US reviewing aid for non-proliferation programs in Russia

Publish date: April 17, 2001

Written by: Vladislav Nikifоrov

All American aid non-proliferation programs in Russia are being reviewed. Some programs can be sharply reduced or scuttled. The review is expected to last six to eight weeks.

US National Security Council initiated broad review of all American aid programs to Russia set up to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Some programs are likely to change significantly as National Security Council officials have been critical of how $760 million a year are spent in attempt to dismantle and secure Soviet nuclear heritage, New York Times reported.

According to New York Times, the senior official said that several of the programs, such as the Department of Energy’s $173 million program to strengthen the security and accounting for fissile material at nuclear weapons storage sites, appeared to be “very effective.” Others, several administration officials said, may not be money well spent, like the more than $6 billion long- term effort to help Russia and the United States dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium each. Programs deemed ineffective could be sharply reduced, or even scuttled.

“This is not a challenge to Russia or an effort to dismantle non-proliferation programs. This is about enabling the progress we have made to continue and making non-proliferation programs even more effective. We want to strengthen non-proliferation,” the senior administration official said to New York Times.

The review is examining programs run mainly by the State Department, Pentagon and Department of Energy that have invested millions of dollars into Russia and the former Soviet republics since the end of the cold war. Most were created by the Clinton administration, but a few started as Congressional initiatives supported by former President George Bush.

The official praised the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs, which received $458 million from Congress in this fiscal year. By the end of 2000 those programs, among other things, had deactivated 5,288 missile warheads, destroyed 419 long-range nuclear missiles and 367 silos, eliminated 81 bombers, 292 submarine missile launchers and 174 submarine missiles, and sealed 194 nuclear test holes and sites in Russia and other former Soviet republics. 21 nuclear ballistic missile submarines, SSBN’s, have been dismantled up to date with CTR’s funds or equipment, while six SSBN’s are being eliminated under CTR with work in progress.

The official was also positive about the Department of Energy’s program that permits the United States to buy and convert 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium, the equivalent of 25,000 warheads, to low-enriched uranium that can be used as commercial fuel in nuclear reactors. Since the agreement was reached in 1994, about 110 metric tons of such uranium has been purchased and converted. The Department’s $6 billion program to dispose of Russian and American plutonium, to which Congress has allocated $280 million to date, and its Nuclear Cities Initiative, established in September, 1998, to stop the brain drain from Russia’s closed nuclear cities was halved by Congress in fiscal 2000, and placed other conditions on spending, New York Times reported. The Russian $2 billion part of the program is to be paid by the West, but only U.S.A. agreed to pay $200 million while Great Britain promised $70 million during 25-30 years, France offered technologies for $445 million provided Russia will not change them, Japan agreed to pay $34 million, Canada is ready to buy only MOX fuel from Russia, and Germany cannot support the program due to the pressure of the greens, Russian daily Segodnya reports. Therefore, significant investment is still needed for the Russian part of the program from the western counterparts.

“A prejudiced review that looks at what can be eliminated, and not what can be improved, is missing an enormous opportunity and is likely to further rile relations with Russia,” a former Clinton administration official who is executive director of the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, Kenneth N. Luongo, said to New York Times.

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