musharraf nor Putin seems to be leading his country toward greater democracy, and both countries are among the most likely to increase nuclear proliferation. Musharraf recently hinted that he may not step down as military commander while he keeps his job as president. Putin has imposed a number of undemocratic changes following the massacre of children in Beslan by Chechen terrorists.

Pakistan has nuclear weapons; it has tested them for all the world to see. Pakistan also has Islamic terrorists in close proximity to its atomic bombs; the American commander in Afghanistan just said that Osama bin Laden is more likely to be hiding in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. There have been two attempts on Musharraf’s life that were likely carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. In addition to problems on his Afghan border, where in the past the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI supported the Taliban, Musharraf has the Kashmir crisis on his border with India. Pakistan’s rivalry with India was the driving force behind its development of nuclear weapons, but now it’s the Muslim state with the Muslim bomb to counter Israel’s atomic bomb.

Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan was out selling nuclear equipment to any buyer, regardless of their terrorist credentials. He sold to North Korea and to Libya. It was only after Libya turned state’s evidence that we found out about this aspect of Khan’s activities. When we did, Pakistan only lightly slapped his hand, since he is a national hero for developing the Pakistani bomb, and the Pakistani government has kept our intelligence agents from talking to him to find out who else he may have been selling to.

Meanwhile, Russia has many nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War, some small enough to fit into a suitcase. In addition, it has many unemployed or underemployed nuclear scientists who might be willing to work for bad guys in order to keep their families fed. The Nunn-Lugar Act was designed to deal with the these problems in the former Soviet Union, but in the last few years the Bush administration has done little to implement it, leaving much exposed risk in Russia.

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